KANDY SIGHTSEEING TOUR BY TUK TUK – GUIDE ON THINGS TO SEE AND DO

by Jul 1, 20190 comments

The top 8 things to see and do during a full-day Sightseeing Tuk-Tuk Tour around Kandy

Follow us on our fun Tuk-Tuk tour around Kandy and learn what places you have to see and activities you have to do when visiting this beautiful city.

Kandy, which has been listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO, is the second largest city of Sri Lanka, after Colombo and definitely worth a visit when travelling around this country.

Due to its location (thanks to the railway Kandy is the getaway to the Central highlands including Ella and Nuwara Eliya) and many cultural highlights (with the Temple of the Sacred Tooth being one of the holiest sites in all of Sri Lanka) Kandy is featured in nearly every Sri Lankan travel itinerary.

But also the cooler climate, the many tea plantations and the green mountains surrounding the city make Kandy a lovely place to visit.

However, this city can also be loud, chaotic, busy and hectic – making you question why anyone should EVER stay in Kandy for longer than absolutely necessary. 😉

We had just spend some wonderful relaxing days in the highlands around Ella so we were completely overwhelmed by aall the traffic, the loud honking of the tuk-tuks and busses, the smog and all the people the moment we stepped outside the train station. What had we gotten ourselves into???

But after taking some time to adjust and getting used to the city vibes again we decided we were ready to give Kandy a proper chance and to see what the fuzz was all about.

Bus, Tuk-Tuk, Taxi, walk? What is the best way to explore Kandy’s sights and attractions?

Unless you have a ton of time, absolutely love to walk or are on an extremely low-budget we recommend getting a driver for the day to take you around Kandy. Not only will you have the chance to get to hear all the information from a local rather than a guidebook, but it’ll also save you a ton of time and (in our case at least) energy as most of these stops mentioned below are quite a long way from each other and sometimes far up on a hill.

Having had our fair share of hiking done in Ella (check out our post: Ella Loop Walk to the 9 Arch Bridge!) we were all down for having someone else taking us up and down the hills this time! 😊

Also traffic is absolutely insane in this city and it’s best to have someone who knows his way around Kandy.
Luckily for us we found the perfect guy!

As we only had one full day in Kandy but were on a budget we negotiated a good deal with our favourite Tuk-Tuk driver in Kandy called Danu, who picked us up from the railway station and took us to our guesthouse the day before.

Being all smiley and happy in his little fiery red Buddha packed Tuk-Tuk we decided to hire him and his funky mobile for the next day and agreed with him on a price of 2000 LKR (13 USD) for the whole tour (9am – 5pm) including all the stops mentioned below. We had the best time with Danu who was clearly a master of his Tuk-Tuk and the steep, crowded Kandy streets!

  • Cost Tuk-Tuk Tour: 2000–30000 LKR for the day (15-20 USD)
  • Cost Taxi: 5000+ LKR

What are the best things to see in Kandy on your Tuk-Tuk adventure?

Below you’ll find a list of all the must-see places in and around Kandy which can be easily combined and ticked off your Kandy To – Do list during your full-day Tuk-Tuk tour around the city. So have your camera ready, hold on tight and off you go!

1) Royal Botanical Gardens – Relax and breathe in some fresh air

The Royal Botanical Gardens are Sri Lanka’s largest and most impressive gardens, covering more than 60 hectares, and are located a bit outside of Kandy’s city centre.

Back in the days, visiting the garden used to be reserved exclusively to Kandyan Royalty – luckily for us times have changed and nowadays, crowds of backpackers and tourists as well as locals who want to enjoy a picnic with their families or young Sri Lankan couples looking for some romantic time flock to this beautiful place every day making it one of the most visited sites in Sri Lanka.

It was our first stop of the tour (it apparently gets very crowded later in the day) and although we first thought 1500 LKR (10 USD) where a bit intense for visiting a, well, “big garden”, we definitely didn’t regret it and actually really enjoyed our tour around these green oasis.

In this well-maintained garden you can find a huge variety of different plants and flowers and we especially liked the beautiful bamboo forests as well as the impressive avenue of royal palms, which were planted in 1950.

If plants don’t really rock your world than maybe the many colourful birds, the cheeky and playful monkeys or the hundreds of bats will do the trick. Having a thing for monkeys we could have watched these little guys for days, stealing food and water bottles from tourists and being their normal cute troublemaker selves.

  • Time required: 2-3 hrs
  • Cost: 1500 per Person (10 USD)
  • HB Rating: 

2) Herb and Spice Garden – learn about the herbs and spices of Sri Lanka

If you ever wanted to learn more about the many herbs and spices of Sri Lanka used in their flavoursome curries and other local dishes but also in traditional medicines than Kandy with its many spice gardens is definitely the right place for you.

You can take a 20-30 minute tour through one of these herb and spice gardens (don’t worry, every Tuk-Tuk driver seems to have a favourite where they’ll drop you off) where you’ll be joined by a knowledgeable guide who will show and explain more about all the different herbs and spices found in Sri Lanka such as cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, aloe vera, curry leaves, (Sandelholz) and how the oils of these plants are used in traditional medicines.

It was actually super interesting, especially since we know most of these herbs only as powder and have never seen the actual plant where they originate from.

We also got to sample some herbal tea and of course there was a shop on-site (how very convenient 😊) where you can buy various teas, oils, cremes and lotions mentioned and highly recommended to you during the tour. As prices however seemed pretty steep we left the place empty handed. Probably the right choice as we read later online that most of these cremes and lotions are NOT actually the real deal and therefore are way too expensive for what you’re getting.

  • Time required: 15–30 minutes
  • Price: visiting the garden is usually free, tips are of course welcome. Beware of “magical” cremes, drops and oils sold at these places!
  • HB Rating: 

3) Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue – enjoy some scenic views of Kandy with a Buddha by your side

Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue, one of Sri Lankas biggest Buddha statues, looks quite impressive from the distance and when they told us we could actually go inside and climb up the stairs on the back of the Buddha for some stunning panoramic views of Kandy and the surroundings we were super excited.

However, with not much to see inside the Buddha except for a few shrines and a very restricted view from the top (you can only go up to the shoulders of this Buddha statue so it’s unfortunately a NO to a nice 360 degree view of Kandy) it was rather underwhelming. I guess we were simply too spoiled from the amazing views we had from Lipton’s Seat and little Adams Peak in Ella 😊 But if you started your tour in Colombo heading to Kandy first you might be in for a real treat here! 😊

Remember to bring something to cover your knees and shoulders and note that it’s not allowed to wear any hats or take any pictures with your back facing the Buddha (so it’s a definite NO for that selfie with you and the Buddha, sorry!)

Tip: You need to leave your shoes at the entrance and it costs 100 LKR to have someone “watch your flip flops” … we found that a bit silly and just left our shoes with our Tuk Tuk driver. Make sure to also bring some socks if you visit on a sunny day, the floor and grounds can get extremely hot!!

  • Time required: 30 minutes
  • Cost: 250 LKR per Person (1.50 USD)
  • HB Rating: 

4) Visit the Sacred Temple of the Tooth

Kandy’s main attraction is the Sacred Temple of the Tooth also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa. It is a beautiful Buddhist temple north of Kandy Lake which was built in the 16th century. Perhaps it is Sri Lanka’s holiest site as it’s the place where Buddha’s tooth is being kept. Yes, Buddhas TOOTH!

Should you now get all excited about seeing a veeeery old tooth than we unfortunately have to disappoint you – you can not actually SEE the tooth, as it is kept safely in a box behind a glass window, but don’t let this stop you from visiting this impressive temple.

Sri Lankan Buddhists believe they must complete at least one pilgrimage to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in their lifetime which apparently improves one’s karma dramatically. So we figured why passing on a chance to get our karma levels up? It can’t hurt, right?

There are also many rituals taking place throughout the day at the various offering shrines so there’s always plenty to see and experience that you’ll soon forget that you actually came for an old rotten tooth.

Tip: If you are happy to skip the cultural dance show or have enough time to do it on another day than we highly recommend visiting the Temple of the Tooth between 5-6pm as most day tourists and guided tours will be watching the dance performances at that time giving you a bit more space to breathe! Also avoid weekends if possible and don’t forget to dress appropriately covering your legs and sholders.

  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: 1500 LKR per Person (1.50 USD)
  • HB Rating: 

5)Take a stroll around Kandy Lake

It’s hard to miss the impressive Kandy lake in the centre of town which you can see from basically every viewpoint in Kandy, from the Buddha statue and even from the Temple of the Tooth which is located directly next to it.

This man-made lake was built in 1807 by the last king of Sri Lanka and Kandy, Sri Wickrama Rajasinha with the intention to add even more beauty to the Temple of the Tooth.

You can walk around the lake (will take you roughly 30 minutes) or simply find a bench to relax in the shade, feed the fish or ducks and enjoy a little peace and quiet in this otherwise very noisy and hectic city.

We especially liked the view of the little island in the middle of the lake complete with palm-trees and whatnot for the ultimate tropical vibe. Apparently it was used as Sri Wickrama Rajasinha’s personal harem. (This guy surely enjoyed the finer things in life!)

Tip: Watch out for some turtles which you can spot when looking closely!

  • Time required: 30 minutes – 1 hour
  • Cost: free
  • HB Rating: 

6) Kandy City Centre – roam the busy streets and indulge in some snacks

There isn’t much to see in the city itself and the noise and traffic will soon get on your nerves. So it probably makes sense to combine your little tour through the city with a walk around the lake or the visit of the Temple of the Tooth as it’s all close by.

There is also a big shopping mall close to the lake (actually the only mall we’ve seen on our whole trip during Sri Lanka) with a food court at the top floor, toilets (10 LKR), ATMs of every Sri Lankan Bank and a nice café.

We also loved the many bakeries you can find in the city selling sweet and savoury snacks and stocked up on vegetable rolls and fish roti for the rest of our tour – definitely worth the stop! (cost: 40 – 70 LKR per item)

  • Time required: 1 hour max.
  • Cost: free
  • HB Rating: 

7) Arthur’s Seat Viewpoint

Right across the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue and the Temple of the Tooth on the other side of Kandy Lake is a nice viewpoint called “Arthur’s Seat” – where you can get some fantastic panoramic views of the city, the Buddha, the Lake and the Temple of the Tooth. It’s probably one of the most scenic places in Kandy.

Unfortunately it was already very foggy when we got to the viewpoint in the late afternoon so we couldn’t see that much but we still recommend the stop as it gives you a good overview of Kandy and it’s hilly and lush green surroundings.

  • Time required: 15 – 20 minutes
  • Cost: free
  • HB Rating: 

8) Kandayan Dancing – Enjoy the heat at a Cultural Dance Show

Every day from 5 to 6 pm tourist will gather in a giant hall near the temple of the Tooth for a one hour performance of the famous traditional Kadayan Dancing – apparently a cultural highlight and must when visiting the Kandy area.
According to the legend, the origins of Kandyan Dance lies in an exorcism ritual which was originally performed by Indian Shamas and later adopted by the locals and included in their dances.

This energetic and colourful show usually includes the performance of different Kandyan Dances with drums and percussion followed by a fire show at the end where you’ll even see people doing the fire walk.

Although this whole thing seemed super touristic, it is still an interesting and entertaining experience. If you don’t know where to get tickets simply stand around the entrance of the Temple of the Tooth in the afternoon and soon you’ll be approached by various people asking whether you already had tickets for the Dance show.

  • Cost: 1000 LKR (6 USD)
  • Time: 1 hour
  • HB Rating: 

Conclusion

Although it took us a bit to warm up to Kandy – mainly due to all the traffic madness that took us a bit surprise after our peaceful and relaxing time in Ella as well as Mirissa and Unawatuna in the Southern Province – we have to admit that we really enjoyed our short time here.

There is actually quite a lot to see and do in the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and a trip around town will not only please all those interested in culture and history (e.g. by visiting the Temple of the sacred tooth relic, the Big Buddha or see a Kandayan dance performance) but also all those that are more into nature and outdoor adventures will have a great time here (make sure to visit the Royal Botanical Garden, hike up to the Big Buddha, wander the 3.5km (2.2mi) pathway along the Kandy lake shore or explore the Udawattakele Sanctuary).


The following links are affiliate links, which means that if you book a stay through these links, we’ll get a small commission. Don’t worry–the price is still the same for you.

Alternative tour suggestions for your time in Kandy

If you’re not a fan of Tuk-Tuks than you can also book a full day tour around Kandy in an air-conditioned car with a knowledgable guide by your side.
Alternatively there are many other great tours to do in and around Kandy such as a day trip to nearby Sigiriya and Dambulla (ideal if you don’t have much time but don’t want to miss out on these Sri Lankan Highlights) or simply joining a fantastic food tour through Kandy to learn more about the Sri Lankan cuisine and taste some of the local favorites.

If that sounds interesting to you then check out these amazing and highly recommended tours listed below which you can easily book online through sites like Viator!

Private Full-day Kandy Tour by Air-Conditioned Car

Feel like a true local in Kandy thanks to this 11-hour private sightseeing tour by air-conditioned car. During your trip you’ll visit the Giragama tea plantation, the Peradeniya Botanical Garden, Bahirawakanda Temple, see the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, and enjoy a Kandy Cultural Show, plus much more. Lunch and round-trip hotel transport are also covered.

Kandy Private Local Food Tour: 10 tastings

Kandy’s rich offering of cuisines can make it difficult to know where to start exploring the local food scene. This private Kandy food tour removes the guesswork by taking you straight to the places that locals love to go: try new markets, fresh ingredients, and natural juices that are sure to please. Eight food tastings and two non-alcoholic drinks are included, so be sure to come hungry.

Full-Day Private Sigiriya and Dambulla Tour from Kandy

The Golden Temple of Dambulla and the Ancient City of Sigiriya are two of Sri Lanka’s most impressive UNESCO World Heritage sites and this private tour from Kandy visits both in one day. Climb the dramatic rock fortress of Sigiriya, tuck into a delicious curry lunch (optional), then explore the Buddhist cave complex of Dambulla with its gigantic rock-carved Buddha. Personal Guide, Hotel pick-up and round-trip transport from Kandy included.

Where to stay in Kandy?

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Due to the large amount of tourists travelling to Kandy each year to see all the popular places in and around this city, there are a lot of hotels and guest houses to choose from so it all depends on your budget and preferences.

Should you prefer some peace and quiet you should avoid staying in the city centre at all costs and rather go for a place located a bit further outside. Keep in mind though, that the surroundings are very hilly and what looks like a short stroll on the map from your accommodation to the city centre is usually a long and sweaty walk up and down a steep hill.

If you don’t mind paying 300 – 500 LKR (3-4 USD) a Tuk-Tuk will happily take you wherever you need to go.

These are the places we stayed at in Kandy:

Tranquil Hill Guesthouse

tranquil hills kandy

Located a little bit outside of the city center on top of a hill with spectacular views, this homestay is a very good option for everyone looking to get a bit away from the chaos and traffic madness of Kandy. The affordable rates start at 25 USD/room and night including breakfast.

Meili Lanka City Hotel

Meili Lanka City Hotel

Located right in the heart of Kandy’s city center and equipped with all the amenities you’d expect from a modern budget hotel Meili Lanka is the perfect base for exploring the city on foot or to stay overnight before continuing your trip around Sri Lanka. Rooms start at 45 USD / night.

Getting to Kandy

Kandy is well connected and one of the easiest destinations to reach in Sri Lanka.

Getting to Kandy from Colombo

If you just landed in Colombo and want to travel straight to Kandy you have the choice between the public bus or the train at very affordable prices however our preferred option to travel in Sri Lanka is always the train. There are multiple train connections from Colombo to Kandy and the journey takes around 3-4hours.

If you prefer to travel in style you can of course also get a private car + driver for around 50 USD/day. The journey takes around 3hrs from Colombo International Airport.

Check for prices and availability for transfers here –> From Colombo to Kandy*

Travelling to Kandy from other cities:

There are also train connections between Kandy and Anuradhapura, Jaffna (North), Trincomalee and Batticaloa(East), as well as connections to other towns in the Highlands such as Ella and Badulla.

Again, you can also use private transfers which you can either book through your accommodation, through a local travel agent or online. Check for prices and availability for transfers here –>
From Ella to Kandy*

Getting around Kandy

Tuk Tuks, or ‘threewheelers’ as they are sometimes called, are easily available.

Depending on where you need to go it usually costs no more than 300 – 500 LKR. But roads are usually very blocked and if the traffic is heavy in the city centre you might be better off walking if it’s just a short distance.

There are also busses available which only cost 40 – 60 LKR so if there is a bus stop nearby your accommodation and you are looking for a cheap way to get in and out of the city centre this might be an option worth considering.

Arrival/Departure – Getting to your guesthouse by Tuk-Tuk

The train and bus station are nearby so prices should be very similar no matter if you arrive by train or bus.

We arrived by train from Ella and simply took a Tuk – Tuk from Kandy train station to our guesthouse up on a hill for 450 LKR (most drivers requested 600 LKR first so it took a bit of waiting and negotiating until we ended up at 450 LKR). When we went back to the city and booked a Tuk Tuk through the owners of our guesthouse it only cost 350 LKR.

When you stay in the city centre and need to go to the train or bus station of Kandy it should only cost around 150 – 200 LKR by Tuk Tuk.

This hopefully gives you a rough idea about pricing.

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Quick Facts

The TOP 5 things to see in Kandy:

  • Royal Botanical Garden
  • Big Buddha
  • Temple of the Tooth
  • Kandy Lake
  • Arthur’s Seat Viewpoint
Exploring Kandy by Tuk Tuk_Big Buddha

Best time to visit Kandy

December to April!
The weather is dry and mostly pleasant during this time

How to get to Kandy?

Kandy is well connected and one of the easiest destinations to reach in Sri Lanka.

From Colombo:

You have the choice between the public bus or train at very low prices however our preferred option to travel in Sri Lanka is always the train. There are multiple train connections from Colombo to Kandy and the journey takes around 3-4hours.
You can also get a private car + driver for around 50 USD/day . The journey takes around 3hrs from the International Airport.

Check for prices and availability for transfers here –> From Colombo to Kandy

Other cities:

There are also train connections between Kandy and Anuradhapura, Jaffna (North), Trincomalee and Batticaloa(East), as well as connections to other towns in the Highlands such as Ella and Badulla.

Again, you can also use private transfers which you can either book through your accommodation, through a local travel agent or online. Check for prices and availability for transfers here:
From Ella to Kandy

views of kandy

Related Posts

The ultimate guide to Mirissa

Walk from Ella to the Nine Arch Bridge

Ultimate guide to Unawatuna, Sri Lanka


Where to stay in Kandy

We stayed at Tranquil Hills Homestay*.

Located a little bit outside of the city center of Kandy but on top of a hill with spectacular views, makes this home-stay a very good option for a short stay in Kandy. Rates starting at 25USD/room incl. breakfast.

* = Affiliate links.