Kandy is the cultural hub of Sri Lanka, situated on a plateau in the center of the country. Located 120km west of the capital Colombo, there are 4 ways to reach Kandy: by train, by bus, by taxi, and by flight.
When you travel to the so-called “Sacred City”, we recommend to take the train whenever this is possible from the destination you are coming from. Especially the train ride between Ella and Kandy is among the most scenic train rides in the world. When coming from other towns, you can also take the bus, taxi, or even a very expensive flight.
How to get to Kandy
Because the route from Colombo to Kandy is often the next stop upon arriving at the capital, we created a detailed step-by-step guide for those specific routes:
Below, we give you a breakdown of all options to help you decide which option is best for you to travel to Kandy.
Getting to Kandy by Train
The train is the easiest way to reach Kandy from other top Sri Lankan destinations like Colombo, Nuwara Eliya and Ella. From some other tourist spots, you might need another train or taxi transfer, but we think the journey is still easy enough.
When coming from Negombo, you will need to take a taxi to Gampaha and then take the train from there. If you’re from Galle, you can make your train transfer in Colombo. When you’re coming from Jaffna, you can transfer to another train at Polgahawela Junction. Below we give you a more concise summary for common train routes to Kandy:
Colombo to Kandy
800 Rs ($4.40)
1st Class Reserved
Nuwara Eliya to Kandy
1,100 Rs ($6)
1st Class Reserved
Ella to Kandy
1,500 Rs ($8.50)
1st Class Reserved
Negombo to Gampaha Gampaha to Kandy
1hr 2hr 30min
1,100 Rs ($6) 180 Rs ($1)
(taxi) 2nd Class Unreserved
Galle to Colombo Colombo to Kandy
2hr 30min 2hr 30min
800 Rs ($4.40) 800 Rs ($4.40)
1st Class Reserved 1st Class Reserved
Jaffna to Polgahawela Junction Polgahawela Junction to Kandy
2h 5hr 46min
100 Rs ($0.60) 420 Rs ($2.30)
2nd Class Unreserved 1st Class Reserved
We recommend to book a reserved seat for the most comfortable journey. Especially if you travel around peak hours 8am or 6pm, the train will be very busy and you will likely have to stand when you didn’t book a seat in advance.
Kandy Railway Station is located in the center and less than a 10-minute walk to Kandy Lake, which is often used as a reference point.
Getting to Kandy by Bus
Local buses bound for Kandy run more frequently than the train. There are direct buses coming from Colombo, Negombo, Badulla, Jaffna, Galle, and many others. You can buy tickets at either the bus station or the bus itself. Here is a summary for common routes:
Bus Route & No.
Colombo to Kandy (#1)
350 Rs ($1.90)
Negombo to Kandy (#1 or #245)
345 Rs ($1.90)
Badulla to Kandy (#21)
290 Rs ($1.60)
Jaffna to Kandy (#43 or #87)
670 Rs ($3.70)
Galle to Kandy (EX 1-27)
800 Rs ($4.40)
Expressway Super Luxury
Note though that buses are generally not the most comfortable way to travel in Sri Lanka, especially when only ordinary and semi-luxury buses (non-aircon with wooden seats) are available. We recommend that you take air-conditioned buses for trips that take more than 2 hours.
If you want to be assured of a comfortable bus journey, you can also book tourist buses online. These only operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and a ticket costs 3,600 Rs ($20). They park near Nishantha Wood Carvings, 5km west of the city center.
See here the links to buy your bus tickets with Brown Tours for the most common routes to reach Kandy:
However, there aren’t a lot of direct flights departing/arriving from this airport. And when they do, they usually require taxi transfers that pass through very busy roads. When you include the transfer time, you don’t actually get to save a lot of time when taking the flight.
We have to admit that taking a plane can offer a beautiful bird’s eye view over this small but beautiful country. But still, we recommend to take one of the other forms of transport as it is much friendlier for the environment. Traveling short distances by plane can produce more than 10 times as much carbon emission than other forms of transport due to the heavy impact of taking off and landing.
7 Awesome Things to Do in Kandy
Surrounded by lush hills and tea plantations, Kandy is a misty city in the Central Province.
People often drop by for the iconic Temple of the Tooth, but it offers a few more attractions that are worth your time.
We recommend staying at least 2 days before moving on to nearby destinations like Nuwara Eliya and Ella.
The Temple of the Tooth is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka as it houses the sacred tooth relic of Buddha.
The temple itself is beautiful, which also explains why it is often filled not only of worshippers, but also tourists exploring the grounds. Visit early if you want to escape the crowd.
Also, keep in mind that this is a place of worship. Wear clothes that cover your knees and elbows when you visit. Be prepared to take off your shoes to enter certain areas.
The entrance fee is 1,500 Rs ($8.50) for visitors from SAARC countries and 1,000 Rs ($5.50) for any other nationality.
If you want a deeper appreciation of this temple and Kandy, visit Kandy during the Esala Perahera Festival. This is a 10-day celebration often held in July or August to honor the Sacred Tooth Relic.
Two alternatives: the Bahiravokanda Vihara and the Gadaladeniya temple
Note that there are at least 2 other notable temples you can visit when in Kandy. The giant Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue stands (or sits) on top of a hill so you get a grand view of the city. The Gadaladeniya Temple is located some 14km outside the city center, but you might want to check it out for its Hindu-influenced architecture.
#2 Visit the World Buddhist Museum
This first-ever international Buddhist museum is located just next to the Temple of the Tooth, so it is easy to include in the same visit. You can read and observe how varying countries practice Buddhism.
If you are interested in Buddhism, you can easily end up spending 2 hours exploring the place to learn everything about the religion.
Entrance fee is free if you have a Temple of the Tooth ticket. Otherwise, you have to pay 500 Rs ($2.80).
#3 Walk Around Kandy Lake
Kandy Lake is the heart of this cultural city. Walking around it gives a glimpse of local life. Here you can watch street vendors, students walking to or from school, tuk-tuk and bus drivers going about their daily lives. With the man-made yet beautiful lake on one side, it makes for a very relaxing walk.
If you go hungry, ice cream and pickled fruits are always available on the sidewalk. Want to relax with a cup of tea before you enter the busy center of Sri Lanka, then visit Mlesna Tea Center for a delicious cup of tea next to the lake.
#4 Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens
A visit to a garden is probably not what you have in mind when heading to this cultural city, but we suggest you reconsider.
The Royal Botanic Gardens boasts over 4,000 species of plants and spices, some of which you might have never seen in your entire life. Also, make sure to look up in the sky to spot the hanging bats!
Did you know? The garden is most popular for its collection of orchids and used to be solely reserved for people from the Kandyan royalties.
Located in the suburbs of Peradeniya, you can reach the Botanic Gardens by taking bus #644 (16 Rs or $0.10) or by tuk-tuk (400 Rs or $2.20). A ticket costs 1,500 Rs ($8.50) for adults and 750 Rs ($4.10) for kids below 12 years old.
#5 Explore the spooky hotel of Helga’s Folly
Helga’s Folly is an eccentric hotel and restaurant in the jungle hills of Kandy. It is probably the strangest place you’ll see in this city. It’s as if it was taken straight out of a Tim Burton movie, but there’s a feeling even Tim Burton cannot design something this chaotically beautiful.
As one review on Google Maps writes, if you like a bit of “Bohemian weirdness”, this place is for you. Not everyone has the guts to stay in this very intriguing hotel, but at least you can have a look around at this very Instagramable place.
Also do they offer good food. Maybe a bit pricey, but the extraordinary experience makes it all worth it!
#6 See Kandy from Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is arguably the highest point in town and offers a good vantage point if you want to see the city in all its glory.
Only at walking distance from Kandy Lake, you will have a scenic view over the Temple of the Tooth, the Royal Palace, the giant Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue, and so much more.
#7 Take the Train to Nuwara Eliya or Ella
Since you’re already in Kandy, it will be a total shame if you don’t go further south to visit nearby towns like Nuwara Eliya and Ella. These small villages offer majestic views and plenty of things to do, but the train ride alone is one for the books.
The train ride from Kandy to Ella is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Even if you have very little time, we recommend that you spend at least a day in Ella, even just to take the train. Travel time is 6 to 7 hours.