iReport: 10 things I love about Kandy, Sri Lanka

iReport: 10 things I love about Kandy, Sri Lanka

A Sri Lankan native describes why the ancient hill capital of Kandy is her favorite city

iReporter Shari Atukorala loves her hometown so much that she wants to tell the world about it.

Here she explains why Kandy, an ancient capital located in the hills of central Sri Lanka, is her favorite city.

1. Royal Botanical Gardens

Royal Botanical GardenIn the Orchid House at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya.
The Royal Botanical Gardens, situated in Peradeniya near the city of Kandy, is one of the country’s storied attractions. The history of the gardens dates back to 1371, when King Wickramabahu III ascended the throne and kept court in the region.

The grounds were later converted into a botanical garden in the 18th century.

The gardens are vast, and cover 60 hectares, with beautiful fauna and flora. There are about 300 varieties of orchid.

The beauty of the landscaped, well-manicured green gardens makes the visit worthwhile.

2. Sri Dalada Maligawa

Sri Dalada MaligawaInside Sri Dalada Maligawa.
The Sri Dalada Maligawa, otherwise known as “Temple of the Tooth Relic,” is located within the Kandy Royal Palace palatial complex.

The temple is said to house the relic of Buddha’s sacred tooth, which was brought to Sri Lanka from Kalinga (present-day Orissa State in India) between 310 to 328 A.D.

The Buddhist site, which forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a highly venerated pilgrimage spot and is popular with Buddhist devotes, especially on Poya Day, a Buddhist public holiday in Sri Lanka.

3. Udawattakele Sanctuary

Udawattakele SanctuaryA place to cool and slow down.
Udawattakele Sanctuary, a historical forest reserve located close to Sri Dalada Maligawa, is another tourist magnet.

Although it is situated close to town, the place feels cool compared to the heat of the rest of Kandy.

4. Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya Rock FortressWonder for some, beautiful for all.
This ancient rock fortress is located in Matale, an hour’s drive away from Kandy.

The ancient rock rises majestically 370 meters above sea level. Visitors can command far and wide views of Sigiriya City from atop the rock.

The site was built by King Kashepaya. After his death, it was turned into a Buddhist monastery. The vast gardens and reservoirs of Sigiriya Rock Fortress make great photo opportunity.

5. Cultural dances

Cultural DanceDancers performing during the Esala Perahera festival in Kandy.
Cultural dances are performed every night at the YMCA auditorium, where you get to watch Kandyan and other dances of the city.

Dances are also performed during festivals such as the Esala Perahera festival, which takes place in July or August.

6. The food

Fruit sellerFruit stalls like this are a common sight.
A wide variety of local delicacies, such as egg hoppers, string hoppers, and spicy curries, are sure to satisfy. Luscious fruits can be found on street pavements, including mangoes, pineapples and red, ripe rambutans.

7. Pavement stalls

pavement hawkerPavement hawker selling trinkets on the streets of Kandy.
Apart from fruit stalls, pavements in Kandy are also often filled with street vendors peddling gaily-colored clothes and bangles.

8. Dambulla cave temples

Dambulla cave templeInside the Dambulla cave temple.
The Dambulla cave temple houses many beautiful cave paintings. The complex, the largest of its kind in Sri Lanka, is built under a massive rock and has been a pilgrimage site for 22 centuries. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Dambulla cave temple is situated in Matale, 72 kilometers north of Kandy.

9. The people

Kandy peopleCrowds gather during the annual Kandy Esala Perahera festival in Kandy.
The people of Kandy are friendly. Visitors looking for cultural immersion might want to visit during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in April.

Christmas is also celebrated in Kandy by the Burghers and Christians in the city’s churches.

10. Kandyan Weddings

Kandy weddingBride and groom in traditional dress at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya.
Kandyan weddings are a spectacle. Brides are dressed in osari, a traditional Sri Lankan sari, and the groom is usually decked out in full Kandyan attire like an ancient Kandyan King. Grand Kandyan hotels, such as the Queen's Hotel, are popular wedding venues.