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  • Cityscape Holy lakeside hill-station
  • City life Temple-gazing, tea plantation-grazing

A former royal capital and home of famous festival the Perahera, inland Kandy is the beating heart of the Hill Country, set around a serene lake surrounded by some of Sri Lanka's most evocative temples.

Meandering monks and pottering pilgrims abound, especially near the famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. The botanical gardens may be Asia’s finest (dubbed the 'Kandy Kew'), but you'll find lush pockets of plants popping up everywhere. Many of Kandy's dreamiest distractions lie outside the city: bustling artisans and spice merchants, working elephants wandering the verdant jungle and tempting tea plantations, which start within 40 minutes of town. Handily placed for exploring the Hill Country, the Cultural Triangle to the north or as a gateway to the east coast, Kandy is as sweet as it sounds.

Do go/Don’t go

Cats should curl up at home in June and November (during the south-west and north-east monsoons respectively), although crafty humans may note that the rains take the edge off the heat during these months and, being a small island, there is always a monsoon-free coast. Do go in July or August for the wild Perahera festivities, if you can stand the crowds.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (www.airport.lk), just north of the capital, receives direct flights from Sri Lankan Airlines (www.srilankan.aero), and is also served by one-stop operators including Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com), Cathay Pacific (www.cathaypacific.com) and Emirates (www.emirates.com). It's about three-and-a-half hours' drive from there to inland Kandy and your hotel can arrange a car transfer for you. Alternatively, grab a heli-shuttle (+94 77 770 3703; www.simplifly.com) in a BelJet Ranger from Colombo airport to Kandy in just 50 minutes.
  • Trains Crowded inter-city trains from Colombo to Kandy need prior booking and have very limited luggage space. The Airport Express luxury train service (www.airport.lk) from the airport to Colombo aims to cover Kandy next, so watch this space.
  • Automobiles Arrive in style with your own chauffeur-guide; Hayleys (www.hayleys.com) can arrange tours and transport around the country. Self-drive is only for those seeking to be shaken and stirred: road signs and place names are sporadic and the horn rules here. Parking is cheap but takes an expert to locate. If you’re undeterred, try Mal Key rent-a-car (+91 (0)11 236 5251; www.malkey.lk).
  • Taxis You won't find cabs on the streets but your hotel can easily arrange one. Alternatively, hail the local dodgem version – a three-wheeler auto-rickshaw or tuk tuk. Drivers are fearless and may claim to be meterless and changeless to wring out extra rupees, so agree fares in advance.