For a country about the size of Ireland, Sri Lanka offers a huge diversity in authentic travel experiences from simple sun, sea and sand on its pristine beaches to immersive safaris, whale watching off the East Coast, tea plantations in the centre and south, serene lakes and the country’s rich cultural centre as well as the lively shopping and nightlife of Colombo. Along with that variety, goes a variety in climate, so that the country’s second city, Kandy, is a welcome, cool, often mist shrouded relief from the heat of Sri Lanka’s beaches.
Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second city and was the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom, which only fell to the British in 1815 after fighting off the Portuguese and the Dutch for 300 years. Kandy Lake, which dominates the city is artificial and was created by the last ruler of Kandy in 1807. Like most of Sri Lanka’s lakes it is a calming place to sit for a few minutes or a few hours.
Sri Lanka’s rich heritage has resulted in a mix of Hindu’s, Christians and Buddhists amongst the population and one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites is found in Kandy – The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Just to the north of Kandy Lake, the golden-roofed temple houses a tooth of Buddha recovered, by Buddhist tradition, from Buddha’s funeral pyre. Surrounding this famous relic, many traditional rituals and ceremonies take place. The temple complex covers a large area which includes a 19th century Audience Hall and the World Buddhism Museum as well as the Kandy National Museum, which houses many relics from the kandyan pre-colonial era as well as from the British post-colonial era.
There are many sites to visit to explore Kandy’s rich cultural past. Embekka Devalaya is a shrine built by King Vikramabahu III of Gampola Era (AD 1357 – 1374). he shrine consists of three sections the “Sanctum of Garagha,” the “Digge,” and the “Hevisi Mandapaya.” The Hevisi Mandapaya contains beautiful wood carvings on its pillars that are considered to be some of the best examples of Sinhalese art.
Not far at all from Amaya Hills, the Ceylon Tea Museum, housed in the refurbished 1925 Hantane Tea Factory gives a delightful insight into the earlier days of processing the plantation crops to be delivered back to the UK in a form that you and I would recognise as tea. There are exhibits on pioneers of tea processing, such as Thomas Lipton and James Taylor as well as many vintage elements used in the processes at the peak of the tea trade.
One of the great attractions of Kandy is outside city in the rolling hills and dense forests which surround the city and which open up many opportunities for trekking through tea plantations and jungle with the backdrop of the mountains in the distance or taking a jeep ride along the same route.
Amaya Hills occupies a commanding position overlooking the dense jungle, deep valleys and high mountains which surround this very important city, enabling the guest to relax in a real away from it all retreat whilst enjoying stunning views and being just a short drive from the cultural highlights of Kandy. The open air pool overlooks the valleys and mountains and the hotel also provides fitness facilities,a Billiards Room, Bird Watching and Excursions as well as a superb restaurant and delightful Tea Shop. Amaya Hills’ Ayurvedic Spa is listed by Lonely Planet as one of the Top 10 Things to Do in Kandy.
When visiting Sri Lanka, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy pristine beaches on the East Coast or West Coast but make sure of including the fresher air and richly immersive authentic travel experiences to be enjoyed around Kandy and other cultural centres, such as Dambulla, as a part of your trip.