At the centre of our famed Hill Country lies Kandy, the ancient and historic capital city that is not only one of the world’s holiest places of Buddhist worship, but also one of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Second only to Kandy is the hill station of Nuwara Eliya (City of Light). Known as ‘Little England’ since its adoption by colonial British tea planters in the 19th C, it is celebrated for its fresh climate and wonderful scenery.
But it is Kandy, a must-visit for any traveller, which is redolent with colorful tradition while embracing everything that modernity and today’s switched-on traveller has come to expect.
International broadcaster CNN recently named the rail journey from Colombo to Kandy as one of the best and most scenic in the world. Many visitors arrive by train and fly back on the seaplane service that operates from Kandy lake.
Many arrange their visit months in advance to coincide with the famed 10-day Esala Perahera (the Festival of the Tooth), a Buddhist celebration featuring parades of lavishly costumed dancers and elephants.
Legend has it that when the Buddha died in 543 BCE, his left canine tooth was retrieved from the funeral pyre. It was eventually brought to Sri Lanka, and whoever possessed it is said to have a divine right to rule.
This most venerated of Buddhist relics is now kept secure in a golden casket in the Temple of the Tooth at the heart of the Royal Palace complex just north of Kandy lake.
Meanwhile, Nuwara Eliya and surrounding countryside offer many activities for tourists including visits to tea plantations, golfing, horse riding, boating, hiking and exploring the beauty of the landscaped gardens, waterfalls and plateaus.
An 18-hole golf course, considered one of the finest and most picturesque in Asia, attracts golfers year round. Local tourists flock to this town in their ‘season’ from March to May.
A visual treat is Devon Falls, a spectacular 300ft waterfall, named after a pioneer English coffee planter. This, and a chain of lesser falls, are fed by a river that was dammed upstream to create the Kotmale hydro-electric project.