The Best Weekend Getaways from Kandy, Sri Lanka

From the urban hubbub of Kandy, you can easily explore the gorgeous Sri Lankan wilds and many Unesco World Heritage Sites
From the urban hubbub of Kandy, you can easily explore the gorgeous Sri Lankan wilds and many Unesco World Heritage Sites | © Joana Kruse / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Orana Velarde
Sri Lanka Hub Writer2 September 2021

If you have long-term plans to stay in Kandy for a job opportunity, volunteer position, or just because you prefer the mountains to the coast, here are some ideas for weekend getaways. Kandy is in the centre of the southern part of the island, so everything is close by. Hire a car or take the train to explore during your stay here.

The Cultural Triangle

Ruins, Buddhist Temple, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Sri Lanka, Ceylon, North Central Province, Dambulla, Buddhist Cave Temple, UNESCO World Heritage Site, monk
The Dambulla Cave Temple is one of the five Unesco World Heritage Sites in the Cultural Triangle | © Tuul and Bruno Morandi / Alamy Stock Photo
Kandy is one corner of the famous Sri Lankan Cultural Triangle: a large area in the south plains where pilgrims go to visit ancient temples, sacred trees and a rock fortress looming over the land below – and you can now visit with Culture Trip by joining our epic 12-day Sri Lanka adventure, led by our local insider. The ancient city of Anuradhapura is home to large temples with impressive dagobas, water retaining tanks, palaces and the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi Tree. Dambulla has the famous Dambulla Cave Temple, while Sigiriya is the palace waiting at the top of a steep climb. If you’re looking for some pampering, stay at the Serendib Leisure Sigiriya; if you’re on a budget, check out the Palitha Homestay close to Sigiriya.

The best way to see the Cultural Triangle is to climb Sigiriya in the early morning. You hikers might enjoy also climbing Pidurangala Rock, which offers a great view of the fortress. Then, visit Dambulla caves during the day. Leave Anurhadapura for the next day so that it can be enjoyed with plenty of time to spare. It’s best to hire a tuk-tuk, or if the car that you drove from Kandy is still available, use that to get from one temple to the other in the ancient city.

Ella

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
Map View
Main Street in Ella, Sri Lanka
© Oliver Förstner / Alamy Stock Photo

The small mountain town of Ella is a little gem in the making. Although it’s still in the growing stage, it’s a favourite among backpackers, hikers and mountain adventurers. The two famous hikes in Ella are Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. Experienced hikers can do both on the same day, while some prefer to do one on each morning of their time in Ella. For a great lunch with cool ambience, head to Cafe Chill where everything is good (and when the sun comes down it turns into a hot nightlife spot). Stay at 98 Acres if you’re looking for a fancy mountain escape, or head over to the Waterfalls Homestay for an authentic Ella experience.

It’s best to take the train to Ella from Kandy. Alternatively, take the train to Ella on Friday afternoon, spend the night in Ella and then take the train again on Saturday afternoon to Nuwara Eliya (the train station is called Nanu Oya). It really depends on how many weekends you have free for getaways.

Nuwara Eliya

Forest, Natural Feature
Map View
St Clair falls, tea pluckers, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, Asia
Nuwara Eliya is home to rich tea plantations | © Joana Kruse / Alamy Stock Photo

This not-so-sleepy mountain town is peppered with quaint British architecture built during the colonial period. Being the favourite getaway of the British settlers, Nuwara Eliya has all the creature comforts: nice hotels, a great golf course, gorgeous parks and a huge lake. A great way to enjoy Nuwara Eliya is to stay at a Planter’s Bungalow hotel – there are fancy boutique ones and comfortable, low-cost ones. There are plenty to choose from. Explore the tea plantations, hike through the fields and find hidden waterfalls. Learn to pick tea leaves from the pickers you’ll find along the way.

For a treat, go to Adma Agro for some fresh strawberries grown and harvested in Nuwara Eliya. Make sure to take some warm clothes as Nuwara Eliya gets cold in the mornings and evenings.

Adam's Peak

Hill Station
Map View
Sri Pada, Adam's peak in Sri Lanka
© Suranga Weeratuna / Alamy Stock Photo
No stay in Sri Lanka is complete without a hike up Adam’s Peak, also called Sri Pada Mountain. This pointy mountain is a centre of pilgrimage for all four major religions in Sri Lanka. The top is where the Buddhists worship a footprint of Buddha, while Muslims believe it was made by Adam; Hindus think it was made by Lord Siva, and Christians that it was made by Jesus.

There is a season for climbing Adam’s Peak (when the rains are not battering the mountain). From the full moon in December to the full moon in April, pilgrims climb in the middle of the night in order to reach the peak by sunrise. It can take around five or six hours to reach the top, where it’s windy and chilly. There are resting points along the way, first-aid areas next to praying spots, and hot tea vendors and souvenir sellers. The peak is 2,243m (7,359ft) above sea level and gives a bird’s-eye view of pretty much the entire island.

Hire a car to get to the area on Saturday morning, take it easy and then hike up during the night to reach the peak by sunrise. Then, take the day to rest before heading back to Kandy.
These recommendations were updated on September 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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