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In the midst of the oceans of hillside tea plantations in Central Province is Sri Lanka’s second largest city and the historic last capital of the island’s Sinhalese kings. Kandy, founded in the 14th century, was able to remain largely aloof and unconquered by the various European marauders down at the coast, and in its hills and the valleys of the nearby Mahaveli, the Great Sandy River, preserved the ancient Sinhalese-Buddhist traditions that still today make the city one of the most sacred places of worship for Buddhists. Sri Dalada Maligawa is the world-famous Temple of the Tooth Relic, where it is believed a tooth of the Buddha is preserved. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, the Temple, on the north shore of the city’s artificial lake created in the early 19th century, was once part of the Royal Palace complex, which now also houses the National Museum of Kandy in the former Queen’s palace, and a valuable library in the Octagon by the walled moat. The Temple can be visited, although the tooth relic itself cannot be seen, only the casket that contains it. The annual late-summer festival of Esala Perahera is the island’s greatest pageant; for two weeks the most colourful night-time processions of pilgrims and devotees of the Temple, musicians, dancers, brightly-caparisoned elephants, torch-bearers, and ecstatic spectators all accompany a great tusker elephant carrying a replica of the casket of the tooth relic. A calmer atmosphere prevails, at least on the surface, in the dense tropical jungle of the Udawattakelle Forest Reserve, in the heart of Kandy and also part of the old Royal Palace complex – a great place for bird watching and fending off the cheeky monkeys - and 6km west of Kandy are the fabulous Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradineya, with hundreds of rose and orchid species and tropical flowering trees spread over its 60 hectares.


Temple of the Tooth

Temple of the Tooth

Downtown Kandy

Kandy botanical gardens