Ayurveda is a traditional style of medicine which uses completely natural treatments and emphasizes a balanced lifestyle. Although predominantly associated with India, it’s massively popular in Sri Lanka, where you can’t walk a block without finding another ayurvedic dispensary or clinic. Ayurveda has also gained a foothold in Europe and, predictably, an unending line of hotels and spas in Sri Lanka (always quick to capitalize on tourists) have started to offer ayurvedic vacations from a week to a month long.
Tucked just behind the Temple of the Tooth is an odd relic from the kingdom’s colonial days. The Kandy Garrison Cemetery holds the remains of about 150 British souls, who were buried far from home in the early 19th century. The weathered tombstones and neatly-kept grounds make for an atmospheric escape from the throngs of people at the temple.
During our weeks in Kandy, we passed by the Rajanima Craft shop a number of times and finally decided to visit on our second-to-last day in the city. One of the guys working there was happy to take some time out, show us around the shop and explain a little about the craft.
The small, densely-forested Udawattakele Sanctuary is home to a huge variety of plants and animals, and offers a number of long, secluded paths for exploration. During the morning we spent there, we felt completely alone, almost frighteningly so. Amazing, considering the fact that Uduwattakele is basically in the middle of Kandy.
Just behind the Temple of the Tooth are a couple museums which might be worth a visit, depending on the degree to which looking at piles of old stuff turns your crank. The Archaeological Museum, hosted in the former King’s Palace, and the adjacent National Museum are stuffed to the gills with artifacts and treasures from days long gone by.
The Casamara doesn’t look like much from the outside but is the tallest building in its immediate vicinity and makes good use of its height with a top-floor bar. The view of Kandy is different from here, less romantic and more lively, because you’re in the middle of the city. Though the tuk-tuk-clogged chaos of the streets can be stressful when you’re down in it, it provides endless entertainment from above.
Kandyan Dance, an exuberant combination of drumming, costumes and athletic dancing, is the most famous cultural product of Sri Lanka. A few places in Kandy put on a daily show, and we decided to check out the performance at the YMBA. Yep, that stands for “Young Men’s Buddhist Association” — and good luck trying to spell it out with your arms.
According to popular belief, Kandy is protected by four gods, each with its own temple in the city center. These devales are special temples dedicated to a specific god, besides Buddha. Vishnu, Kataragama, Pattini and Natha. On one busy afternoon, we visited all of them. Yeah, we got that temple fever.
About twenty kilometers east of Kandy lies the Knuckles Mountain Range, pronounced by locals as “nuck-less”. This is one of the most infrequently visited corners of Sri Lanka’s hill country, which is surprising, given its beautiful expanses of untouched forest, easy accessibility from Kandy, and softly curved mountaintops which indeed resemble knuckles. By all rights, this park should be one of the region’s touristic highlights.
We planned our visit to Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth with a poya, or full moon, day. Buddhists follow the lunar calendar and Poya Days are the most sacred of the year. So the temple — Sri Lanka’s most important — was packed full of worshipers. As you might imagine, there were a lot of photogenic moments just waiting to be captured.