Just a three-hour drive from Colombo, Sri Lanka's second-biggest city, Kandy is a must-visit if you want to experience more of what this beautiful country has to offer beyond its stunning beaches. 

Kandy serves as the gateway to the northern mountain range and tea plantations of Sri Lanka. It's an amazing place to dive deeper into Sri Lankan culture and history and explore the incredible nature away from the ocean. 

During my trip to Sri Lanka, Kandy became one of my favorite spots, so I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list when you visit.

If you're wondering where to stay in Kandy, considering it's quite a big city. Don't worry, I've got you covered with my guide to the best neighborhoods and hotels to book in Kandy.

Best areas to stay in Kandy

Kandy is still considerably smaller than Colombo, so there aren't a huge number of different neighborhoods. However, let me share with you my four favorite ones.

If you're visiting Kandy for the first time, I highly recommend staying in the Kandy City Center. You'll be centrally located with plenty of hotels, restaurants, and shops right at your doorstep.

Katukele is an area near Kandy Railway Station, perfect for budget travelers and backpackers. You're still pretty close to the city center here, and it's where you'll find most of the more affordable hostels.

If you're traveling with your family and kids, I suggest staying near Kandy Lake. There are some great hotels around here, and it's not as busy as some of the other areas.

Lastly, for couples and luxury travelers, I recommend staying a little outside of Kandy. There are many luxury resorts and eco lodges located on the hillside, offering an amazing experience in the middle of the jungle. Which is also a great area if you're on your honeymoon tour!

1. Where to stay in Kandy for the first time: Kandy City Center

where to stay in kandy - kandy city center

If you're a first-timer, I highly recommend staying in the city center. It's the perfect location and has everything you need, from fantastic hotels to great restaurants and shops. Moreover, you'll be close to Kandy Lake and the bus terminal.

What's really cool about the city centre is that it's one of the best-preserved areas in Sri Lanka from the colonial time. The architecture is absolutely stunning in Kandy. It's so much fun just strolling through the streets of Kandy Town and admiring the beautiful buildings. 

Best area for:

  • First-timers

  • Central location

  • Local markets

Things to do in Kandy City Center

The city center is bursting with tons of fun things to do, especially because that's where you'll find Kandy's Old Town with its beautiful old world charm.

This busy area is home to a bustling maze of market vendors, offering everything you can imagine, from clothes to souvenirs. And let's not forget about the amazing snacks and street food available too! So, it's definitely worth exploring the area to grab a tasty snack for lunch or pick up some unique souvenirs.

Kandy also has a pretty awesome food scene with cute cafes and traditional restaurants, most of which are conveniently located within the city center. My personal favorites are Cafe 1886 and Buono. Cafe 1886 serves up a mouthwatering mix of traditional and international dishes, while Buono is hands down the best cafe in Kandy, known for its delicious flat whites and tea, yes, you're in the epicenter of the world-famous tea plantations!

For all my vegetarian readers (and everyone else), I highly recommend checking out Balaji Dosai. It's a traditional restaurant in Kandy that serves incredible Indian and Sri Lankan food. You definitely don't want to miss it when you visit!

Best hotels to stay in Kandy City Center

($$$) The Radh Hotel

($$) Cafe Aroma Inn

($) Hotel Casamara

2. Where to stay in Kandy for budget travelers & backpackers: Katukele

where to stay in kandy - katukele

Katukele is a charming area just outside the city center that gives you a taste of the local vibe. Moreover, it's more affordable than the city center, making it perfect for budget travelers and backpackers.

Right in the heart of Katukele, you'll find the Kandy Railway Station, making it really convenient to reach your hotel or hostel. Chances are, you'll arrive here by train from Colombo or the famous scenic Kandy to Ella route.

While Katukele may not have as many shopping and food options as the city center, don't worry! You'll still find some great choices. And if you fancy exploring the city center or grabbing dinner, you can just take a leisurely stroll as it's still walking distance away or hop on a tuk-tuk.

Best area for:

  • Budget travelers

  • Backpackers

  • Easy access

Things to do in Katukele

What Katukele might be missing in restaurants and shopping opportunities, it makes up for with plenty of cool activities.

Firstly, you should definitely visit the Sri Maha Bodhi Temple, where you'll find Kandy's magnificent Buddha statue. It's perched on Bahirawa Kanda Hill, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city. Remember to take off your shoes and dress appropriately since it's a temple!

My second highlight here was exploring the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, just a short 15-minute drive from Kandy. I've been to quite a few botanical gardens, and Kandy's Royal Botanical Gardens are definitely one of my favorites.

Once exclusively for Kandyan Royals, you can find flowers and plants from all over the world that are growing here. You can easily get there by tuk-tuk or hop on one of the public buses, which is a more affordable option.

Best hotels to stay in Katukele

($$) Sevana City Hotel

($$) Banana Bunks Kandy

($) Selyna Sky Terrace

3. Where to stay in Kandy for families: Kandy Lake

where to stay in kandy - kandy lake

Kandy Lake is like a little oasis in the heart of Kandy! It's the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to the center but still enjoy some serious relaxation vibes.

This beautiful artificial lake was built back in 1807 and has become one of the most popular spots in town to kick back and enjoy the surroundings.

It's perfect for taking a leisurely stroll around and keeping an eye out for the local wildlife – I've spotted so many different monkeys and even some massive monitor lizards!

Best area for:

  • Families

  • Relaxation

  • Couples

Things to do around Kandy Lake

Apart from enjoying the beautiful lake, there are tons of other activities to do in this area. I highly recommend visiting Sri Dalada Maligawa, also known as the Temple of the Tooth, which is a revered Buddhist temple in Kandy housing the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha and serving as a significant pilgrimage site and cultural symbol.

Head to the National Museum of Kandy to delve into the fascinating history of Sri Lanka. It's super interesting, but it can get a little dark and brutal at times.

You'll also find other interesting spots in the museum area, such as the Old Royal Palace, the Sacred City of Kandy and the International Buddhist Museum. These places are perfect for anyone interested in Sri Lankan culture and history.

After a morning of exploring culture and history, you should definitely make your way to Sweet Beans Kandy, my new favorite cafe in the area right next to the museum district. They make some really good coffee here, and their specialty is their delicious smoothie bowls which are so refreshing. On top of that, the free Wi-Fi here is great as well, so it's the perfect spot for anyone who needs to get some work done or plan their next stop.

Best hotels to stay around Kandy Lake

($$$) Ru Boutique

($$) Kandy City View

($) Blinkbonnie Inn

4. Where to stay in Kandy for couples & luxury travelers: Kandy Hills/Outside of Kandy

where to stay in kandy - kandy hills

While many people might say that the Old Town is the highlight of Kandy, I have a slightly different take. Personally, I believe that the surroundings and the rainforest take the top spot, with the Old Town coming in a close second.

The outskirts and surroundings of Kandy are filled with hills covered in lush rainforest, offering the most breathtaking scenery imaginable. There's an incredible amount of amazing nature and wildlife to discover, and the best part is that you can even stay right in the heart of the rainforest.

There are plenty of luxury hotels, resorts, and eco-lodges in the rainforest around Kandy that offer an incredible experience amidst nature.

Best area for:

  • Couples

  • Honeymoons

  • Luxury

  • Seclusion

Things to do outside of Kandy

These resorts are among the best hotels in Kandy, making them incredible places to enjoy. They offer amenities such as swimming pools, spa treatments, and amazing dining options. 

For those who want to explore, the hotels in the area also offer excursions to discover more of Kandy's surroundings.

You can visit nearby waterfalls, take a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site Sigiriya, explore Minneriya or Kaudulla National Parks, learn about tea-making, or discover traditional villages in the area. There are truly no limits to the activities you can join outside of Kandy.

Another fantastic highlight is to hop on the train to Ella, Sri Lanka's most picturesque train ride through the stunning hill country. It's an absolute must-do for anyone visiting Sri Lanka and can easily be done as a delightful day trip from Kandy or as your way of transport when you make your way to Ella.

Best hotels to stay outside of Kandy

($$$) Aarunya Nature Resort and Spa

($$$) Grand Serendib Hotel

($$) Swp Eco Lodge

($$) Earl's Regency Hotel

($$) The Summit

Where to stay in Kandy – Frequently Asked Questions

🏔️ What is there to do in Kandy?

Kandy offers a variety of activities and attractions, including visiting the Temple of the Tooth, exploring the Royal Botanical Gardens, taking a stroll around Kandy Lake, and learning about Sri Lankan culture at various museums. Outside of Kandy, you can also visit nearby waterfalls, national parks, and traditional villages.

🚂 How do I get to Kandy?

The most popular way to reach Kandy is by taking a train from Colombo or Ella. The train journey is absolutely breathtaking and considered one of the most scenic in the world. The famous train runs from Ella to Kandy (or vice versa) and is a highlight in itself. I'm sure you've seen those stunning pictures of people hanging off the carriages as the blue train makes its way through the jungle. Catching the train is super easy and super cheap. But here's a little tip: make sure to buy your tickets in advance as they can sell out sometimes. And here's another secret: the most scenic part of the journey is from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, so I recommend taking the train on that route instead of Ella.

🗓️ How many days should I spend in Kandy?

I recommend spending at least 3-4 days in Kandy to fully enjoy the city and its surrounding areas. This will give you enough time to visit all the main attractions, take a day trip to the ancient city of Sigiriya, and explore some of the nearby nature and wildlife. However, if you have more time, I highly recommend staying for longer as there is so much to discover in and around Kandy. 

🏠 What are the best hotels in Kandy?

The best hotels in Kandy vary depending on your budget and preferences. For a luxury stay, Aarunya Nature Resort and Spa definitely takes the cake. It is one of the best places to stay in Kandy and comes with a stunning outdoor pool, an extensive spa, modern rooms, and one of the best restaurants in the region.

Other Kandy hotels I can recommend are:

 Where to stay in Kandy – Final Words

Kandy, Sri Lanka, is truly amazing. It has this super cool Old Town with stunning architecture from colonial times and crazy labyrinths of market vendors. But it also offers peaceful retreats in its surrounding nature.

Here's a suggestion: divide your trip into two parts. For the first part, stay a little closer to the center to explore the iconic Old Town. And for the second part, stay at one of the eco retreats in the rainforest for some serious relaxation and pampering. That's what I did and I absolutely loved it!

I hope my guide makes it a little clearer where to stay in Kandy and helps you plan your trip. Whether you're looking for a luxury stay, budget-friendly options, or an authentic eco experience, Kandy has it all.

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