Kandy & the northern surroundings, day excursions
Sri Lanka! A new destination on my bucket list has now ticked. It was an incredible experience. Post our intensive Sri Lanka trip, the relaxing time on a Maldivian beach was very much appreciated.
If you look early enough or set a price alert on Skyscanner, you probably can get a really good flight deal. We purchased our multi-stops ticket approximately 4 months prior to our journey. I thought what we paid was good enough deal however we came across other travellers that paid as low as £320 for a return ticket from London.
On a cold December evening 2017, we took off on SriLankan Airlines for Colombo. The on-board service was pretty standard except a better wine was served in comparison to BA. The only thing I could complain about was the entertainment didn’t work for my seat. The flight duration was just 10 hours and 30 minutes. We landed early afternoon in Colombo.
Book a taxi before arriving if bypass Colombo
We decided bypass Colombo completely. There are good public transport connections between Colombo and Kandy. After a long haul flight, it’s just more convenient to take a taxi taking us straight to the hotel door step. The time taken was about 2 hours and 50 minutes. The cost of this taxi ride is approximately £40.
Kandy is a major city in Sri Lanka located in the central province. It was the last capital of the ancient king’s era of Sri Lanka. The city lies in the midst of hills in the Kandy plateau, which crosses an area of tropical tea plantations. Kandy is the home of the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most sacred places of worship in the buddhist world. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988.
The sun started to set, we arrived at Meili Lanka City Hotel in Kandy. It was pretty hard to find the doorstep of this hotel as it’s located inside an alleyway where the car cannot access. The receptionist had to come out the alleyway to meet us in the parking lot.
At the reception, there was a booklet listing activities and excursions they can organise which was really handy. Before the trip, I researched the nearby attractions for Kandy and I knew exactly what we wanted to do. We negotiated and organised a car and a driver who will take us to visit Dambulla, a rock cave with buddhist temple and Sigiriya, the “Lion Rock” fortress. The package price they offered was pretty standard, basically the transporting service and didn’t include anything.
Kandy city centre is very small. We headed out after dark for hunting some food. On the main street, there were a few restaurants serving Chinese and Indian cuisines. A couple of waiters were lingering around by the restaurants trying to get customs from pedestrians. Both of us felt quite tired post a long haul flight, we went into a nice looking restaurant and had some Indian food. I wasn’t so impressed by the dishes we ordered.
Dambulla & Sigiriya
A private taxi for the day excursion, cost only £35 for the day…
On our second day in Sri Lanka, we had to depart early for Dambulla from Kandy. The journey takes about 2 hours. Private transfer costed approximately £35 for the full day itinerary. We dozed off for most of our journey.
A little information about Dambulla
Dambulla is a large town located north-east of Colombo. Due to its location at a major junction, it’s the center of vegetable distribution in the country. The major attractions of the area include the largest and best preserved cave temple complex of Sri Lanka. It also known as Golden Temple of Dambulla.
The rock towers over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the area. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves which contain statues and paintings. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square meters. Depictions on the walls in the cave include the temptation by the demon and Buddha’s first sermon.
Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2,700 years old in this area.
The day was really hot we had to claim up some stairs to get to the cave. All visitors have to take off shoes before entering the temple. It was really amazing to see all statues sit inside of the cave. The paintings are still quite fresh.
The whole site is set to be one way in and follow the route to the exit. A loop over the mountain. A golden temple sits by the exit, the route leading to the exit is surrounded by monkeys. These monkeys were fed by locals.
A little information about Sigiriya
We got back to the car and continued our journey to Sigiriya. Sigiriya or Sinhagiri is an ancient rock fortress, it is very close to Dambulla. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 meters high.
According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle The Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477-495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of the rock, he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. Sigiriya is a UNESCO listed world heritage site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning.
The climb up to the Lion Rock was quite hard. It requires a lot of physical workout. We were not the fastest of climbers, we took our time wandering through the mountain. I’d seen other travellers with small babies. I was wondering how they could manage to climb with small babies in 35 degrees humid heat.
The site is quite large, we spent almost 3 hours to see everything including the climbing up to the Lion Rock. The temple ruin was spread across the rooftop of the rock. It was quite amazing to have the temple built on top of a giant rock, I wonder how people managed to do that during the ancient civilization?
On our way back towards Kandy the driver stopped at a wooden crafts store. What an usual tourist spot to stop!