Sri Lanka: Colombo to Kandy Road Trip!

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Sri Lanka: Colombo to Kandy Road Trip!

Rise and shine!

It’s 07:00 am, an early start but necessary to avoid Colombo’s morning traffic. Our Sri Lanka road trip starts now!

Kandy is the plan for the night, 120 kilometres from central Colombo. There’s a lot to see on the way and we don’t want to miss the cultural show when we arrive so, let’s go.

It’ll take about four hours non-stop driving to Kandy, but that doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

Our guide and driver, Duminda (Jetwing Travels), has navigated this route more times than he can remember. He knows where the road construction delays are, alternate routes, the best local snack stalls and he’s a twitcher, so you won’t miss any native birdlife.

Duminda has allowed the full day to reach Kandy, including rest stops, snack stalls and attractions on the road.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.



Before arriving at our first official stop (Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage) we’ve pulled over a few times. First, to get a closer look at cinnamon and teak plantations. Next, incredible cotton trees. Eagle-eye Duminda spotted a hawk nestled in a tree and we picked wild Asian apples.

This is the benefit of having a guide/ driver. The flexibility makes for a more immersive experience.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.

Close to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, we stop for a snack. Freshly squeezed native orange and watermelon juice wet the whistle and we’re introduced to some seriously good Sri Lankan bites.

Potato and mushroom cutlets are moreish balls of intense flavour. The oyster mushrooms inside give a meaty texture and in the mix, chilli (of course), cumin, turmeric, curry leaves and other secret and delicious ingredients.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.

Young jackfruit, or polos, is another popular cutlet filling. The texture is silky smooth with the same spicy flavour.

Dhal curry biscuits, or Wadi, are a revelation. These flavoursome discs are so good, you’ll need all your willpower to stop at just one or two. Grab a few to have in the car for later. 😉

Roadside fruit stalls are plentiful from Colombo’s outskirts to Kandy. Sri Lanka has 51 varieties of bananas. These stalls give you a chance to try them all.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.


Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Vijaya, Neela, Kadira, Mathlee and Kumari were just babies when they were separated from their herd. Without the establishment of Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage by Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1975, they may not have survived.

Elephants suckle their mothers until they are around five years old. These babies were hand-raised and today, Kumari is a grandmother.

Over a twenty-year period, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage hand raised abandoned babies, treated the injured and integrated displaced elephants into a growing herd.

Currently, 88 elephants are part of the Pinnawala family on their 30-acre property, making it one of Sri Lanka’s largest tourist attractions.

Trip Advisor reviews praise and condemn the park so our only choice was to see it for ourselves. The stamp of the country’s Department of Wildlife Conservation on the park was the deciding factor.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.

At Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage you will see chains. This is precautionary for large males while bathing, wandering the park – river path, and when a female’s seductive pheromones spike.

A fully grown male can stand more than 2.5 metres weighing  5.5 tonnes. A force to be reckoned with when they want to get down to business.

You will also see mahouts rounding the elephants to keep them in one spot. This is also precautionary to keep them from getting too close to punters.

A disappointing observation was people paying some entrepreneurial mahouts to bathe the elephants. The elephant is chained and made to lie on its side during the encounter. This is not approved and is something the orphanage is trying to eliminate.

Elephants eat an average of 250kg of food per day, multiply that by 88 of them and you have an expensive grocery bill. Modern veterinary equipment and traditional indigenous medicine come at a price and the gallons of milk required to raise a baby elephant is also exorbitant.

Sponsorship programs, donations and your ticket price all contribute to the cost of feeding and caring for these adorable creatures.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is not perfect, but the care for these elephants is obvious.

This is a heavily tourist-trafficked attraction. Vendors take advantage of the captive audience and sell everything from elephant poo paper products (quite an interesting process) to every form of elephant printed clothing you can imagine.

Away from this retail madness, however, is picturesque countryside, a meandering river and comfortable accommodation.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.


Susantha Spice & Herbal Garden

Ayurveda is an ancient natural healing system originating in India. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda translates to “the science of life”. The emphasis of Ayurveda is total wellness, internal and external.

At Susantha Spice & Herbal Garden, Ayurveda practitioners guide you through the plants and their primary use in holistic medicine. Joint pain, stomach complaints, insomnia, hair loss; there’s a tonic, oil or ointment made and available for purchase onsite.

Ayurveda is not a quick fix. It’s an exercise in balancing the body. Eliminating toxins and nourishing the body naturally takes time but these Ayurvedic potions are also not intended for prolonged use. Once the ailment has been treated, continued use is unnecessary.

Visitors are encouraged to take part in demonstrations and massages to understand the results expected from Ayurveda. Herbal teas are offered and remedies can be purchased packaged ready for travel.

Keep an eye out for “Needra”.

If you have trouble sleeping, this coconut oil-based balm is infused with relaxing herbs. All you need is half a teaspoon, massage into your scalp and you’ll be catching zzzs in no time.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.



The sacred city of Kandy has been UNESCO World Heritage listed since 1988. Built on a plateau in central Sri Lanka’s hill country, the Kingdom of Kandy held the last independent monarchy of Sri Lanka until British rule in 1815.

Located on the banks of a large man-made lake, the Palace and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic are Kandy’s main attractions. Kandy also offers a chance to really soak up the lush hill country with Sri Lanka’s largest Botanical Garden and the Knuckles Mountain Range.

Traditional performers, artisans and craftspeople are scattered through Kandy.

If time allows, Kandy deserves 2 – 3 days.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.


Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

At 30, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) left a life of luxury to achieve enlightenment. After years of contemplation and self-denial, he was rewarded while sitting beneath a Bodhi Tree.

Buddha died in Kushinagar, India in 543 BC. Cremated on a sandalwood pyre, his left canine was found in the remains.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.

Khema, one of Buddha’s chief female disciples, retrieved the tooth and passed it to King Brahmadatte for veneration. What followed was years of fighting over Buddha’s tooth, to claim it or to destroy it. A belief grew that the holder of the tooth relic was entitled to rule.

Preservation of the tooth was crucial so the royal couple, Dantha and Hemamala, were tasked with safely transporting the tooth to Sri Lanka. It was Buddha’s belief his teachings would be safe in Sri Lanka for 5,000 years.

Disguised as Brahmins, Dantha and Hemamala arrived safely in Sri Lanka with the tooth hidden in Hemamala’s hair. King Kithsirimevan was thrilled to receive the sacred tooth and built a shrine at the palace to protect and revere it.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.

A visit to the temple is both fascinating and humbling. Inside, the sacred tooth’s journey is displayed chronologically by a series of beautiful artwork.

Sadly, the civil war entered the temple in 1998 when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam sent in a suicide truck. The motive? To undermine the preparations of the 50th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence.

Seventeen people died, more than 25 were injured and the damage to ancient artwork and the temple itself was catastrophic. Restoration, where possible, has been meticulous but a museum exhibition is a reminder of the destruction.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.


Traditional Dances of Sri Lanka

Red Cross Hall, near the Temple of the Sacred Tooth entrance, is the site for the Cultural Show.

A traditional welcome opens the performance with conch shell blowing and a dance paying homage to the deities. What follows is a story, told through Kandyan dance, of Sri Lanka’s history and beliefs.

In harmony, dancers portray cobra taming snake charmers, graceful peacocks, and rice farmers. A single dancer performs the Raban, a mesmerising display of drums spun on sticks.

Popular throughout the country, a Southern Sri Lankan mask dance is presented. Initially used to drive away evil spirits, mask dancing is still practised in psychiatric treatments today. The dance simulates the killing of a poisonous snake. Light balsa wood is used to create these elaborate masks.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.


Rajanima Craft

The art of mask making is concentrated along Sri Lanka’s west coast but handcrafted wood, including a few decorative masks, can be found in Kandy at Rajanima Craft.

To get to the showroom at Rajanima Craft, you’ll walk through one of the workshops. For anyone interested, Ranga or one of his colleagues will demonstrate some of the characteristics of the wood used, the design process, and a science lesson.

Rajanima Craft takes pride in its natural approach to handcrafting and decorating the carvings. With examples of chemical paints on hand for comparison, you’ll see a demonstration of how these colours are achieved naturally through the wood itself.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.

The process begins with the multicoloured pathangi (rainbow tree) wood shavings. Boiling water is added to create orange/ red. Different forms of metal added to the water will turn it purple to black. Adding lime or lemon juice creates yellow and calcium carbonate turns the mixture fuschia.

Old coconut trees produce a beautiful natural pattern. The centre of the coconut trunk is too soft for carving. Using the outer trunk the pattern in the wood changes from dots to thin lines.

Rajanima Craft uses a range of wood from balsa to hardwoods for sculptures, furniture, homewares and ornaments. They have an extensive range of products but will also make to order.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.


Lanka Batik

As with Rajanima Craft, Art Lanka’s workshop is behind their showroom. From creating the batik designs, administering the wax, multi-dying and embroidering the finished product, the quality of work is excellent.

A visit will take you back to your home economics classes in the seventies when batik was huge – or is that just me? 😉

Kandy. Sri Lanka.



You’ll find accommodation in Kandy ranging from budget-friendly to 5-star. Our stay was at The Golden Crown Hotel, out of the city centre not far from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Rooms are spacious with balconies overlooking the valleys and peaks of the hill country.

Kandy. Sri Lanka.

For more accommodation options in Kandy, complete the search below with filters for your preferences. You’ll find a wide selection of hotels within your budget.

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Getting There & Getting Around

If you’ve decided on a Jetwing Travels itinerary then you don’t need to worry about this at all. Your guide/ driver will be on call (within reason) and take you where you need to go.

As Kandy is in the country’s centre, it can be reached from many directions via bus, plane, train and automobile.

Your Über app works in Kandy too. Private cars, taxis and tuk-tuks are available.


When To Go

Kandy is in the central hill country of Sri Lanka with a tropical rainforest climate. Heavy rains occur from May to July and October to September. Kandy experiences about 150 days of rain and even in the drier months of January to April, showers are experienced.

Average daytime temperatures are cooler in the hill country at 27-29C and drop to 18-20C in the evening. Humidity is between 70 and 80% throughout the year.

For info on exploring Colombo and tips on planning your entire Sri Lanka adventure, please follow these links. Sri Lanka: Colombo, the Commerical Capital! and  “Sri Lanka: Where to Begin?”.

Disclaimer: This article contains discounts and upgrades that will never affect our 100% honest opinions.


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Kandy. Sri Lanka.

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