A lot of people, mainly Colombars, aren’t too keen on Kandy. It hasn’t got the visual appeal of Nuwara Eliya, or the walled historic charm of Galle – there are traffic problems, the food is poor- there are no restaurants to speak of and you encounter rather a lot of touts and merchants of stuff you don’t want to buy.
Personally though I’m quite fond of the hill capital. The climate, particularly the evenings, is cooler than in Colombo, the city is compact and actually quite well laid out – you can cover everything on foot. Architecture-wise there are relatively few ugly concrete monstrosities. Also whatever you think of the city the key to Kandy’s appeal is the fact that after a few minutes tuk-ride or walk it disappears entirely. From the centre of the city you can get to the forests at Udawattakelle or Hantane or the green space around Peradeniya very quickly. A little further afield of course there’s the outstanding beauty of Knuckles, Matale’s sleepy charm and the lovely temples at Embekke and Gadaladeniya. The advantages of its natural setting therefore effectively offset a lot of the city’s negatives.
The one Colombar criticism of Kandy I will let stand is the food- not to insult Kandyan home-cooking, which can be excellent butthere are no decent restaurants in the city. Ok there’s Flower Song Chinese ( Devon bakery/hotel doesn’t count) but even the street level (non-restaurant) food is no great shakes. However, what Kandy lacks in restaurants it makes up for in a pretty diverse and high- quality range of accommodation. There a tons of places to stay – from outstanding high-end boutique hotels like the Kandy house and Ashburnham to various resorts and an abundance of mid-range and budget options.
Still while mid-range options are abundant they aren’t all good. Castle Hill with its views and faded colonial charm was the YAMU favourite but it’s hard to book, while Sharon Inn, the backpacker-favourite, seems to have got more expensive. Our current recommendation therefore for a sub Rs. 3000 Room in Kandy is the Forest Glen(Rs 2500 for a single with breakfast). A sprawling 70’s home near the top of the winding road to the Udawatta-Kele forest reserve. Its high up on a hillside on the edge of a lush forest and feels utterly secluded but you are just a 10 minute walk and 5 minute tuk tuk ride from the centre of town.
The rooms are simple and clean, decent linen comfortable beds and there are clean bathrooms with tolerably hot water, the living room and veranda are large and inviting and the whole property benefits from some pretty excellent views. As an added bonus the couple who run the guesthouse do cook up some pretty excellent meals – so you can even over come the Kandy food issue….