How to travel to Kandy — Ascent to the lush hills

Kandy (Sri Lanka’s second largest city) is a lush green city with plenty of cultural attractions and breathtaking architectural wonders. There are several scenic ways to travel to Kandy and most visitors enjoy the ascent upwards to these hilly areas.

Image credits ; Budhika Jayawardana

Board a bus
Bus rides in Sri Lanka are fairly inexpensive. You can take a taxi or a tuk tuk from the Bandaranaike International Airport to the bus terminal and take a bus to Kandy. It is possible for you to catch the bus from just outside the airport but since the bus only leaves the terminal once it is full, you may not get a seat and the few hours ride will prove to be tiring. If you are travelling from Colombo, go to the main bus stand in Pettah and board a bus to Kandy. Both non-air conditioned and air conditioned buses are available but an air conditioned bus is recommended for a comfortable journey. Taking a bus to Kandy is probably the cheapest way to travel there and you will be treated to changing glimpses of the landscape and Sri Lanka’s way of life on the way.

Take the train
The train service too is inexpensive but it will be more scenic and consequently less tiring than a bus ride. You can either board the normal train from the Fort Railway Station (they have first, second and third class compartments) or book an intercity train seat ahead. The intercity train travels faster and offers beautiful views on the way. If you would like to travel like the locals, take the normal train but make sure you board it from the starting point to grab a window seat. There are also a couple of companies that offer special serviced compartments with curtains affording privacy for travellers. If you book one of these, you will be able to enjoy a meal, air conditioning and the hospitality of the compartment crew during your journey. If you are willing to spend a little extra on a normal train you can book the observation saloon for an uninterrupted and scenic ride. But the normal compartments too afford a one of a kind experience where you can observe the locals up close. You may see vendors that sell peanuts and chewing gums to travellers as well as some vendors with beautifully stacked pineapple pieces for sale. The pineapple vendors usually sprinkle a mixture of salt, pepper and chilli on pineapple pieces before handing those to eager customers. It is not unheard of for groups of locals to break into song during the train ride.

If you have already made your reservations at a Kandy city hotel and are eager to get there without the hassle and begin your adventure, hail a taxi. Some travel agents even offer a choice of vehicles that you can book beforehand to get to your hotel or resort such as the Hotel Topaz Kandy directly. You can hail a taxi outside the airport or contact a travel agent to book a minivan before you arrive. While taxi rides are likely to afford more privacy and comfort, the traffic along the route may test your patience. But on the plus side, you could ask your driver to stop whenever you want and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Many private vehicles stop at the scenic ascent near ‘Kadugannawa’ to gaze at the valley below and enjoy a cup of hot tea and a piece of fruit. Taking a taxi will save you the hassle of waiting for a bus and you will be able to travel at your own pace though that may depend on the traffic.

Air Taxi
A more recent addition to travelling to Kandy, air taxis will offer you fantastic views and a faster more comfortable journey. The air travel time between Colombo and Kandy is 30 minutes. The official Sri Lankan airline and some private travel companies offer air taxi services daily. During the 30 minute ride up in the clouds you will be able to catch exquisite glimpses of the island’s landscape where symmetrical paddy fields, lone hills, waterways and buildings create a panoramic painting coloured with hues of the essence of Sri Lanka. Boarding an air taxi to journey to Kandy is a wonderful way to start your Sri Lanka adventure.