Kandy’s Most Colorful Festival

With its mild upland climate, pretty centerpiece lake, and rich history as old Ceylon’s last Sinhalese capital, the central Sri Lankan city of Kandy is a rewarding destination all year round. Yet there’s no better time to visit than during the 10 days of the Esala Perahera, a series of lavish processions held in honor of one of the Buddha’s teeth—a sacred relic enshrined in Kandy’s moat-fronted Sri Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth (pictured). Beginning this year on August 20, the parades will see dancers and jugglers, drummers and trumpet blowers, fire twirlers, whip crackers, and caparisoned elephants wend through the nighttime streets of Kandy in a show of pomp and pageantry that could well be Buddhism’s most colorful celebration. —David Tse

How to Get There
Reachable in three-plus hours by road or rail from Colombo, Kandy is also served by daily flights from Sri Lanka’s capital on Cinnamon Air (US$153 one way), a scenic seaplane trip that lands you at the Polgolla Reservoir just 35 minutes after takeoff.

Where to Stay
Opened in May, the 122-room Ozo Kandy (doubles from US$109) is a spiffy new hotel near the lake with a rooftop pool and bar and the most modern amenities in town.

What Else?
Plan a side trip to Minneriya National Park, 100 km to the north. August and September mark the height of the dry season here, when hundreds of elephants congregate around the park’s ancient reservoir in an annual migration known as The Gathering. For arrangements, contact safari camp operator Mahoora.

This article originally appeared in the August/September print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Caught on Kandy”)


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