Kandalama: History, Adventure, and Nature All in One

Kadalama is a place to visit for rich history and nature adventures!

Of all the great Sri Lankan provinces, Kandalama deserves a special mention! The entire village of Kandalama (as well as its adjoining areas) are an adventurer’s delight thanks to two UNESCO World Heritage sites located very close. History lovers, outdoors enthusiasts, and visitors looking for a relaxing break will all finds something in Kandalama.

One of the best places to start is Kandalama Reservoir. If you’re a boating enthusiast, you’ll love it here! Boat tours are available if you want to get out on the water, or get a glimpse of traditional fishing from other fishermen. Don’t miss the sunsets on Kandalama Lake!

Located close by is Dambulla, which has its own long list of tourist attractions, including the Dambulla Museum and the Rock Cave Temples. Or head over to Sigiriya. If you’re a history lover, you don’t want to miss either one!

Things to Do

Kandalama Reservoir

Kandalama Reservoir is also known as Kandalama Wewa and is one of most attractive reservoirs in Sri Lanka. It is located right next to Dambulla, in the northern part of Sri Lanka. It was created by building a dam across the Kala Wewa and the Mirisgoniya Oya. Kandalama Reservoir is surrounded by hills from every side that provide a natural blockade. There are an huge amount of animals and birds living here, so keep an eye out when visiting the reservoir!

Kandalama Lake is a popular place for boat rides in the Dambulla area. You can enjoy the scenic view of the large hills surrounding the lake, or go birdwatching during the mornings, as most of the aquatic birds are often seen at the lake. Traditional fisherman arrive at the lake during the evenings. They use traditional fishing methods such as hand gathering, spearfishing, and netting in shallow water, while others use traditional fishing boats. You can book your trip at your hotel! Sometimes you can book it on the beach as well, just make sure to agree on a price beforehand.

Duration: 1-2 hours

Cost: Free of charge

Transportation from Colombo Airport: 8 hours with train, 2.5 hours with taxi or private car

Opening Hours: 8:30 am to 6 pm

Location: Kandalama Tank Access Rd, Kandalama 21106, Sri Lanka

How to get there: Only 4 km from Dambulla downtown so you can walk, take a bike or a tuk tuk

Hurulu Eco Park

The Hurulu Eco Park is on the edge of Hurulu National Park, which offers Jeep rides for visitors. Dominant trees such as the Kaluwara, Burutha, and Palu are found here. Sri Lankan leopards, rusty spotted cats, and Sri Lankan jungle fowl are several endangered species found in the eco park. Keep an eye out for elephants if you’re there during monsoon season!  This eco park is an important element of nature here, as it shows visitors the importance of conservation!

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Rs 3200 per person

Transportation from Colombo Airport: 8 hours with train, 2.5 hours with taxi or private car

Opening Hours: 5 am to 10 pm

Location: Habarana-Trincomalee Road, Habarana 50150, Sri Lanka

How to get there: 25 km away from Dambulla center

Rock Cave Temples

Dambulla’s Rock cave temple is the largest cave temple in Sri Lanka, and was built by King Walagamba on a six hundred foot rock. There are five caves with beautiful paintings and statues inside. The ceilings and walls are covered with unique murals, displaying the history of old Sri Lanka and Buddhism. Those paintings date back to the Kandyan era. Make sure to walk around the wonderful caves and admire the Buddha statues and the amazing, rich colors!

Duration: 1-2 hours

Cost: Rs 1500 per person

Transportation from Colombo Airport: 8 hours with train, 2.5 hours with taxi or private car

Opening Hours: 6 am to 7:15 pm

Location: Dambulla center, Dambulla 21106, Sri Lanka

Dambulla Museum

The Dambulla Museum is located close to the Golden Temple of Dambulla, which exhibits traditional arts in cave temples. Some of these paintings belong to the 14th century! It’s known as the only painting museum in Sri Lanka. A must-visit for painting and fresco lovers. The friendly staff will be happy to explain more and show you around. Downstairs you can find some pots, ceramics and small statues. Ask the staff about the history of Dambulla, you will learn so many amazing things!

Duration: 1-2 hours

Cost: Rs 250 per person

Transportation from Colombo Airport: 8 hours with train, 2.5 hours with taxi or private car

Opening Hours: 7:30 am to 5 pm

Location: On the A9, 100 m from the Temple, Dambulla 21106, Sri Lanka

Popham’s Arboretum

This dry zone arboretum was established more than 50 years ago. It is situated on over 7 acres os thorny scrub jungle. Do not let this information fool you – the arboretum is a beautiful place to visit! It might be a dry zone but it has many gorgeous trees, flowers and plants. You can see dragonflies, butterflies, dozens of birds and mammals around. Another place of great interest for the nature lovers, this forest reserve is located at Dambulla, only a handful of kilometers from the Heritance Kandalama.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Rs 750 per person

Transportation from Colombo Airport: 8 hours with train, 2.5 hours with taxi or private car

Opening Hours: 6 am to  8 pm

Location: Kandalama Road, Dambulla 21100, Sri Lanka

How to get there: 10 km away from Dambulla center

Cycling

Cycling is very popular in Kandalama! Many tourists prefer to skip the day tours and see the sites all by themselves while cycling through the countryside. The beautiful grassy fields and the open woods provide an ideal environment. Rent your bike and see Sri Lanka in a whole new way! Make sure to be safe on the roads and on the side of the roads because motorbikers tend to go very fast around you!

Sigiriya World Heritage Site

Sigiriya Rock is an UNESCO site, which was declared in 1982. It is a wonderful place to visit, and you will be amazed by its size! Great architecture and stunning rock formations are the specialties of Sigiriya World Heritage Site.  Beautiful pools and gardens make this place even more spectacular! Start early in the morning if you want to see everything, as the site is quite extensive. The 360 degrees view from the top is totally worth the climb! Make sure to prepare yourself for the hike.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Rs 3900 per person

Transportation from Colombo Airport: 8 hours with train, 2.5 hours with taxi or private car

Opening Hours: 5 am to  8 pm

Location: Sigiriya 21120, Sri Lanka

How to get there: 10 km away from Dambulla center

Where to Sleep

There is no shortage of good quality accommodations in Kandalama! We love Heritance Kandalama and Amaya Signature, both are top picks not just in Kandalama but in entire Sri Lanka:

Heritance Kandalama

This five star hotel in Kandalama provides super luxury and stunning comfort. Excellent service and world-class food make this five star hotel very convenient for foreign travelers Its spectacular interiors and grand exteriors make it an architectural landmark.

Amaya Signature

One of the best swimming pools of Kandalama is found at this hotel, which is located almost five kilometers from Kandalama. The superb location of this hotel, as well as world-class facilities, make this hotel very popular.

Where to Eat

There are many eating options available in Kandalama and nearby Dambulla. Below are safe picks that offer delicious food and popular among local and travelers alike.

Kanchana Restaurant, Heritance Kandalama

At Kanchana, Sri Lankan delicacies are served with falir and very moderate prices. Large buffet meals—which have a reputation for being super delicious—and a friendly ambiance make this restaurant very popular.

Mango Mango Restaurant

Super delicious food and top class service makes Mango Mango one of the top restaurants of the Kandalama-Dambulla area.

Benthota Bake House

If you are a fan of Sri Lankan dishes or baked foods, this is the perfect restaurant for you! Food is served very fast and at budget rates. The food is tasty, the quantity is broad, and the restaurant is more than satisfactory. Benthota Bake House is a great place to satisfy both your taste buds and your stomach.

When to Go

Sri Lanka is truly a beautiful place to visit all year around. Though Dambulla has a very consistent climate with average highs staying around 35 degrees all year, and average lows staying around 15 degrees night time, sadly it has very heavy rainfall from April till January. This may make it uncomfortable to travel and to walk around, especially to hike up to the caves and temples. If you do not mind the rain, any month is great for you to go! If you wish to travel in a dry period, the best time to travel to Dambulla and to Kandalama is between the months of January and May. There are a lot of holiday celebrations each month, so whenever you go, there will be a great festival or parade. Christmas is a heavy season with a lot of tourists, so if you want to travel with less people around, make sure to book a period with less holidays in it.

Dress Code

There are certain dress codes in Sri Lanka, and it is the best to familiarize yourself with those before traveling. Nothing is extremely strict, and you should be all good until shown respect towards culture and religion.The most important thing is to cover up your shoulders and knees, and take off your hat when entering a site. This includes all world heritage sites and temples. Of course you can wear a lighter clothing and a hat on a safari tour or when being outside all day. Make sure to pack a light sweater or a jacket, because early morning and late nights can get quite chilly. Some trousers and a light t-shirt is a great option to wear everywhere. At most temples you would have to take off your shoes, but do not worry – designated staff will keep an eye on your footwear!

Getting In and Around

Kandalama is located in the upper province of Sri Lanka, just right next to Dambulla. This place is surrounded with beautiful mountains and green lands. You can travel with public transportation from big cities or with a hired driver.

Colombo: Colombo is 170 km away from Kandalama, on the west coast of the island. You can take a daily direct train to Dambulla to reach the park in 5 hours. Via taxi or private car you can be at Kandalama in 3.5 hours.

Negombo: Negombo is 150 km away from Kandalama, just above Colombo. For public transportation it is the best to travel to Colombo with a local bus or even a tuk tuk and take the daily train to Dambulla. With taxi or a private car you can be there in less, than 3 hours.

Kandy: Kandy 85 km away from Kandalama in southern direction. You can take a local bus from Kandy to reach Dambulla in 2.5 hours. Via taxi or a private car you can be there in 2 hours. Please note that roads and transportation is not the best around Kandy, so sometimes you have to wait long times for the bus.

Ella: Ella is 175 km south of Kandalama. Via a daily train go to Kandy, where you can transfer to the local bus to Dambulla, with a total trip time of 9 hours to the Sanctuary. Via taxi or a private car you can reach Kandalama in 4 hours.

Galle: Galle is 275 km away from Kandalama, on the south coast of Sri Lanka. You can take a daily train to Dambulla via Colombo to reach the Sanctuary in 9 hours. You can also travel with a bus to Dambulla via Dehiattakandiya with a total trip time of 12 hours. Via taxi or a private car you can be at Kandalama in 6 hours.

Sigiriya: Sigiriya is 15 km away from Kandalama. You can take a tuk tuk or a car to the Sanctuary to reach it under half an hour.

Budget

Sri Lanka has great budget options for everyone. You can find hostels and guest houses starting at $6, mid-range family oriented houses or camping starting at $30, or luxurious hotels with spas and private houses starting at $75. With these accommodation prices everyone can find a great place to stay according to their budget. Public transportation is not too expensive, with bus tickets starting at $3, but most of the time the buses are packed with tourists and you have to stand for a long period of time. You could also hire a driver for a day starting at $50, but make sure to agree on a price beforehand! Some salesmen can get eager and hike the price up. Restaurants usually ask $20 for a meal, and street food is around $3, such as fresh cut fruits, pastry and curry. Entrance fees vary, but since Kandalama is between two UNESCO sites, it is on the bit more expensive side. Entry tickets and tours are around $50 each.

Conclusion

Kandalama is obviously one of the best places for you to visit if you want instant access to nature, or the city! With two nearby UNESCO sites, Dambulla Temple, and Sigiriya Rock Fortress, there is no shortage of things to do or see. If you love the water, take a long boat ride on Kandalama Lake. If animals are more your style, then go for a Sigir Safari. Get a glimpse of wild Sri Lanka and do both! For the adventurous travelers, visit all these fantastic historical sites on a bicycle—it’s the latest craze for tourists. For history enthusiasts, don’t miss Sigiriya, the Dambulla Museum, or the rock cave temples. At the end of the day, prop your feet up at one of our comfortable hotels and grab a bite of local Sri Lankan food. We know you’ll love the beautiful Kandalama.

Updated by Teddy