Udawattakele Forest Reserve: A Natural Paradise in Busy Kandy

Udawattakele Reserve is the place for historic location and bird sanctuary! Luscious plants, endemic birds, and a prime location: Udawattakele has it all! Udawattakele is an historic sanctuary located in the ancient sacred city of Kandy, in the heart of Sri Lanka. The sanctuary is home to over four hundred and sixty plant species, including giant lianas and several orchid species. It sits on a hillside with a beautiful view over the Sacred City with the Temple of the Tooth. It’s only ten minutes walk away! Around eighty different species of birds live in the Udawattakele Sanctuary, some of which endemic, such as the Layard’s parakeet. Their beautiful grey, green and blue colours are attractive in the forest light. Other endemic species include the yellow-fronted barbet and the brown-capped babbler. Bird enthusiasts will be happy to know that the elusive three-toe kingfisher, the red-faced malkoha, and the kashmir flycatcher have been known to inhabit the sanctuary. Keep an eye out for blue-winged leafbirds, spotted doves, emerald doves, Tickell’s blue flycatcher, and crimson-fronted barbets. Such a wonderful place to visit!

Image of Royal Forest Park or Udawattakele Sri Lanka
Royal Forest Park or Udawattakele Sri Lanka | Source: Saiko3p/Dreamstime.com

Things to Do

Udawattakele Sanctuary

Image of Royal Pond in Kandy Udawatta Kele Sri Lanka
Royal Pond in Kandy Udawatta Kele Sri Lanka | Source: Saiko3p/Dreamstime.com

The history of this forest spirals back to the last kingdom of Sri Lanka. They used the forest only for the kings and for their families. It’s a stunning home for birds, mammals and few reptiles as well. Three cave dwellings of Buddhist monks and three monasteries are located in the forest. You can view the whole city of Kandy from the summit of the forest sanctuary. It is a great whole day trip where you can enjoy nature and history combine!

Duration: More than three hours | Cost: Rs 600 per person, Rs 300 for children | Opening Hours: 7 am to 6 pm | Location: Lovers Walk, Kandy | How to get there: Take a local bus or taxi from Kandy

Image of Giant Liana in Kandy Udawatta Kele Sri Lanka
Giant Liana in Kandy Udawatta Kele Sri Lanka | Source: Saiko3p/Dreamstime.com


Image of White-browed fantail flycatcher in Udawalawe
White-browed fantail flycatcher in Udawalawe national park | Source:  Utopia_88/Shutterstock.com

Udawattakele Sanctuary is a famous place for bird watching in the upcountry! Eighty bird species are found in the sanctuary, and most of them are endemic birds. Some threatened birds such as the as kashmir fly catcher and the red faced malkoha also can be found here. A sprawling pond in the middle of the forest is a home for the aquatic birds in the sanctuary. Early morning is the best time to go. On your trip you can visit the ruins of the ancient kingdom and also will have the opportunity to travel to the caves as well. An amazing trip to pan! You can hire a guide to take you to the best places and teach you about history and culture.

Image of Stork in Udawalawe National Park
Stork in National Park | Source:  sbedaux/Shutterstock.com
Image of Pair of colorful Little green bee-eater Merops Udawalawe
Pair of colorful Little green bee-eater Merops | Source:  Martin Mecnarowski/Shutterstock.com
Image of Painted Stork making a nest
Painted Stork making a nest | Source:  paula french/Shutterstock.com


Image of Trekking Footbridge Knuckles Range Mountains
Trekking Footbridge Knuckles Range Mountains | Source:  alexis duban/Shutterstock.com

One main trekking path is available in the sanctuary to for visitors. The entrance to the forest starts behind the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The main trekking path takes you to the Royal Pond and the city viewpoint at the summit. It is nice to explore the forest and the trails on foot and not from the back of a Jeep, because this way it’s more likely to see birds and animals. During the rainy season, leech attacks are common in the trekking path. Make sure to stay safe and check in advance for weather conditions!

Image of Trekking Footbridge Knuckles Range Mountains
Trekking Footbridge Knuckles Range Mountains | Source: alexis duban/Shutterstock.com

The Garrison Cemetery

The Garrison cemetery is a British graveyard of a hundred and sixty three graves that dates back to the British colonial era, most of them occurring from tropical diseases, such as cholera and malaria. There cannot be more burials due to municipal limits. It’s located behind the Temple of the Tooth Relic. Walk past the National Museum of Kandy and the pathway will take you to the calm and peaceful graveyard. Make sure to talk a few words with the caretaker, he will have amazing stories!

Duration: 1 hour | Cost: Free of charge | Opening Hours: 6 am to 6 pm | Location: Adjacent to the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy | How to get there: Walk from the center in only a few minutes

Wildlife Conservation Center

The Department of Wildlife Conversation has established an Information Centers for visitors. The main trekking path runs to this one. All the information about the sanctuary is displayed in posters and brochures, which can be found in the Wildlife Conservation Center. The southeastern entrance to the reserve has a smaller conservation center, which has a nature education center where you can learn more about the animals, the flora and the fauna. The purpose of the conservation center is to help wildlife be safe and healthy even with a lot of visitors around.

Udawattakele Monasteries

There are three monasteries inside the sanctuary: Senanayake Aramaya, Thapowanaya, and a forest hermitage.  Buddhist monks have been residing here since the colonial era of Sri Lanka. Three cave dwellings are also located in the sanctuary. These are occasionally used by Buddhist monks and are known as Maitri-lena, Citta Visuddhi-lena, and Senkadandagala-lena. Pilgrims visit the monasteries for almsgiving. You can visit these while trekking and receive blessings from Buddhist monks for a small donation.

Senkada Cave Shelter

You can visit the Senkada Cave Shelter on your trekking tour in Udawattakele Forest Reserve. You have to do a little hiking to get there, but its worth a visit! This is the place where hermits used to live alone. If you travel with a tour guide you can learn about legends and religion. There are more places similar to this cave where monks decide to become hermits and live alone, away from the noise of everyday life. Some monks still visit the Senkada Cave to meditate.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Image of Temple of Sacred Relic Tooth in Kandy
Temple of Sacred Relic Tooth in Kandy | Source:  eFesenko/Shutterstock.com

Since ancient times Buddha relics played a very important role in religion, and later in history – it also has political matters, which you could learn about when visiting the temple! This temple enshrines the most important Buddhist relic in Sri Lanka – the tooth of the lord Buddha. Although parts of the temple were affected when an area near the main entrance was bombed in 1998, repairs have been made. The best time to visit is during puja (offerings or prayers) when the room housing the tooth is opened to tourist and devotees.

Duration: 1-2 hours | Cost: Rs 1500 per person, plus shoe fee | Opening Hours: 5:30 am to 8 pm | Location: Sri Dalada Veediya, Kandy | How to get there: Take a local bus or taxi from Kandy

Website: http://www.sridaladamaligawa.lk/

Image of Temple of the Sacred Buddha Tooth decorated sri lanka
Temple of the Sacred Buddha Tooth decorated sri lanka | Source: Smilingsunray/Dreamstime.com
Image of Temple of the Tooth is a Buddhist temple
Temple of the Tooth is a Buddhist temple | Source:  suronin/Shutterstock.com

Tea Museum

Image of Tea Museum At Hantane In Kandy, Sri Lanka
Tea Museum At Hantane In Kandy, Sri Lanka | Source: Aleksandra Lande/Dreamstime.com

Ceylon tea is very popular and well known all around the world. Most of the ceylon tea was produced in Sri Lanka, and here you can visit the old factory which is now a dedicated museum, tea room and shop. On various floors you can learn about the making of tea and what machines were uses, and how did they harvest. You can try and purchase the teas as well! This museum showcases exhibits by tea pioneers James Taylor and Thomas Lipton. There is also vintage tea processing paraphernalia on display. From the museum you can also have a beautiful view! Make sure to check it out, you won’t be disappointed!

Duration: 1-2 hours | Cost: Rs 800 for adults and Rs 400 for children | Opening Hours: 8:30 am to 4:00 pm last entry at 3:30 pm | Location: Hantana, Kandy | How to get there: Only 3 km from Kandy downtown so you can walk, take a bike or a tuk tuk

Website: http://www.ceylonteamuseum.com/the-museum.html

Dress Code

When visiting Sri Lanka, make sure to familiarize yourself with certain dress codes. Because Sri Lanka is a highly religious place with a very rich culture, there are a few expectation regarding clothing. When visiting sacred sites and temples, especially the Temple of the Tooth Relic, cover your knees and shoulders, and take off your shoes at the designated areas. Make sure to take off your hat when entering a building, such as stores, restaurants and temples. Do not wear beach clothes on the streets, just near the pool or the beach. Take a light jacket or a sweater with you if you plan to be outside for a long period of time, because late nights and early mornings can get chilly, especially if hiking or trekking.


Udawattakele is clearly a different kind of experience. Not only can you take the nature paths on your own, but you can do it while in the middle of busy Kandy! This beautiful nature spot is home to many endemic birds, and protects them in their natural habitat. It’s a beautiful reprieve while in the midst of the city! When you’re done with birdwatching, simply step outside. All of Kandy surrounds you! Stop by the Tea Museum, the Sacred Shrine of the Tooth Relic, or the Udawattakele monasteries. Kandy has many places to stay to accommodate any budget, as well as delicious food. Big city, quiet sanctuaries, and the calm chatter of birds awaits you at Udawattakele.

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