Kandy © john t
The relaxed and peaceful atmosphere of Kandy, in the heart of Sri Lanka's hill country, is probably the result of being beautifully situated around a tranquil lake in a bowl of hills. It is a colourful, unique city, which resisted Portuguese and Dutch colonisation for three centuries before finally succumbing to the British. The town is the bastion of the island's pervasive Buddhist faith, and plays host to the country's most venerated religious relic, the sacred tooth of Buddha.
The octagonal Dalada Maligawa, or Temple of the Tooth, attracts hundreds of pilgrims to daily ceremonies honouring the relic, and each year in July and August the tooth is carried in procession on an elephant during the ancient Esala Perahera parade. According to legend, the tooth was taken from Buddha as he lay on his funeral pyre and was smuggled to Sri Lanka hidden in the hair of a princess in the 4th century. Visitors can't actually see the tooth as it's in a casket, but the temple is an interesting place all the same. The ancient city also sports a good museum, the lovely Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, a bird sanctuary and an auditorium where folk dances are performed and local crafts are on display. Kandy has a cooler, milder climate than much of Sri Lanka due to its altitude.