Situated amidst precipitous green hills at the heart of the island KANDY is the proud bastion of an independent Sinhalese tradition which preserved its freedom through two and a half centuries of attacks by the Portuguese and Dutch. Kandy’s unique cultural heritage is everywhere apparent – in its music, dance and architecture – while the city is also home to the country’s most important religious shrine, the Temple of the Tooth, as well as its most exuberant festival, the Esala Perahera. Kandy maintains a somewhat aristocratic air, enhanced by its scenic highland setting and its pleasantly temperate climate. And though the modern city, Sri Lanka’s second largest, has begun to sprawl considerably, the twisted topography of the surrounding hills and the lake at its centre ensure that Kandy hasn’t yet overwhelmed its scenic setting, and retains at its heart a modest grid of narrow, low-rise streets which, despite the crowds of people and traffic, retains a surprisingly small-town atmosphere.

The beautiful countryside around Kandy is home to a wealth of varied attractions. Most visitors head straight for the world-famous Pinnewala Elephant Sanctuary and the beautiful Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, while the regions cultural legacy can be traced in the various beautiful temples, dating from the heyday of the Kandyan kingdom, which dot the countryside. If you really want to get away from it all, the rugged Knuckles Range, just east of Kandy is the hill country’s last great wilderness area and a wonderful location for trekking, cycling and bird-spotting.