How to get from Dambulla to Kandy and what to see on the way

From Dambulla to Kandy respectively from Kandy to Dambulla it is a 73 km long journey along the Kandy Road. There are only two options for transportation: either by public bus or by individual vehicle such as car/van or tuktuk with or without driver. There is no train between Matale and Dambulla. By bus it takes a good 3 hours, by private vehicle it is an hour faster – if you go non-stop.

But also on the way from Dambulla to Kandy (or Kandy to Dambulla) there are some stops worth seeing. If you visit all these places, the transfer can take up to 5 or 6 hours, which makes it a really nice half-day trip with interesting stops rather than just a transfer.

Dambulla to Kandy the transportation options

Dambulla to Kandy by bus

There are many direct buses running every 15 to 20 minutes. I covered all the details in my other post about buses here. The public bus takes approximately 2.5 hours for the journey. It’ll take you some extra time to get from your hotel to the bus station, wait for a bus to leave and then, after getting down at your destination, get to your next accommodation. So let’s say it’ll take you 4 hours from accommodation to accommodation.

Dambulla to Kandy – Train is no option

There is a train from Kandy to Matale, but none from Matale to Dambulla. So you could go half way by train and then swap to a bus, but I’d rather suggest catching an empty bus at the Kandy bus station or in Dambulla city center rather than boarding a quite filled up bus in Matale. There are also buses only going short-distance from Dambulla to Matale or Kandy to Matale, but these are very slow, because they stop at every few meters.

Dambulla to Kandy by private transportation

If you are after more comfort and prefer a private vehicle that picks you up at your hotel and drops you at the next one, then this would be your choice. You can arrange a car or van, but you can also choose a tuk tuk. It’s up to your personal preference, your budget, the number of people you are traveling with, the size of your luggage and the distance.

I personally don’t mind traveling by tuk tuk. I prefer it over the car option. I feel more involved in the nature around me with the fresh air blowing in my face than sitting in an air-conditioned car and just seeing the world outside passing by…

A tuk tuk approximately costs Rs 11.000, depending on the exact location of your pickup and drop-off spot. For a car, it’s a couple of thousand more. A car is not necessarily much faster than a tuk tuk, as the traffic is generally slowed down due to only one lane in each direction.

If you go non-stop, the transport would take approximately 2 to 2.5 hours – from hotel to hotel.
But there are also a lot of beautiful spots to stop along the way.

Places to see on the way from Dambulla to Kandy

Nalanda Gedige

One place which is just beside the main road is called “Nalanda Gedige”. Nalanda Gedige is an ancient complete stone temple near in between Dambulla and Matale and its original site was considered to be the center of Sri Lanka, as it is right in the middle of the island. The building was constructed in between 8th and 10th centuries with Dravidian architecture and is believed to have been used by Buddhists. It opens for visitors until 6.00pm every day. A visit usually takes only a few minutes to a quarter of an hour. There are also many cotton trees around the premises. Quite interesting, if you have never seen one before (like me).

Me in Nalanda Gedige back in 2011 on my first visit there.

Spice Gardens

Just a few hundred meter further start all the well-known and really nice-to-see Spice Gardens, that Sri Lanka is famous for. This region around Matale is climate-wise the area where most Sri Lankan plants and herbs grow well. Along this road there are what seems to be countless Spice Gardens, which stretch on both sides of the road all the way from Nalanda to close to Kandy. They usually don’t have a name but a number. Some of them are really outstanding, I haven’t seen all (or even many) of them, as my husband always stops at the same one. And this one is just beautiful and the information given really profound.

Spice Garden sri lanka red pineapple
A red pineapple in a spice garden in Sri Lanka,

I personally enjoy a stop at the Spice Garden. Firstly, it is because it is where I have seen many of the herbs and fruits and spices for the first in my life. Secondly, you always get a really good shoulder and neck massage for free (or a small tip), that I am very much looking forward to! But I also know that some people consider them right away as a tourist trap, as soon as the vehicle stops. That’s why here are my 2 cents and my experiences on Spice Gardens. And when I was there the guide did NOT know that I am more a local than tourist, so they treated me as any other tourist.

Temples to visit in Matale

Matale is the bigger town, but not of much interest for tourists. If you happen to pass anyhow, you might just stop and take a look at the two famous temples here.

Aluviharaya Temple

This beautiful and historically important Aluviharaya Temple is embedded in a rock and also features a high-up Buddha statue on the hill.

Aluviharaya Temple in Matale is well worth a stop!

This is a sacred Buddhist temple and historically very important for its book writing. It was right in this historical temple where the first pali canon was completely written down on a palm leave. Read all about it on Wikipedia.

Aluviharaya Tempel Matale Book Writing
Back in 2018 I was shown how the ancient writing on dried palm leaves works. It’s incredible!

Sri Muthumari Amman Kovil

The other one is a colorful Hindu temple with the short and easy name Sri Muthumari Amman Kovil. It’s spectacular to visit, if you haven’t seen and Tamil temple before. It’s so colorful!

Sri Muthumari Amman Kovil Matale
Tamil temples in general are super colorful with thousands of little details. Definitely worth a visit!