A walk back in time through trees swarming with monkeys, grounds draped with nature’s beauty and air that’s crisp and light. Udawatte Kele Sanctuary, one of the lesser known things to do in Kandy, is located right above the congested city. In more ways than one, the Udawatte Kele Sanctuary is the most peaceful place, void of sound and pollution in the city. This forest reserve spans across 104 hectares of land right above the Royal Palace and the Sri Dalada Maligawa, a.k.a. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. It’s quite hard to believe that the city lies just below once you’re inside the serene woodlands.
Entrance fees to Udawatte Kele
As locals, we paid a minimal fee of Rs. 30. The tourist rate for entrance to the Udawatte Kele was approximately Rs. 675. It’s a considerably low rate compared to a number of other tourist attractions in the country.
The entrance is marked with boards about the sanctuary and a detailed map – which wasn’t as easy to follow. In some corners and junctions, you’ll find another board or two with directions, most of which are in Sinhalese (the local dialect) and without proper arrow-ed directions. Fortunately, Google Maps works inside the park, and it’s impossible to get lost as long as you stay on the trails – which are basically a big loop around the sanctuary.
Best time to visit Udawatte Kele
We read online that the best time to visit in probably in the morning, as it gives you a better chance to spot birds, deer or other animals that live in the forest. However, we visited just after noon. Our train had just got in and we needed something to do before heading to our hotel. The pathways are blanketed by towering trees creating a canopy of shade and cool air, so thankfully we didn’t have the heat to deal with.
Inside the Sanctuary
The Royal Pond is right near the entrance; a murky pond with a few fish and turtles. You’ll also be able to find a few caves that are used as meditation spots for monks and rock shelter dwellings. We came across troops of monkeys during our walk. Luckily though, unlike monkeys in other tourist spots around Sri Lanka and in Bali – who have gotten used to humans feeding them and have thus become savage and menacing, the monkeys here ignore you. Remember to stay on your trail and avoid interacting or approaching the monkeys. Wild animals should be given space and not feel threatened, or they will attack. You’ll find a number of resting spots inside the forest, with picnic tables and chairs – some of which are occupied with canoodling couples. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find that awesome viewpoint of the city and the lake – due to the lack of proper directions.
History of Udawatte Kele
I mostly bluffed my way around the forest while showing my partner around. BUT, the Udawatte Kele Sanctuary was once used by the royals that lived in Palace below. The walking trails however, retain some of the more colonial assigned names, which were probably marked by the British during their occupation of Kandy.
Would highly recommend visiting the sanctuary, especially if you’re looking for a couple of hours to kill in the city. We booked a cab from PickMe (the local taxi hailing app), and for a cost of approximately 400 to travel to and from the sanctuary – much cheaper than getting a tuk IMO.