Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
Famously home to a sacred tooth relic reputedly belonging to the Buddha himself, the Temple of the tooth is the most revered sight in the country and thus one of the most iconic places for travelers to visit. The tooth is kept in a gold casket, which is of course heavily guarded, but it’s still exciting to join pilgrims processing through the temple and past the tooth to pay their respects. Many worshippers stop at a table laden with colorful flowers to make offerings to the Buddha, and the air is filled with fragrance and prayer, so it’s quite a spiritual experience even if you’re not particularly religious.
There are also several museums dotted around the site, charting the history of the tooth relic, as well as temples and shrines to explore. You don’t need a guide, as audio guides are available and there are quite a few signs around. All visitors need to keep their legs and shoulders covered whilst inside the temple complex, and have to remove their footwear at the entrance. The floor can get very hot in the sun so it’s a good idea to have a pair of socks to wear.
If you happen to be in Kandy during July or August you might get to witness the Esala Perahera, which is a colorful 10 day Buddhist festival complete with fire-breathers, dancers, jugglers and ornately decorated elephants. It’s quite a spectacle to see the tooth casket being carried around the streets, before finishing its journey back at the temple.