About 6 km (or 4 miles) from Kandy are the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens (open daily, 7.30am to 4.30pm with an entrance charge), the largest and finest in Sri Lanka. Enclosed in a loop of the Mahaweli Ganga river, the lush 60-hectare (147-acre) gardens are stuffed with a baffling array of Sri Lankan, Asian and international flora.
From the entrance the stately, much-photographed Royal Palm Avenue leads down to the Great Circle at the centre of the gardens. On your left is a handy cafeteria and the Great Lawn, home to a famous giant Javan fig tree, which covers an impressive 1,600 sq. metres (17,222 sq. ft) and is sometimes claimed to be the largest tree in the world. North of here, the gardens become wilder, with troupes of macaque monkeys foraging in the bushes and huge clusters of flying foxes dangling from the trees overhead.
In the ancient times this sprawling landscaped garden was used by the kings as their private pleasure garden. During the WWII Lord Mountbatten, who was the supreme commander of the allied forces based in South Asia, used this as their headquarters for the South East Asia Command.
The Botanic Gardens date as far back as 1371 when King Wickramabahu III became King and established his court in Peradeniya adjoining the Mahaweli river. King Kirti Sri and King Rajadhi Rajasinghe followed in his footsteps thereafter. A temple was built on this location by King Wimala Dharma, but was later destroyed by the British when they were given control over the Kingdom of Kandy in the early 1800s, the foundation for a botanical garden was formed by Alexandar Moon in 1821. The Botanical Garden at Peradeniya was officially established in 1843 with plants brought from Kew Garden, Slave Island, in Colombo and the Kalutara Garden in. The Royal Botanic Garden, Peradeniya was made more independent and expanded under George Gardner who was the superintendent in 1844. The Garden finally came under the administration of the Department of Agriculture when it was established in 1912.
Today this is a popular stop for all visitors to the city of Kandy and is well worth a visit.