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Sri Lanka, the Land of Delights 

Sri Lanka Holidays

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Must Visit Locations

Best Beaches of the World: Kalutara Beach, Sri Lanka

Beach, River, Stupa, Richmond Castle, Rubber plantations, Toddy & Mangosteens

Just over 40km from Colombo, bustling Kalutara is the first beach resort we reach traveling south of Colombo. Kalutara has a huge stretch of fine sand with Wadduwa to the north which is home to the area's top resorts.

The appearance of roadside stalls selling coir rugs, basketware & reed mats signals the entry into Kalutara. As if the tell-tale signs wouldn't do, Kalutara heralds its presence with nothing less than the immense white gleaming dagoba of the Gangatilaka Vihara, immediately south of the long double-span bridge across the Kalu Ganga (River Black).

Kalutara itself divides into Mahawaskaduwa (Kalutata North) where the beach is more scenic, right down to Katukurunda (Kalutata South) It's one of the west coast's largest settlements, but the long stretch of beach north of town remains reasonably unspoilt, dotted with a string of top-end hotels which make a decent first or last stop on a tour of the island, in view of the town's proximity to the international airport.

Kalutara was once an important spice-trading centre controlled at various times by the Portuguese, the Dutch & the British. When the Dutch deserted the bustling spice port at Kalutara, they left behind canals linking the spice plantations. British replaced the inland estates with Rubber plantations. Though estates now produce rubber, traces of the old spice route are seen. By paddling through the tranquil waters of the old canals en route the little known & intriguing Richmond Castle, a few kilometers inland. Today, the bustling town is better known for its coconut palm gardens & for coconut-fibre mats, ropes & baskets.

Gangatilake Stupa

To guard the spice trade the Portuguese built a fort on the site of then Buddhist temple here. The Dutch took it over & a British agent converted it into his residence during the colonial era. The impressive modern Buddhist stupa was built in 1960s has the unusual distinction of being the only one in the world which is entirely hollow. We will be going right inside the cavernously echoing interior. Inside, the cool, echoing walls are lined with a sequence of 74 murals depicting various scenes from the Buddhist Jataka (550 previous births of the Buddha to be - Bodhisattva) tales. The remainder of the temple buildings is situated in a compound on the other side of the road, featuring the unusual Bo Tree enclosures & Buddha shrines.

It's a lively complex, & a good place to watch the daily rituals of Sri Lankan Buddhism: the offerings to Buddha images are made three times a day. Devotees place food, flowers in front of the images, lighting coconut-oil lamps, trying prayers written on scraps of cloth to one of the Bo trees or pouring water into conduits which run down to water the Bo tree's roots. Outside, a sequence of donation boxes line the roadside, popular with local motorists, who frequently stop here to offer a few coins & say a prayer for safe journey.

Basket Centre

Kalutara is famous for its colourful, soft basketry. At the Basket Centre is in the middle of the village, the local weavers tame the unyielding palm fronds, turning them into purses, coasters, hats & other items. Then again unyielding & stubborn thorny Watekaiya palm leaves are skillfuly transformed into patterned mats, purses, lampshades & linen baskets Many other wares being woven from coconut fiber too. Having witnessed the skill of the weavers, rest assured, you will never use the term "basket case" in such a pugnacious tone again.


The island's best quality "Mangoosteen" was introduced to Ceylon from Malaya in the early 19th century, (in season June to September) together with the economically important rubber. Mangosteens is a dark purple shiny fruit containing luscious, translucent segmented flesh of deliciously tart flavour. Mangoosteen is said to be at its best in June. Queen Victoria longed to taste on of these delectable fruits, but they did not travel well & she had to make do with mere descriptions. Mmmmm... be careful not to let the reddish-brown juice of the mangosteen's outer shell soak into your clothes since the stain is indelible.

Richmond Castle

At Palataota, in a little inland, is Richmond Castle, a fine country house in a 42-acre fruit garden estate. Built in 1896, it originally belonged to landowner turned philanthropist NDA Silva Wijayasinghe, the local Padikara Mudaliyar (village leader) & was used during the British period as a circuit bungalow for officials. This magnificent hybrid of Indian & British architecture was originally a spice plantation mansion, built for the Padikara Mudaliyar, a wealthy regional governor, who copied the plans of an Indian Maharaja's palace designed by a London architect. Note the audience hall, with intricately carved pillars & beams (two shiploads of teak were brought from Burma for its construction) & a spiral staircase leading to a gallery of some fascinating photographs from the time. The house & grounds are open to the public. It makes a good canoeing or bike track with riverside picnic.

Sap tappers

The large number of coconut palms along the coast road marks this as the center of Palm toddy industry. Palm toddy is a favourite among the Sri Lankans, as is the stronger distilled arrack, both of which are found throughout the island. Toddy as well as sweet palm juice, treacle or jaggery are produced from the sap which is collected in earthen pots that are hung at the crown of the palms which have been selected for "tapping" The sap flows when the apex of a virgin frond (flower bunch) is "tapped" by slicing it off & tapping it with a stick to make the cells burst & the juice to flow. This usually starts in about three weeks of the first cut. From then on successive flower buds are tapped so that sap collecting can continue for half a year. The skillful tapper usually ties a ring of rope, a brace around his ankles & shins up the tall smooth trunk two or three times a day to empty the sap pot into one he has tied around his waist. The sap tappers move from one tree to another tree by means of a pair of coconut fibre ropes, one for the feet & other a meter right above it as a grip line for hands, tied at the top of the tall trunk of one tree to the top of equally tall trunk of the next tree. The high in the air horizontal circus rope trick saves the tapper time & energy that would have wasted in the cycle of climbing down one tree & shining up the next tree.

If this is all too laid-back & you want to keep up with the Indiana Jones, we can crash with a jungle adventure into the primeval Lion King (Sinharaja) Rainforest, Sri Lanka's oldest rainforest.

Sri Lanka Hotel Guide - Hotel Information, Special Offers, News and Trends and much more

Sri Lanka Travel Guide - Travel Information, Special Offers, News and Trends and much more

Photo Gallery

click on photo to enlarge

Kalutara Temple Overview

Gangatilake Stupa

Kalutara Beach

Views of Kalutara

Views of Kalutara

Views of Kalutara

Richmond Castle

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