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Kalutara

Kalutara, an emerging resort town down the southern coastal belt of Sri Lanka, located around 2 hours away from Colombo, is a town that is imbued with old colonial charm, great adventure, a naturist backdrop, unique religious places of worship and a significant history dating back to the ancient times. It may not be in everyone’s travel itinerary due to its relatively new entrance into the tourism industry, however, underestimating this town is certainly something that should not be done, as it has the same elements of the more popular neighbouring towns.

Top Reason to Visit

Due to Kalutara’s recent arrival into the tourist scene, many often overlook what the town has to offer. However, there are plenty of reasons to visit the town, such as the naturist back drop that can be seen in the form of Calido Beach, the colonial charm that can be seen in the form of the Richmond Castle, the opportunity to partake in a number of water sports, the significant history that dates back to even before the colonial era and also the presence of unique places of worship. It is exactly for all these reasons that you should put this great coastal town on your travel itinerary.

While You’re There

Mangosteens while witnessing great scenery anyone?:

Something that is synonymous with the town of Kalutara are the mangosteen trees that can be seen everywhere around the town. It’s so famous that even the local government authorities use it in their official emblem. The best time to witness the so called ‘Queen of Fruit’ sprouting on the beautiful trees is during the months from May to September, when the season is in full swing. Moreover, these amazing sceneries are further accentuated by the untapped beauty of the beaches, namely the Calido Beach. The beach that is only just a thin strip of sand, right next to the Kalu Ganga River, is a great way to witness a surreal experience of the sunset, alongside the local fishermen who bring in their catch for the day. It cannot get any more local than eating a mangosteen, while witnessing the sun slowly descending into the ocean.

A castle of fusion:

It may be quite a shocker to many, but Sri Lanka really is home to some amazing castles. Well at least mansions that look like your typical English castle. Built in 1910, the Richmond Castle that once belonged to a Mudaliyar (a colonial title and office given by the colonials) is a great example of the old world charm the town of Kalutara possesses. The building is built with both, British Imperial architecture and Indian architecture in mind, which blends in a very utilitarian manner. Presently, the mansion serves to be a great spot to just kick back, relax and enjoy a great picnic with family and friends.

Historical and cultural significance:

In ancient times, Kalutara was a major spice trading centre and then a major coconut producer. Along with being a significant commercial contributor to the country’s economy, the town also proved to be a major religious centre boasting of the Kalutara Bodhiya. The Kalutara Bodhiya is believed to be one of the 32 saplings of the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura that was planted around the country. Moreover, the current location of the towering Kalutara Vihara, just a skip away from the Bodhiya, was once the location of the Portuguese Fort that was built to maintain the spice trading monopoly. Although there are no ruins of the fort, the fort itself was only capable of coming into fruition after the destruction of the Gangathilake Temple that once stood before the colonisers who conquered the country. A stroll around the complex with this information really does give a very different picture of the town.

An interesting backstory:

The Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple, which was built in the 1870s, has a rather interesting backstory to its origins. When the much beloved Buddhist monk Aluthgama Sangharatne stayed at a hermitage in the jungles of Kalutara in 1873, many of the locals loved the monk and his sermons, eventually leading to the pouring in of donations from the people to build a hall for conducting sermons. This eventually led to the creation of the ‘Dharma Salava’ (the hall of Dharma). The temple boasts of many great features, most notably the relic chamber and the great drawing room. Exploring the complex can help you visualize how deeply rooted the society is towards the religion of Buddhism.

Emerging adventure:

More recently, the Kalutara Beach has become quite the rendezvous destination for those adventure seekers as the beach proves to be a moderate beach for a water sports like swimming, body surfing and, weather permitting, diving in certain places. Of course the neighbouring resort town of Bentota offers a much wider array of water sports opportunities, however, since the town is one that still is not affected by mass tourism, the experience of partaking in these activities have a more personal feel to it.

A handy souvenir:

Another popular attraction in Kalutara is the traditional arts and crafts that many locals preserve. One of them being the intricate basketwork. The Basket Centre in the middle of the village, where the local weavers tame the unyielding palm fronds, turning them into purses, coasters, hats and many other items are a treat to watch. Do purchase any one of these souvenirs as a handy mementos of your journey through the Paradise Island.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about in Kalutara is relatively easy as there are many transportation options like tuk-tuks and busses. The cheapest option may be the bus, however, try to rent out a bicycle or scooter from your accommodation provider since you can visit all the places of interest at your own leisure.

Weather: The weather in Kalutara town is almost always hot and humid all year round with temperatures always averaging about 30°C. However, the months from January and February have been shown to be more bearable for the traveler since the temperature does drop to around 26°C.

Money: Credit and debit cards are accepted in few establishments, like the usual supermarkets. However, it is still important to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s for your everyday expenses.

Clothing: Casual / light wear is the best way to get about the city, apart from the places of worship. Here you would have to be clad modestly, in accordance with the religious tradition.

Safety: Kalutara is generally very safe, however, it can get a bit crowded during certain times of the day. Thus leaving your belongings quite vulnerable to misplacement or theft, so it would not hurt be careful of your belongings.

Meals and refreshments: Due to the urban lifestyle of Kalutara, many eateries have opened up serving local cuisine, apart from the hotels. This would not be much of a problem.

In conclusion, the town of Kalutara may be not the town you may put down in your travel itinerary initially due its recent arrival to the tourist industry. A second look, however, tells otherwise due to its possession of all the elements of its more popular neighbours. So why not visit the emerging resort town.

Title image by: KNOWSL
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