5 Things You’ll Love To See In Kalutara
Are you visiting Kalutara for the weekend or during your solo tour around the island? This small town located on the southern coast of Sri Lanka is a hidden gem that’s begging to be explored. Combining a handful of historic and cultural attractions with sun-kissed beaches and emerald rivers, here are 5 things you’ll simply love to see in Kalutara.
How to get to Kalutara?
Kalutara is approximately 1.5 hours away from the international airport. If you’re backpacking or flashpacking, it’s an easy drive to this southern town; whether by bus or car. However, many opt to travel to Kalutara via the coastal rail line; especially convenient when you’re heading in from Colombo or another city on the south coast.
Fa Hien Cave
Fa Hien Cave is one of Sri Lanka’s prehistoric caves, where the remains of a 37,000 year prehistoric civilisation were found! Named after the famed Chinese travelling monk, Fa Hien, it is believed that during his visit to the island, he inhabited the cave. However, after a moderately strenuous hike to the summit, the highlight of the cave are the remnants from a lost civilisation! Aside from this, you’ll also find a small temple with a 40 foot reclining Buddha statue. Visit the caves if you love history and uniquely jaw-dropping views of Sri Lanka’s wild surroundings!
Fun Fact – The fossilised human skeleton found here belonged to the ‘Last Pleistocene’ age. You’ll also find small stone tools and animal bones that were discovered during the excavation.
Richmond Castle in Kalutara was constructed in the 1900s by the Mudaliyar (chieftain); Don Arthur de Silva. Inspired by his Indian friend’s (the Maharaja) house, he brought raw materials from across the globe to build his mansion. Teak from Burma, tiles from India and window panes from Scotland were used to construct this mammoth of a property in the middle of a massive wild estate. As you wander through the quiet hallways, you’ll learn about the tragic story of the house and its owner.
Fun Fact – The mansion was abandoned following the failed marriage of the owners, due to their inability to conceive. However, after his death, the property was turned into an orphanage; so that the sound of little feet and childish laughter can finally resonate through the mansion.
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The Kalutara Bodhiya is a sacred Buddhist site that’s home to one of the oldest bodhi trees in Sri Lanka. It was planted as a sapling from the main Bodhi tree in India, where the Buddha attained Enlightenment, that was brought down to the island by an Indian Emperor’s daughter. The bodhiya remained an important place of worship since the 2nd century BC and even today, the faint smell of incense sticks and the distant chant of prayers can be heard when you’re visiting the site.
Fun fact – Passersby habitually drop a few coins into the yellow collection tins for luck and prosperity during their journeys.
Close to Kalutara Bodhiya, you will find Calido Beach. Set on a strip of land between the Indian Ocean and an estuary of the Kalu Ganga, Calido Beach should ideally be visited in the late evenings. We recommend making it in time to watch a bold island sunset and then heading off to enjoy a delectable dinner at one of the many restaurants in Kalutara – for a local feast of kottu or roti!
Fun fact – If you’re feeling snackish, grab an ‘isso wade’ or ‘cassava chips’ from one of the local vendors.
Kalu Ganga, which translates to ‘black river’, is a popular river that snakes through the island. The river has a large and dense mangrove forest; a biodiversity hotspot, which is ideal to explore as you embark on a boat safari. You’ll see eerie reptiles like crocodiles and monitor lizards, as well as exotic birds who nest in these marshlands. Kalu Ganga is also a popular destination for watersports too, and adrenaline junkies can choose from water skiing and canoeing; provided by a variety of vendors along the area. If you’re feeling adventurous, try this these other activities.
Fun fact – The river originates from Adam’s Peak and ends at the sea near Kalutara.