Exploring Kalutara in a Day
The city of Kalutara is one of the more overlooked places in the southern coast of the island, due to its popular counterparts, such as Galle, and Hikkaduwa to name but two. However, a closer look into the place would make anyone think otherwise, since it has quite a few interesting attractions that blend in culture, heritage, and nature. What makes Kalutara all the more enticing for many travellers is the fact that the main attractions in the town can be explored within a day. Here is a simple guide on how you could explore the city.
Fa Hien Cave
The best place to start of your day trip around the southern coastal town is at the Fa Hien Cave. Here, you can explore the interior of Kalutara, which is filled with lush greenery. The trek to the cave is an adventure in itself, as it is located in dense jungles. But it is what lies inside the cave that takes the limelight. Although no archaeological evidence has been found, the cave is believed to have been the temporary abode of the ancient travelling monk Fa Hien. However, the evidence that has been found in the cave proves the existence of an ancient society of hunter-gatherer tribes. Pre-historic tools, along with fossilised human skeletal remains have been found and are on display when you visit. Thus, allowing you to reimagine how the pre-historic people of the island lived.
Head down to the Kalu Ganga and make your way down south along the river, as it is the perfect route to explore all the other important features of Kalutara. The river is also known to be a great place to understand the wildlife of the southern coast, as the banks of the river are home to several species of flora and fauna. From various mammals to interesting invertebrates, the Kalu Ganga does not only serve as a great way to explore the other attractions of the city, but also the rustic grandeur of the place.
The first stop, if you follow the Kalu Ganga down towards the beach, should be the Richmond Castle. This particular mansion was once the home of a mudaliyar (local chief) during the early 1900s, however, was converted to a public park and a museum. There are two major highlights of this complex; one being the architecture, and the other being the landscape. The architecture is built to resemble that of a typical neo-classical building, which is combined with some oriental designs. The garden, on the other hand, is built to enable any person to view the beauty of the Kalu Ganga along with some horticultural bliss, making it one of the best places to witness the nature and heritage of the area.
The Kalutara Bodhiya is where the cultural aspect of the city comes into view. Located right at the edge of the Kalu Ganga, the first thing that you would notice is the large stupa, which is believed to be one of the few stupas in the world that are hollow. Here, you can witness the ancient ‘Bo’ tree sapling (fig tree in which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment), which is believed to have been planted in the 2nd century BC, making it one of the oldest planted trees in the world. Moreover, the stupa, which lies close to the tree is one of the more unique stupas, since you are able to enter and observe the many murals and statues depicting the teachings, and previous lives of Lord Buddha. In other words, you can learn how the peaceful teachings of Buddhism is closely intertwined with the culture of the land.
Ending your exploration of Kalutara in Calido Beach is a rather fitting end, as the beach allows you to reflect on the many beautiful attractions you visited during the day. If you do finish your journey during the evening, you can witness an unhindered view of the Indian Ocean, accentuated by the sunset. A gentle stroll along the beach, with a thambili (king coconut water) on one hand, allows you to appreciate how Kalutara is a vibrant city with so many unique features that should not be ignored.