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 at Kalutara will make anyone think otherwise, since it has quite a few interesting attractions that blend 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 for exploring the city.
Fa Hien Cave
The best place to start 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 within dense jungle. But the limelight is what lies inside the cave. 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, evidence 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 here and are on display.
Head 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 experience the wildlife of the southern coast, as the river banks are home to several species of flora and fauna. From various mammals to interesting invertebrates to rare birds, a boat ride along the Kalu Ganga is the best way to catch a glimpse of many species.
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, it has been converted to a public park and a museum. The complex has two major highlights; one being the architecture, and the other being the landscape. The architecture resembles that of a typical neo-classical building, 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 possibly the most significant cultural and religious site in the city. 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 under 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 are closely intertwined with the culture of the land.
Concluding your exploration of Kalutara at Calido Beach is a rather fitting end to your day. If you do finish your journey during the evening, you can witness unhindered views of the Indian Ocean, accentuated by a golden sunset. Take a gentle stroll along the beach, with a thambili (king coconut water) in hand, while the salty breeze caresses your skin. You can grab a delicious bite to eat at one of the many restaurants to be found here before you wrap up for the day.