From its graceful cultural sites and palm fringed beach, to the blissful natural pools, and a dash of old colonial charm, Kalutara town has a lot to offer. It’s just an hour's drive from Colombo, which makes it an ideal place for a quick getaway at the end of a busy week.
So be spontaneous this weekend, hop on a train/bus, go to Kalutara and enjoy these seven places for a short break from all the hustle and bustle in the city life.
Tucked in between a rubber estate and a jungle, Thudugala Ella is a place that unites the sheer beauty of cascading waters, and the genuine rusticity of the wilderness. The easiest route from Colombo is if you go via Kalutara – Katukurunda – Matugama road and then get to Thudugala junction. You can easily get a tuk tuk from Thudugala junction, and for Rs. 300, it will take you to the Thudugala rubber estate. Make your way through the rubber estate for 300 meters, and then you'll hear the thunderous sound of the gushing water way before you actually see it. Walk for another 100 meters, and then you'll see this enchanting, hidden beauty.
Some call this waterfall "Ella Uda Ella", as it looks like a construction of two tiny waterfalls. Anyway, Thudugala Ella is one of the four waterfalls resides in the Western province. It's spread out through 4000 hectares, and the rubber estate here was once owned by a British businessman. The ruins of his home can still be seen here.
During the time that Sri Lanka initiated buidling small hydro-powerplants, there was a hydro-powerplant around Thudugala falls, which had been able to power the rubber factory in the same area. However, it was shut down by the end of 70s.
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Considered as one of the most outstanding architectural works of the 1900s, Richmond Castle is a mansion that was once owned by Mudaliyar Don Arthur De Silva Wijesinghe Siriwardhane, who was the officer in charge of Kalutara disaawa during that time.
His idea of building and owning a mansion like this came to him during one of his trips to a certain Maharaja's house in India. Also, it's said that he wanted to impress the family of the girl he was engaged to.
Majority of the materials that were used to build this mansion were imported from abroad. Only lime, sand and granite were used from the local market. Also, its teak and timber came from Burma, while the bricks and marbles were purchased from Scotland. This establishment boasts a bunch of unique architectural patterns, including the naturally ventilated interior, and the lion head water fountain in the middle-courtyard.
However, the love story behind this huge mansion didn't have a happy ending. The mudaliyar and his wife were childless, and they couldn't cope with that loneliness. It is rumoured that later on, the wife started a secret affair with one of her servants, which ended the marriage between the mudiliyar and her. Afterwards, the mudaliyar bequeathed his properties to the Public Trustee for the welfare of the children of the country.
Fa Hien Caves
Lies in Yatagampitiya, Fa Hien Caves boasts some of the oldest evidences for Mesolithic habitation in Sri Lanka. It's known as the largest natural rock in Asia and with natural tunnels running inside, these caves can easily accommodate around 3000 people.
During a excavation, the archaeologists were able to discover five human skulls and a bunch of weapons made from stones and animal bones, which was later identified as 37,000 years old by carbon dating in USA. Therefore, Fa Hien caves also known to be the most ancient pre-historic human settlement in Asia.
However, the name 'Fa Hien' was given to these caves due to the visit of Fa Hien thero, a buddhist monk/explorer who took up residence at this place while he was on his way to Adams Peak.
Bodhinagala Forest Hermitage
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Nestled on a bank of Kalu Ganga, Bodhinagala Forest Hermitage is a beautiful monastery hidden in the Dombagaskanda forest reserve. The easiest route to get here is through the Panadura – Rathnapura main road, and as you pass Horana town towards Ingiriya, you'd come across the Bodhinagala junction, which is the access point to the Bodhinagala monastery.
This reserve is well known, and it's considered as one of the richest spots in Sri Lanka for bird watching. There are a bunch of endemic birdlife that you can observe in here – Green-Billed Coucal (Centropus chlororhynchos), Sri Lanka Spurfowl (Galloperdix bicalcarata), Galloperdix Bicalcarata (Megalaima flavifrons), Layard's Parakeet (Psittacula calthrapae), and Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis) as well as other rare bird spicies like Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus), Asian Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica), Dark-Fronted Babbler (Rhopocichla atriceps), and Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis tickelliae) etc.
The monastery covers around 50 acres of land, providing a tranquil environment for the meditating monks. It also includes a number of buildings, including the medical faclities, meditative pathways and living quarters.
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Doesn't matter from which side you come from, this is the first thing you see as you enter to the town of Kalutara – South. The bodhi tree here is believed to have one of the 32 saplings sprouted from Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, which was planted during the reign of King Devanampiyathissa. A number of sandesha kavya like Paravi, Kokila and Thisara have provided enough proof on that.
Kalutara Bodhiya was previously known as Gangathilaka Viharaya, and its history is more than 2320 years old. During the colonial periods of Portuguese, Dutch and British in Sri Lanka, this place was turned into a fort, and served for administrative and military purposes due to the strategic importance of its location.
With the establishment of Kalutara Buddhist Society in 1931, the modern development of the Kalutara Bodhiya started, which brought it to the level that it is at now. As Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, the newly appointed Prime Minister Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake commanded to remove all the other establishments of the Kalutara Bodhi premise, and keep it only for religious purposes.
Holy Cross Church
Located on a stretch of Colombo – Galle Main Road, overlooking the Indian ocean, Holy Cross Church is a notable landmark in Kalutara – South. It's a vast space with magnificent arches, high roofs and stained glass windows, which boast the symbols of Dutch architectural patterns.
Upon your entry, you'd see a beautiful statue of Virgin Mary under the title “The Immaculate Conception”, which gets praised and worshiped by Catholic devotees from all over the country. You also can catch a glimpse of some of the best coastal views in Kalutara beach from here.
Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple
Image Credits : Anuradha Piyadasa
Built on the 1870s, Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple provided shelter to the disciples of Aluthgama Sangharatne. Initially, they took up residence in the forest near a bank of Kalu Ganga, and during that period, they sought alms from villagers and the villagers gathered around them to hear their sermons.
Mr. Elliyas Fernando, a wealthy resident of Kalutara was among this people, and he was really impressed and appreciated the sermons of Aluthgama Sangharatne. So much so he set up the foundation stone for a small hall, allowing the monks to conduct the sermons inside the hall. Whilst it attracted a lot of devotees in town, they made massive donations to the cause which were later helped to develop Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple to what it is now.
If you've been putting off travelling for the sake of cost cutting, worry no more – because you don't have to have your wallet flushing with cash to take this trip to Kalutara. Check these places out this weekend, and have fun!