One of the first beach resorts south of Colombo, Kalutara lies where the Kalu Ganga flows into the Indian Ocean. It’s home to a colossal whitewashed dagoba and one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. It’s famed for its mangosteens, a reddish-purple fruit introduced from Malaysia in the 19th century.
Things to do in Kalutara
Gaze up at the three-storey dagoba of the Kalutara Chaitya, which was commissioned in the 1960s and is said to be the only Buddhist stupa in the world that is entirely hollow. Step inside to admire the interior decorated with scenes from the Jātaka tales, which details the birth and life of Gautama Buddha.
Overlooking the mouth of the Kalu Ganga is the Kalutara Bodhiya, one of the 32 saplings of the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura. Witness the devotion as pilgrims come and go from its riverfront setting and take in views of the 38-metre-long Kalutara Bridge.
A short drive along the banks of the Kalu Ganga takes you to Richmond Castle, a two-storey Edwardian mansion that was built at the turn of the 20th century. Inspired by an Indian Maharaja’s palace, its design also fuses British and Dutch elements, featuring exquisite stained-glass windows, intricate carvings and a Burmese-sourced teak staircase among its highlights.
Kalutara is around 1.5 hours’ drive south of Colombo and Bandaranaike International Airport or just over an hour from the historic fort of Galle. Kalutara South railway station is closest to the town centre and connects along the Coastal Line while buses are available to the surrounding towns and villages. Tuk-tuks are the main means of getting around the town and taxis are also readily available.