Travelling south from Colombo, about 40km away Kalutara will be the first beach resort destination that you will be come across. There are a few tell-tale signs that will signal to you, your entrance into Kalutara. Such as the immense, pristine white Dagoba of the Gangathilake Vihara that you will come across just as you cross the double span bridge that runs over the Kalu Ganga. Even the road side stalls selling coir baskets, rugs and various other home ware, is a giveaway sign.
During the reign of the Portuguese and the Dutch, Kalutara was used as a bustling center for spice trading, with numerous canals connecting the spice plantations. But the Dutch left behind these plantations when they left the country and the British then started cultivation of rubber in this region. Today the city of Kalutara is better known for its vast coconut cultivations that produce the coir. The Gangathilake stupa, built in the 1960’s has the distinctive feature of the only stupa in the world that is completely hollow. You can walk right into the cavernous dome and the echoing walls have been painted with various murals which depict scenes from the Buddhist Jataka.
When you head inland you will find the famed Richmond castle. This mansion built in 1896, stands on 42 acres of estate that was once a fruit garden. It belonged to the village leader of the time, a philanthropist by the name of Silva Wijayasinghe. This building is a magnificent blend of both Indian and British architecture, with its ornately carved beams and pillars as well the spiral staircase that takes you to the overhead gallery, containing interesting photographs and artwork.
The market place in Kalutara during the season from June to September is filled with the exotic fruit called the Mangosteen. This purple colored fruit with its luscious and tart inner segments was introduced to Sri Lanka in the early 19th century. You will also find the Basket center in the middle of the town where you will be able to witness the weavers producing various items such as purses, hats and coasters from the unyielding palm fronds.