Kalutara is the first large town that falls when tourists travel south along the coastal road from Colombo, at a distance of 40 km. The city is frequented by travellers for its beautiful beach resort with a long stretch of fine sandy beach. Kalutara is the meeting point of Kalu Ganga River and the ocean, dividing into two channels – Mahawaskaduwa (Kalutara North) and Katukurunda (Kalutara South) – by means of an island which has been used as a mid-point in bridging the river.
The North beach of Kalutara is more scenic and visited by higher number of travellers as compared to the South Beach. The town was once an important spice-trading centre but today it is known among tourists for its coconut palm gardens, fine basket ware and for the best mangos teen fruit in Sri Lanka. Roadside stalls of basket ware, coir rugs and reed mats signal the entry into Kalutara.
One of the main tourist attraction of Kalutara is Gangatilake Stupa, which is a magnificent monument that is the only Stupa in world, which is hollow from inside. Another must visit attraction here is Richmond Castle, which is a European style building that was built in 1896, in a 42 acre fruit garden.
History of Kalutara
Kalutara was first visited by Portuguese, followed by Dutch and then British. Portuguese built a fort on the site of a Buddhist Temple. Kalutara is historically important due to the fact that it was one of the 32 places indicated in the 2nd century B.C. as a place of the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi tree planted. It is mentioned in the Sinhala Maha Bodhi Wansa that the historic Kalutara Bodhi exited intact until 1505 A.D.; in the 16th century this sacred site was turned into a Portuguese fort in Sri Lanka.
Kalutara was once an important spice-trading centre during the reign of the Portuguese, the Dutch & also the British. When the Dutch deserted the spice port at Kalutara, they left behind canals linking the spice plantations that was replaced with Rubber plantations by the British, traces of the old spice route can be seen even now.