Telephone dialing code for Bentota, Aluthgama and Beruwela is 034
Telephone dialing code for Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa is 091
Ayurveda & Yoga
The Southwest is the most popular home to ayurvedic medicine. There are many hotels offering spa treatments which extremely relaxing but few offer the full weekly treatment with qualified physicians.
For a full weeks treatment visit our Ayurvedic reviews
The best quality and priced ayurvedic treatments we experienced were at :
There are many excellent private ayurvedic practitioners for private spa treatments within your bedrooms or designated hotel room.
Yoga and meditation are a part of Asian life. Some of the worlds most renowned Yoga mentors are based in India and Sri Lanka. An excellent hotel offering morning yoga sessions and ayurvedic training courses is Villa de Zoysa, nr Galle.
You will find small turtle hatcheries all down the SouthWest and South coast but the most commercial and interactive visitor centre is at Kosgoda.
Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery, 1 hour tour, 7am-6pm daily
Geoffrey Bawa Architecture
Bentota is the orignal home to famous, award winning architect – Geoffrey Bawa (1919-2003). His colonial yet contemporary style with natural air conditioning, dramatic pillars and open courtyards are many of his signature designs. He designed 70 houses (50 were built) and 35 hotels (20 realised) of which New parliament building and Ruhuna University are best known. His own home is now a museum and run by the Geoffrey Bawa Trust.
Lunaganga Estate, Dedduwa, Bentota
Admission : groups are taken by appointment
Tours of his neighbouring works can be enjoyed
Tours:Wednesday & Thursday only
Tel. 011 258 9212
10 km out of Bentota is the pretty Brief Garden – the original home to Bevis Bawa, brother and confident to Geoffrey Bawa. Bevis was a sculpture and magnificent landscape architect. His house and well manicured tropical gardens are an open museum, showing his eclectic collection of sculpture, art and photographs of his many guests eg.. Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, etc.
Tel:034 227 0462
Open : 8am-5pm daily
Entry Fee: R125
Tuk Tuk : R500 Return
Arts & Crafts
Ambalangoda’s Galle Road is lined with the island’s best antique dealers. Always negotiate.
Ambalangoda School of Dance, Tel: 091 225 8948, teaches Southern forms of dance, Kolam (masked dance) plus other South Indian traditions.
Ariyapala Mask Museum, Ambalangoda demonstrates the carpentry and paint techniques together with a vast collection of masks and their meanings.
Open : 8.30am-5.30pm daily at no charge.
Across the road is the mask and puppet museum. However both have shops which are expensive. If you want to buy a souvenir or wish to learn the craft, you should approach one of the many smaller workshops throughout Bentota, and Ambalangoda.
Batiks are another traditional craft of Sri Lanka. The recommended shops are :
River Excursions / Safaris
“Safaris” is really an exaggerated claim for the relaxing boat trips up the mangrove clad rivers. The warm and fresh water rivers are home to many crocodiles but they tend to swim further in-land after 1-2 years. However, baby crocodiles up to 2metres in length can be seen basking on the river banks. There is also an abundance of birdlife, water monitors and fishermen.
River excursions are simply a means of relaxing and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. The best value and flexible excursions can be found at:
Two hour trips, evening trips with beach BBQ’s or a day’s trip out to Little Adams Peak, stopping at the Mask factory enroute.
Price : 3hr trip should cost about R400/person but you can negotiate if you include picnics or beach BBQ’s.
A river Pontoon is run every evening from Bentota Beach Hotel for about $20/ person. The buffet is average, good calypso music, and it is very romantic, but check the number of bookings as the pontoon can lack atmosphere with only 3 tables full.!!!!
Village and country tours can be organized for you to soak up local living. The people are extremely friendly.
Let us know if you would like us to arrange a very casual local tour with our friends in Bentota or if you want to leave it until you get there , call Richards Tours on Tel. 034 70107 or Amal at Hotel Susanthas (an excellent guide) on Tel. 034 4289045.
Culture & Temples (Vihara)
There are many ancient temples from the 12 century and beyond all along the South west coast and within the villages. The most dramatic and well maintained are:
|Gangatilaka Vihara, Kalutara||Very large and important temple for passing travelers from the South. Home to a hollow dagoba (Buddhist shrine) and paintings laying out the story of Buddha and the Bodhi Tree.|
|Galapatha Vihara, Bentota||home to a 25ft reclining Buddha|
|Sailatarama Vihara, Ambalangoda||home to a 35m long sleeping Buddha|
|Gangarama Maha Vihara, Baddegama Road, Hikkaduwa||home to many popular educational paintings|
|Seenigama Vihara, Hikkaduwa||Victims of crime vist this temple and pray with chilli and pepper oil lamps for retribution|
There are many pockets of Muslim communities but the mosques can not be viewed internally by non-muslim tourists nor women. Beruwala and Dharga town , Aluthgama make interesting viewing and the produce shops are markedly cheaper, with the exception of the jewellers.
Excursions further a field
|Destination||Ideal Days Required|
|Ratnapura Gem mines||1|
|Hill Country – Kandy / Nuwara Eliya/ Ella/ Horton Plains/ Adams Peak||3|
|Yala Safari – inc. Inc Dikwela Blow hole and Weligama Stilt Fishermen||2|
|Galle / Weligama Stilt Fishermen||1 – 1 ½|
|Colombo and night on tiles||1 - 2|
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Including waterskiing, wake boarding, wind surfing, banana boat rides, jet skiing.
Diving – November-April
Hikkaduwa has a number of dive schools but the town is much more commercial and we do not have any hotels or villa sin this area. It is only 40 minute drive from Bentota. Hikkaduwa has a coral sanctuary but has been extremely overexploited and damaged over the years from pollution.
The Southwest coast has some good waves for surfing for novices or body surfing. You can rent a boogie board from most watersports centers (see above) in Bentota and Hikkaduwa.
Festivals - Dalada Perahera held on December 4 in Bentota. In memory of the Arapant Maha Kaypa whose Tooth relic is enshrined at the ancient Galapatha Rajamaha temple in Bentota. As a popular tourist resort, the festival attracts large crowds and a 4mile parade that equals Esala’s show but just for one night. You will see more, as the parade meanders through the town and villages from 7pm to 2-3am.
Bars & Restaurants
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There are very few stand alone bars and restaurants. The most popular and best quality restaurants are within the hotel and guesthouses. We have selected the following for excellent cuisine and great atmosphere but none are part of the many large hotel chains that align the coast.
|Excellent Sri Lankan Cuisine||
Ganga Garden (Riverside garden restaurant)
Terrena Lodge (Riverside cabanas)
Sunilanka (Young & fun and live calypso music. Very casual)
|Fine Dining with a Sri Lankan twist||
Taru Villa (private & romantic)
Club Villa (Candlelit excellence)
|Very local casual Bar/ restaurants||
Serena Villa (local Bentota hangout)
Nebula (local Aluthgama hangout)
Refresh (friendly tourist / local hangout)
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If you are seeking cosmopolitan nightlife , Colombo is the nearest place. The beach resorts are into calypso music, beach parties and occasional discos and live bands. The locals love calypso and reggae music and love to adlib and jam.
Hotel Serendib, Bentota . Tel. 034 227 528 - Organised Beach Buffets and disco weekly during peak season.
Wunderbar, Galle Road, Robolgoda, Bentota. – Air conditioned indoor disco open most nights. They also organize huge reggae and calypso concerts about 3 times a year which attract up to 1000 guests – old and young and very safe.
Beach parties – The official rule is that one should gain permission for private BBQ’s but the police turn a blind eye to the many guests who have small fires and clean up after them.
Base Bar and Top Secret, Hikkaduwa are the most popular bars and have live music most nights from December to April. The rest of the year Hikkaduwa is a ghost town. 6th February is Bob Marley’s Birthday and the South coast goes crazy.
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The Southwest is known for Antiques, masks, leather and carpentry. The main shopping centers are Kalutara, Beruwala, Aluthgama, Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa but it is all local produce. Hikkaduwa is the most commercial shopping area after Colombo.
Antiques- Most of the real bargains have disappeared as tourism has grown but you will find beautiful Dutch and British colonial furniture and many Jaffna and ancient Buddhist antiques. Be ready to haggle as the prices are set very high.
Cenerath Antiques, Ambalangoda has a good reputation
Crafts and Souvenirs can be found at stalls and shops in every town and are fairly priced due to the competition. However, it is wise to advise the owner that you wish to shop around in order to achieve his best price.
Clothing / dress makers – You will not find high fashion clothing out of Colombo but you can get cheap beach wear and casual summer clothes.
If you wish to make up a design you have spotted in a magazine or elsewhere, the dress makers operate to a very high standard
Saris can be made to measure as a souvenir or that special occasion. Do negotiate a price before they start work.
For the best quality and interesting designed fabrics you will have to go to Colombo.
Best value and experienced dress makers:
Jewellers are everywhere. It is best to avoid the concession shops within the large hotels as they have about 300% mark-up. The gems are beautiful in Sri Lanka but the gold quality can be vary and unfortunately they do not hallmark. This is not the country for purchasing white gold or diamonds as they import them.
Tips for the interested:
General amentities and food of a Western nature can be bought at the major supermarket chains – Cargills or Keels. These can be found in the major shopping towns.
Market day in Aluthgama is Monday and people travel from a large area.
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Tuk Tuks are the main mode of transport within the towns and to local sights. Try to befriend a tuk Tuk driver at the beginning of your stay and the rates will come down. Most of the hotels will have their preferred Tuk Tuk drivers who will look after you as they will have a relationship with the hotel but do not be naïve to their persuasive techniques.
Reliable contact and friend to us : Kalume Tel. 0777 974484
The buses run along the coast line from Colombo to Galle and Matara albeit the private express buses only stop at the bigger cities, so check. The main bus stations are in Kalutara, Beruwala, Aluthgama, Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa.
|From Aluthgama||1 ½ - 2 hrs|
|From Ambalangoda||2 - 2 ½ hrs|
|From Hikkaduwa||2 ½ hrs|
|From Aluthgama||1 - 1 ¼ hrs|
|From Hikkaduwa||½ hr|
Check at the bus stations for exact information.
Aluthgama are the main stops for the express trains from Colombo to Matara running 5-6 times / day. There are small stations at all along the cost but the journey will take slightly longer and run only 1-2 times / day . Check the central train information line for times or ask the locals.
Trains at peak time are extremely busy as many locals commute to jobs in Colombo.
|From Aluthgama||1 ½ hrs|
|From Hikkaduwa||2 hrs|
|From Hikkaduwa||2 ¼ hrs|
|From Aluthgama||1 - 1 ½ hrs|
|From Hikkaduwa||¼ hr|
There is a train running from Hikkaduwa to Kandy at 3pm each afternoon and to Anuradhapura at 11 am each morning. You are advised to book ahead to secure a 2nd class ticket for a 5 and 8 hr journey respectively.
For advice on costs for private drivers and getting around the island for excursions, click here.
Post Office & Banks
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These can be found in all the main coast towns. Remember they are closed on public holidays and Poya days so don’t get caught out. Check with the hotels when Poya Day falls – full moon of each month.