Bentota Beach - and attractions in its surroundings
The coastal paradise of Bentota is famous for some of southwestern Sri Lanka’s best holiday resorts at a clean beach. Bentota is the island's capital for water sports activities, an area crowded with renowned Ayurveda facilities and surrounded by heritage attractions, too.
The articles further below on this webpage will present four lists of top attractions near Bentota, which are recommendable for holiday makers who choose Bentota or one of the neighbouring villages, such as Beruwela or Aluthgama, as their holiday residence:
1. activities in Bentota and vicinity
2. half-day tuktuk tours
3. half-day car excursions
4. full-day car excursions,
General Information: Bentota
Bentota is located in the Galle District of the Sri Lanka's Southern Province, the Bentota River (Bentara Ganga) just north to the town is the border to Kalutara District of the Western Province. Beruwela is situated at the other side of the river, thus administrations of the two neighbouring cities are strictly separate. Bentota is situated half way between Colombo (60 km to the north) and Galle (60 km further south). The name "Bentota" is derived from a legend which tells that a demon named "Bem" ruled the river bank, a "tota". Before becoming one of the main beach destination in southwestern Sri Lanka, the main source of income in the Bentota area was fishing and coconut products, particularly toddy. Bentota is still renowned for the quality of this coconut beverage. In the late 19th century, Bentota's Railway Station was built by the British administration in order to facilitate transport of the local coconut products to the harbour of Colombo. In the 17th century, the Portuguese had built a small fort at the mouth of the Bentota River. Sinhalese people called the fort "Parangi Kotuwa", meaning "strangers' castle". But there are almost remnants left from that period. Rather, the area was used as a rest house already during the Dutch period in the 18th century, marking a very early begin of tourist facilities in Bentota. The British converted it into a sanatorium. The small town centre is located at the southern end of the bridge crossing the Bentota river. The river bends northward and runs parallel to the ocean before issuing into the sea. So in between river and ocean there is a narrow strip of a peninsula of about 2 km length. Bentota's most exclusive hotels such as Club Bentota and Centara Ceysands Resort and Spa are located on this small peninsula.
1. Activities in Bentota and its vicinity
Bentota is Sri Lanka’s favourite beach for those who like to spend relaxing holidays in a comfortable beach resort with a wide range of Ayureveda and sports and fun facilities.
Not surprisingly. one of the main attraction of Bentota is the beach with its very smooth sand, framed by palm trees, offering great sunset views. Though not every day, waves of the ocean are suit for surfers. But the current runs very fast, which is dangerous like at many other beaches of Sri Lanka.
Mouth of Bentota River
One advantage of Bentota as a beach holiday destination is, that it offers calm waters additionally, namely at the wide river mouth at the back of the Bentota peninsula. This is area between Bentota and Aluthgama is perfect for relaxed water sport activities such as banana boat rides, which are popular with Indian guests in particular. The rides usually start at the northern bank of the river, in the village of Aluthgama, close . Bentota river (Bentara Ganga) is worth to be explored on a normal boat trip, too.
Ayurveda resorts of Bentota
Bentota is also a centre of Ayurvedic treatments, a superb way of holiday relaxation Sri Lanka has to offer. Most of the Ayurveda farms such as the "Bentota Ayurveda Center" are located further inland, but not far from the river and within walking distance from Bentota's center with some restaurants, souvenir shops, supermarket and banking facilities. The "Aida Ayurveda Residence" is situated at the riverbanks and very close to the city center. The "Laluna Ayurveda Resort" is on the other side of the river, in the village of Aluthgama. The "Heritance Ayurveda Maha Gedara" is 2 km further north, half way to Beruwela, it's situated at Moragalla Beach. Five kilometers to the southwest of Bentota, the "Villa Raphael" is situated in a calm and lush green area at Dedduwa Lake, not far from Lunuganga Gardens.
Spice and herbal gardens
Spice gardens offer guided tours, which are an excellent way to learn more about both spices from tropical Asia and traditional Sri lankan herbes used in Ayurvedic medicine. You should be aware, that the spice and herbal garden is an exhibition and has an attached selling floor. The garden is not the plantation, but it's a collection of one or two specimen of different plant species allowing visitors to see various sorts of famous trees and fruits, products of which find their way to their kitchens in their home countries.
Toddy is a palm wine created from the sap which is collected from the cut flower of the palm tree. As palm trees are growing high and a little bit apart from each other, toddy tappers transfer themselves from one treetop to another on tied ropes high above the ground. It seems to be an acrobatic kind of job, indeed, it’s a dangerous way of earning one’s living. However, watching toddy tappers doing their work is simply breath-taking. There are many opportunities to find toddy tapping areas along the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.
2. Destinations of half-day trips from Bentota, by tuktuk
Here’s another list of sightseeing proposals that are recommendable for Bentota holiday makers who like to explore the hinterland. All of the half-day trips can be done by tuktuk, allowing travellers to relax in their resort in the afternoon.
Beruwela fishing harbour
Beruwela is a coastal town within tuktuk driving distance, situated just north from Bentota at the opposite side of the river. Beruwala is a commercial fishing harbour and was once the island’s major seaport for Muslims' international trade in the Indian ocean. Beruwala, now inhabited by about 33.000 people, is proud to have been the traditional centre of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority ever since. Many of the so-called Moors are gem merchants. The Sinhala name "Beruwela" designates a place where sails are furled. The best time to visit the harbour is the early morning between 6.00 and 7.00 am, when the night fishing boats return and sell fresh fish directly. More about Beruwela...
The beacon tower of Beruwela, one of only four international lighthouses in Sri Lanka, is located on the small Barberyne Island, 500 m away from Beruwela beach. Boat trips to the lighthouse can be arranged, it takes about 10 minutes for one way. Barberyne Island, picturesquely covered with coconut and mango trees, is inhabited by lighthouse keepers. A circular gravel path leads to the beacon, which stands about 15 m above sea level. The 38 m tall Beruwela lighthouse was built by the British in 1928, who continued to operate it even after Ceylon’s independence, until 1972. 140 steps lead to the top level, which offers spectacular scenes of Sri Lanka’s south-western coastline. Barberyne Island is ideal island to have a picnic or to meditate.
Sri Lanka’s oldest mosque, Kechimalai Masjeed, is located between Beruwela beach and Beruwela port, just on top of the 30 m high isolated rock called “Beruwela point”. Beruwela is the first recorded Muslim settlement on the island of Sri Lanka. The Kechimalai Mosque is built near the site of the landing of the very first Arab traders, who arrived in the 8th century. This was the early period of the Bagdad caliphate. However, a muslim saint buried at the site of Kechimalai mosque in the 9th century is believed to be a Yemenite sheikh. (Yemen and Oman, countries of origin of many Arab seafarers, were not under full control of the Bagdad Caliphate.) The Kechimalai Mosque was renovated by the British as a gift to the Muslim community living in this area. Other muslim prayer hall in Beruwela are Hiliriya Mosque Moliyamalla and Ul-Abrar Mosque.
The Sapugoda temple, located in only 800 m distance from the Beruwela port, is named after the monk Sapugoda Anandha Thero, who established it in 1750, during the reign of Kandy’s King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe. Due to the Portuguese destructions of non-Christian sanctuaries, the Galapatha Temple had been the only temple in the surrounding od Bentota where Buddhists could carry out their rituals. With the assistance of the Galapatha Temple, Sapugoda was able to established his new Vihara on a grand scale in Nallahena village. The colourful image house is adorned with typical Kandy paintings.There are three huge statues in the Sapugoda Viharaya, a sitting Buddha in Samadhi posture, a standing Buddha. and a reclining Buddha. The Samadhi statue is 2 m tall, the standing statue is more than 5 m high. The length of the reclining statue is almost 9 m. In addition, there are statues of the four Hindu deities most venerated by Sinhalese Buddhists, namely Saman, Vishnu, Vibheeshana, God Kataragma. Another statue depicts a local god called Nathadeva. A unique feature are 24 statues of Buddhas (Suwisi Buduwarus) who lived before our present world cycle, which has 4 past and one future Buddha.
Kande Vihara in Aluthgama
"Kande Vihara" means "Mountain temple".It's built on a vast elevated platform surrounding a natural hillock. The Buddhist temple is situated only 4 km north of Bentota. Kande Vihara is famous for Sri Lanka's largest Buddha statue. The figure in Samadhi Mudra measures 48.8 m in height. Though this seated Buddha has been built only recently, between 2002 and 2007, it's quite impressive. The main attraction of Kande Vihara, of course, is the beauty of the scenery. The panoramic view to the lush green plains on the hinterland of Beruwela and Bentota is just amazing.
Benthara Galapatha Rajamaha Vihara
The ancient Benthara Galapatha Buddhist temple is a cultural must-see for Bentota’s holiday makers. It's only 4 km east from Bentota beach, situated on a rocky plateau overlooking the Bentota river. The temple's dagoba (stupa) is said to shelter a tooth of Maha Kassyapa, a famous disciple of Buddha, who was in charge of the Order after the passing away of the Buddha. According to inscriptional evidence, the original temple at this location is from the Polonnaruwa period. It was destroyed by Christians in the 16th century. The temple that can be seen now is from the Kandy period depicting Jataka tales and flowers. The two image housee contain a number of brightly coloured statues. A sleeping Buddha is 8 m long. The monks’ residence, called Avasa, shows touches of colonial elements such as collonades and vaulted windows. A unique feature of Benthara Galapatha Raja Maha Vihara is a natural stone filter called “Galperanaya”. It is an oval basin without punctures but porous enough, that after some minuted clear water drops to the bottom basin.
location of Benthara Galapatha Rajamaha Vihara
Bullock carts, also known as ox carts or a bullock wagons, are a traditional means of transportation of people and goods. Being a cheap vehicle and transport method, bullock carts are still used in Sri Lanka’s rural areas to date. Some owners offer bullock cart tours for foreigners. Our Bentota partner or your hotel staff should be able to organize a bullock cart ride as a holiday experience for you.
Toddy is a palm wine created from the sap of various species of palm trees, paticularly borassus and coconut palms. The sap is collected from cut flowers of the palm tree. Palm wine cay be distilled to create a stronger alcoholic beverage, which is called Arrack. Coconut trees are high and grow in some distance from each other. In order to avoid climbing to the treetops repeatedly, toddy tappers have evolved a quicker - though risky - method of transferring themselves from one treetop to another without climbing down. They tie two ropes between two treetops, one for placing their feet and one for thei hands to hold them from falling. Watching them doing their work is simply breath-taking.
3. Half-day excursion by car, or full-day by tuktuk
There are lots of more sightseeing destinations in the surrounding of Bentota for tourists who like to invest more of their time to explore the natural beauty of their holiday area and their host country's culture. This following list of attractions in the further vicinity of Bentota presents proposals of half-day excursions by car. All destinations (or the starting points for boat trips) mentioned in the list below can be reached by tuktuk, too, but in this case the excursions would require a few more driving hours. However, the distances are not too far for day trips with a tuktuk driver.
Lunuganga Estate and Gardens
The Lunuganga Estate was the country house of Sri Lanka's most renowned architect, Geoffrey Bawa. He worked and lived in Colombo, but in the weekend, Lunuganga was his hideaway. The Lunuganga garden is situated on an peninsula in Dedduwa Lake, the outlet of which is a tributary to Bentota river. Bawa bought the former cinnamon and rubber rubber in 1949 and lived here till his death in 2003. In the course of many decades, he transformed the peninsula into a quite unique tropical version of an English landscape garden and an Italien sculpture park. The charming Lunuganga are open to the public, except from the cottage which is now a hotel and reserved for guests. Visitors have to pay an entrance fee and join a guided tour. More about Lunuganga...
Brief Garden, situated 10 km further inland from Bentota, was created between 1929 and 1970 as rural retreat of lanscape artist Bevis Bawa (1909 – 1993), an elder brother of Geoffrey Bawa. Features of this garden are bowers, alcoves, and garden sculptures in the English style as well as a small Japanese water garden. The garden area partly resembling a genuine jungle is surrounded by bamboo. The former residence of Bevis Bawa houses a small art museum, with statues, Dutch wooden furniture, gobelins, and paintings. Read more about Brief Garden here...
Therea are sea turtle hatcheries and conservation projects at the coasts of Induruwa and Kosgoda, situated to the south of Bentota, on the way to Madu Ganga. They intend to preserve the endangered marine turtle species of Sri Lanka. Globally, all seven species of marine turtles are endangered. Of these seven, five come ashore to nest at beaches of Sri Lanka. The Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery was established in 1988, it pays fishermen for eggs that they collect at night along the sandy beaches, particularly during the laying season between October and April. The hatchery buries the eggs in sand. When the baby turtles hatch about 50 days later, they are released into the ocean at night. The Kosgoda hatchey has released millions of baby turtles into the wild, but only one-tenth of a percentage of the baby turtles survive to maturity.
Madu Ganga wetlands
Madu Ganga is located near Balapitiya, 20 km south from Bentota. Sri Lanka's scond largest wetland area spreads over 10 square kilometers and consists of lakes, rivers and mangrove swamps. Madu Ganga is said to be a stretch of water surface with 32 island. Two larger islands are inhabited by about 200 families. You can study rural life here and on the way visit the local markets and handicraft shops. This boat tour will take up to 3 hours. Some boats can carry grups, and eben some smaller boats can provide canopies. Besides observing many birds living in this aquatic environment, you can see the Kraal fishing method, which is called "Ja Kotu" in Sinhala. Their nets occupy large areas of the river. For tourists, the so-called "fish therapy", which is quite popular in Southeast Asia, was introduced to Madu Ganga. Fish bites remove dead scarf-skin, a cleaning method sometimes called "fish massage". More about Madu Ganga river safaris...
Ambalangoda, just south of the Madu Ganga Lagoon, is Sri Lanka’s village famous for the manufacture of wooden masks and puppets. The colourful masks are hand-carved and hand-painted. Traditional masks are a part of Sri Lanka’s religious culture and dance folklore. They are used in dance dramas and exorcism rituals. Mask crafting is an intricate skill that is passed down within families from generation to generations. Ambalangoda is home of many handicraft manifactures and shop keepers, some of which run small private exhibitions, Ariyapala Mask Museum being the most renowned one.
The Galagoda Sailathalaramaya Viharaya in Karandeniya is located 25 km south of Bentota and 7 km further inland (east) of Ambalangoda. The uphill road to Galagoda crosses cinnamon plantations. The temple is situated almost 100 m above sea level and offers a perfect panoramic view. The Galagoda Sailathalaramaya Temple houses a 35 m long reclining Buddha, which is considered to be the longest in South Asia at all. Though the design of the statue is modern and now made of cement, there has been a recling Buddha at this place since the reign of King Parakramabahu II. in the late 13th century, the heydays of the Dambadeniya period.
Meetiyagoda Moonstone Mine
Meetiyagoda, located between Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa, but further inland, is often called the “world’s only moonstone mine”. Actually, moonstone deposits occur in many countries. However, there are at least three characteristics, that make Sri Lanka's mine in Meetiyagoda special or unique. The Indian mines are not moonstone mines in the first place, but moonstone are found among other kinds of gemstones, whereas moonstone highly predominant in Meetiyagoda. Secondly, there are only very few places where moonstones are found in such high concentration as in Meetiyagoda. And thirdly, all moonstones found anywhere else in the world are white. Meetiyagoda moonstones show a shining blue colour inside. Indeed, it's the only mine where such stones are found. Visitors can see the deep, narrow shafts of the mine. A small information centre and a large shop are attached to the mine to welcome visitors. More about Meetiyagoda moonstones...
Galle - World Heritage Site
Galle Fort, also called Old Town of Galle, is located 60 km south of Bentota. A tour from Bentota to the World Heritage Site will take a little bit more than one hour (one way). It’s perfectly well managable as a half-day excursion if you want to see the colonial firtress. If you intend to do some shopping in Galle New Town additionally and to relax at Unawatuna beach, you will need a full day. More about Galle Fort...
Yagirala Rain Forest
The Yagirala Reserve, situated 26 km west of Bentota, is a protected rain forest area in a hilly region in between the west coast and the famous Sinharaja Rain Forest. It covers more than 40 square kilometres large . It is an ideal destination for Bentota beach holiday makers who like hiking of only a several hours. There are treks to small peaks in the Yagirala Reserve, which offer perfect views to Sinharaja. 152 plant species and 36 mammal species occur in the Yagirala Rain Forest. The vicinity of the Yagirala Forest Reserve contains many other nature reserves as well as cultural an religious places of interest such as the Weligalpotte monastery.
Walallawita is located in only 6 km distance east of Yagirala. Walallawita's main attraction is the Pahurukanda temple. Caves belonging to the Pahurakanda temple are not yet excavated but bear evidence they were used by the Balangoda man 28,000 years ago. Walallawita has rich mineral deposits: graphite, gems, and a variety of industrial clays. You can visit the Bogodakanda plumbago mine.
Gangatilaka Vihara in Kalutara
Kalutara is the capital town of the district of the same name in Sri Lanka's Western Province. It's situated 20 km north of Bentota and 40 km south of Colombo. Kalutara is close to the river mouth of one of Sri Lanka's major rivers, the Kalu Ganga. Kalutara's landmark building, just at the riverfront, is the largest stupa (dagoba) of the island. It's located very close to the Kalutara bridge. In contrast to most other stupas, the Gangatilaka Vihara is not massive but indeed a domed hall. The gigantic white dagoba, built in the 1960s, is said to shelter sacred relics of the Buddha. Huge murals inside the dome depict the stories from Buddha’s previous lifes, which are called Jatakas and are part of the Buddhist holy scriptures, the Tipitaka. At the other side of the main road, reachable via a tunnel close to the river, is a sanctuary of Bo-Tree which attracts many pilgrims. More about Kalutara...
Richmond castle near Kalutara
This colonial building designed by a British architect served as residence of a wealthy regional governor, Don Arthur de Silva. The architecture is a blend of South Asian and British styles. The mansion, currently serving as a Motessori school, is surrounded by landscaped gardens in the English style. Richmond Castle is located 24 km north of Bentota.
4. Full-day excursions from Bentota, by car
For those who can leave their beloved beach resort for a full day, there are a lot of interesting trips. Some of them are on offer at hotel receptions and at local travel agencies. Others - those to less well-known places such as Kanneliya and Dodanduwa and Pahiyangala - have to be arranged by renting a car with a driver who knows the places. Of course, all of them can be arranged by Lanka Excursions Holidays.
Colombo City Tour
Bentota is located in only 60 km distance from the capital Colombo. Half-day excursions are enough for a small city tour. However, you will need a full day, if you want to have enough time for shopping and tea at Mount Lavinia or like to explore some attractions in more detail, for example Dehiwala Zoo or the National Museum. Find more about Colombo's attractions here...
Canoe trip on the Kalu Ganga
The Kalu Ganga begins its journey to the sea on the western slopes of Adam's Peak, which is Sri Lanka's holy mountain. The divine waters flow slowly west, its banks lined with jungle, rubber plantations and communities using the river in their daily lives. Exploring the backwaters by canoe - a haven for birdlife, with both Black and Cinnamon Bitterns often seen scrambling for cover as you paddle through the mangroves - is magical.
Hikkaduwa coral reef by glass bottom boat
Hikkaduwa is not as classy as Bentota, but it has a somewhat better protected ocean beach and coral reefs. Glass bottom boat trips are interesting for those who have not yet seen a tropical coral reef before. But whoever knows the Maldives, the Red Sea or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, would be disappointed. Hikkaduwa is a place more recommendable for surfing than Bentota. The best surfing spots in Hikkaduwa are in Wewala. Narigama is better for body surfing. Surf boards and gear can be rented from Hikkaduwa. If you do not intend to spend a full day at a beach outside Bentota, you could combine your trip to Hikkaduwa beach with sightseeing and shopping in Galle. Find more about Hikkaduwa here...
Kitulgala river rafting
River rafting in Kitulgala is a major attraction for watersports enthusiasts. Kitulgala is in 140 km distance from Bentota, driving time is about 2.5 or 3 hours (one way). But it’s worth it. Additionally, you could enjoy in a little bit canyoning or hiking to a waterfall or visiting the prehistoric Beli Lena cave near Kitulgala. Furthermore, Kitulgala is a perfect place for birdwatching. Visit our Kitulgala page. Kitulgala excursions can be booked in hotels and travel agencies in Bentota and Beruwela. But if you want to have some extras, do not hesitate to contact us...
Ratnapura, Sri Lanka’s "gem city", is in about 100 km driving distance from Bentota. Driving time is 2 hours (one way). There are gem museums and shops in Ratnapura. Trips to Ratnapura will be on offer in Bentota. Team Lanka Excursion Holidays proposes to visit a gem mine in the surrounding of Ratnapura, too, and to take a different route through untouched scenery back to Bentota, though this southern route will take more time due to bad road conditions. On the main route you could visit the Saman Devale (temple dedicated to the mountain god of Adam’s Peak) anyway. But taking the minor route you could also visit the rehistoric cave of Pahiyangala, which is a historical site surprising with a huge reclining Buddha in an attractive natural setting.
Sinharaja Rain Forest
Sinharaja Reserve, Sri Lanka’s largest rain forest, offers a wide range of trekking opportunities. Some routes are managable within a few hours, allowing you to take part in a hiking tour and returning to your comfortable beach resort in the evening. Driving distance from Bentota is 120 km, taking 2,5 or 3 hours (one way). It’s a nice sightseeing tour crossing Sri Lanka’s greenest wet zone area. In the Sinharaja Forest Reserve you will walk through a bewildering virgin rain forest of exotic vegetation and wonderful sounds. There are panoramic views as well as gushing waterfalls in the forest sanctuary. You will see a lot of wet zone bird species and reptiles and amphibians and butterflies. But you must be warned: Hiking in Sinharaja should not be done without chemical repellents to prevent leech bites. Our team will provide a specialist for Sinharaja excursions and can also help you to prepare the trip adequately. Read more about Sinharaja here...
Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya or KDN, Sri Lanka’s second largest rain forest reserve, is a pleasant place for a more relaxful hike to waterfalls. Furthermore, it is easier to reach, only 60 km away from Bentota, one and a half hours driving for one way is enough. You could even combine a short hike in the Kanneliya reserve with visiting cinnamon plantations or the colonial fortress of Galle, if you like.
Lanka Excursions Holidays service in Bentota
If you like to contact a trustworthy driver during your stay in the Bentota area, don't hesitate to contact us.
If you like to combine some of the destinations mentioned in our above list of excursion proposals, please let us know your timelines and a list of the attractions of your choice, and we will work out an itinerary for visiting as many of them as possible and send you a quote for your private excursions during your holidays in Bentota.