Asked what’s the most attractive destination in Sri Lanka’s Western Province, we do not hesitate to recommend a visit of Pilikuththuwa. The reason is the highly attractive blend of ancient cave temples in an undisturbed living forest monastery in an enchanting natural setting. Pilikuththuwa is easy to reach from Colombo or Negombo or Pinnawela, but almost unknown to foreign travellers, although it’s a quite large heritage site with lots of fascinating places such as jungle paths, vantage points, caves with historical inscriptions, Kandyan sculptures and paintings, stupas, monks’ cells, Hindu shrines, wooden bridge, boulder garden etc.
Find a detailed description of Pilikuththuwa here…
Where is Sri Lanka’s largest hemispherical stupa building? Surprisingly, it’s neither in Anuradhapura nor in any other heritage site but in the town center of Kalutara, capital of the district of the same name in the Western Province. The dome is modern and in contrast to historical stupas, it’s hollow. Stupas in Sri Lanka were massive brick constructions sheltering very small relic chambers. Kalutara’s Gangatilaka Viharaya, built in the 1960s in thin-concrete technology, is the roof of a large hemispherical hall, which is open to the public. To learn more about the modern stupa and Kalutara town, please click here...
When approaching Colombo International Airport from the open ocean, aeroplanes cross the Negombo Lagoon just before landing. The lagoon, situated south of Negombo town and west of the airport, is 10 km long from north to south and 3.5 km wide on average. The palm-rich spit separating it from the ocean is only 500 m wide on average, at some places only 250 m. The southern end of the estuarine lagoon is the sanctuary of the Muthurajawela wetland in the river delta of the Attanagalla Oya. This mangrove swamp attracts a wide variety of water birds including gulls and other shorebirds.
The Negombo fishing harbour is situated at the northern end of the lagoon, where it opens to the ocean via two narrow channels. The lagoon is used for fishing, too. Traditional Oru boats, sometimes wrongly called katamarans, can be seen on the ocean and in the lagoon alike. The crabs and prawnd of the Negombo lagoon are held in high esteem for their taste. Motorboat tours can be arranged at the fishing port as well as in the Muthurajawela wetlands. Oruwa “katamaran tours” can be organized, too.
We highly recommend to visit Warana, also known as Varana, for several reasons.
First of all, it's a living forest monastery and education centre in the genuine tradition of Sinhalese Buddhism. Please be aware, that this tranquil place is inhabited by monks. You have to keep silent and ask for permission to walk around. If treated respectfully, the monks will be helpful to organize a guided tour for you and open some of the caves for you. You should not expect that everybody can understand English in Warana.
Secondly, Warana is an undisturbed classical Sri Lankan heritage site in a beautiful green setting and undisturbed by mass tourism. Though not far away from the Colombo-Kandy mainriad, it's really off the beaten path.
Thirdly, Warana played a prominent role in western Sri Lanka in all major periods of the island's history. It was founded in the earliest Buddhist century of the Anuradhapura period. It was visited and embellished by King Nissanka Malla during the Polonnaruwa period. It was one of Sri Lanka's most important monasteries under royal patronage in the Kotte period, the design of the cave is mainly in the style of the Kandyan period. And it's a modern Buddhist center where monks meet for meditation and studies.
We uploaded a more detailed description of the Warana Rajamaha Viharaya just today. More images will be posted in the main article later on. For a first impression, we present some small-sized photos in this blog post.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka,