Experience the Tropical Beaches of Sri Lanka
The western region of the island is an area of contrasts. From the busy coastline south of Negombo to the deserted sandy beaches of the Kalpitiya peninsula, from the urban and built-up cityscape of Colombo to the vast open spaces of Wilpattu National Park, and from the industrial hinterland around the capital to the agrarian coconut estates of Kurunegala District. The area has seen many changes and had different masters over the years, beginning over 1500 years ago when the port of Colombo initially served as a staging post for trade between Asia and the West. Soon after settled by Arab traders, Colombo and the west coast have had a Muslim influence ever since. With the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505, Christianity was introduced to the island and vestiges of this proselytizing are evident in the churches around Negombo where many fishermen were converted. The western coastal plain covers a huge area and most visitors only scratch the surface by staying along the coast. However, there are interesting places to explore away from the beaches if the mood takes you.
Negombo is for many the first port of call as the international airport at Katunayake is close by. One of the first sun and sea destinations in Sri Lanka over 40 years ago, Negombo has grown into a large resort area with varied accommodation. Colombo is 30 km south of the airport and soon to be linked with an expressway which will cut journey times dramatically. Colombo is a large metropolitan city with few real attractions outside of shopping, restaurants, bars and clubs. Further south, Bentota like Negombo initially developed as a tropical beach getaway but it has much more to offer with a lagoon perfect for water sports, rivers and mangroves to explore, idyllic formal gardens to visit, and of course the beach. Following the coast north from the airport is the Kalpitiya peninsula, a sand-between-the-toes, get-away-from-it-all beach location. Further north still is Wilpattu National Park, the island’s largest wildlife reserve that only reopened in 2010 and home to leopards, sloth bears, elephants and an array of Sri Lankan birdlife.