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Sri Lanka West Coast from Colombo to Kalpitiya

This post will show you Sri Lanka West Coast from Colombo to Kalpitiya. After exploring temples of Central Colombo we will drive to Negombo to watch fishermen at work and fish being dried outdoors on the hot ground.

The idyllic Kalpitiya Peninsula further north again has white-sand beaches on both sides, backed by coconut palms that they also use for making house roofs. We stayed in a blue and white villa with a coconut leaf roof, partly outdoors and sleeping inside mosquito nets. 

Buddha statues, Colombo

Buddhas facing urban development in a Colombo temple

We were touring the coast with a car and a driver that we had for our whole stay in Sri Lanka. If you want to know how we did that check out my post What to See in Sri Lanka. The West Coast is where we started our trip after landing in Colombo where the main airport is. This is what most travelers do so this post will give you ideas on what to do on your first days in Sri Lanka.

Our Colombo to Kalpitiya Drive on the Map


The map shows our driving itinerary along Sri Lanka West Coast, from Colombo to Kalpitiya. In fact we started 6 km south of Colombo where our first night hotel was located. I will show the hotel in this post. After exploring a little bit of Colombo we took the slower coastal road to Negombo and on to Kalpitiya Peninsula a couple of hours further north.

Alternatively you can take the motorway straight to Negombo but I would say small roads are better. You will get the real touch of Sri Lanka beginning from your first days when passing through local villages that follow each other up to Negombo. You will also get a feeling of the busy traffic that is so typical of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka West Coast traffic

Traffic on the West Coast, from Colombo to Kalpitiya

After Negombo you will suddenly dive into the countryside and see more open farmland. Coconut palms, pretty lakes and temples of all main religions of Sri Lanka. Kalpitiya Peninsula again has some more villages – and lots of cows on the road. You will see it later.

Sri Lanka West Coast traffic

West Coast bike travelers


Sri Lanka flags

February 4, the National Day of Sri Lanka

Colombo originally was not on our travel itinerary but since we were bound to drive though it we asked our driver show us some sights. No problem he replied, but we needed to start early to get there before the crowds.

It was Sunday and Sri Lanka’s National Day, February 4. The country was going to celebrate its 70 years independence after the British left in 1948 and all politicians and crowds of Sri Lankans were gathering to Central Colombo later during the day.

So we set off from our hotel at 9 a.m. and this is what we saw in Central Colombo:

Independence Memorial Hall, Colombo

Independence Memorial Hall and statue of the first Sri Lanka Prime Minister

Sri Lanka first prime minister statue stone lions

Massive stone lions around Prime Minister statue

Sri Lanka National Day 4 Februrary

No crowds yet but it will be!

Sri Lanka Independence Memorial Hall

Independence Memorial Hall

Apparently no Memorial Hall festivities yet so we left towards South Beira Lake in the city center. The lake is green and has a small island in the middle, and a beautiful Buddhist shrine.

South Beira Lake and Seema Malaka

View of Central Colombo, Sri Lanka

Central Colombo: South Beira Lake

This is the Seema Malaka Buddhist temple, located on a small island but connected to the lakeshore by a walkway so getting there was super easy, we just paid a small fee and took off our shoes.

It’s a rule that you always enter Buddhist temples barefoot. That is not a problem – in the morning. But in the afternoon the sun heats the ground simply too hot to walk on. However after visiting a certain number of temples we got used to our soles burning and the hot ground almost felt good.

South Beira Lake, Colombo

Seema Malaka and South Beira Lake

Seema Malaka has a lot of similar Buddha statues and most of them are golden, except these ones sitting outside and looking towards the city. The stone statues are really massive and there is a long row of them as well:

Seema Malaka stone Buddhas

Seema Malaka stone Buddhas

Colombo Buddha statue row

Golden Buddhas in a row

Buddha statues in Colombo, Sri Lanka

A closer view of golden Buddhas

Temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Buddhas and prayer ribbons

Like all Buddhist temples the temple island has a bo tree. Bo tree is what Buddha was sitting below when he got enlightenment in India and a first branch of the tree was imported to Sri Lanka. Here you can see a Buddha looking at his bo tree on the temple courtyard:

Seema Malaka island, Colombo

Seema Malaka Buddha and bo tree

Colombo temple view

Prayer ribbons hanging in a tree

Colombo: old traditions and skyscrapers

Gate statue of Colombo temple island

Old and modern Colombo

Traditions and modern time meet in Colombo

Gangaramaya Temple

We sat down in the car and enjoyed air-conditioning. Driver Mac allowed us one more Colombo sight before driving on: the Buddhist Gangaramaya Temple almost next door to Seema Malaka. That was a really large temple complex on a shady side street, controversially right within the modern city.

What we first liked in the Gangaramaya temple complex were some small details like these wild courtyard flowers:

Gangaramaya Temple flowers, Colombo

Gangaramaya Temple courtyard details

Temple flowers, Colombo

Temple flower growing in tree

Temple and bo tree, Colombo

Gangaramaya Temple inner courtyard and bo tree

Temple flowers, Colombo

Some more temple flowers

But what about the temple itself? Whoever planned it had been given free hands to mix Buddhist and Indian styles. Or what do you think about the wall decorations in the shrine’s main image house (see below)?

Gangaramaya Temple door, Colombo

Entrance to the image house, Gangaramaya Temple

Inside the image house we found walls filled with artwork, both wood carvings and paintings and the painter had not saved the least in using all colors:

Gangaramaya Temple image house

Wall carvings in image house

Gangaramaya Temple statue, Colombo

Orange-colored Buddha 

Gangaramaya Temple statue, Colombo

Another image house statue

A couple of photos on the exterior that, too, is ornamental:

Gangaramaya Temple wall, Colombo

Exterior decoration of Gangaramaya Temple

Gangaramaya Temple visitors, Colombo

Gangaramaya Temple visitors and courtyard

It’s a custom that temples also include a temple elephant. In addition elephant tusks are used as decorative elements:

Gangaramaya Temple interior, Colombo

Buddhas and elephant tusks

Gangaramaya Temple Buddha statues

Buddhas without elephant tusks

One more temple highlight was this collection of Buddha statues and small dagobas, all in stone:

Gangaramaya Temple statues, Colombo

Stone Buddhas and dagobas, Gangaramaya Temple

But we had to say goodbye to this modern city hidden temple and the statues. We picked our shoes and went on.

Temple flowers and statue, Colombo

Gangaramaya temple plants and statue

Gangaramaya Temple statue

 Gangaramaya temple, Sri Lanka

More about Colombo

Sunday morning in Colombo was a relaxing experience but otherwise the city is crowded, noisy and chaotic which we saw later, on the way back to the airport. A lot of traffic and people rushing in all directions, markets, bazaars, trains, buses and tuk tuks packed with people.

Colombo is a mixture of cultures and building styles. First came the Muslims that built their trading port in Colombo, conveniently located along their east-west trading route, then came the Portuguese that added a fort and later on the British added a harbor. The Colmobo of today is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and the political capital is the pretty unknown Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte located east of Colombo.

But what else is there for a tourist in Colombo? There is the huge Viharamaha Devi Park with a shining Buddha statue:

Viharamaha Devi Park Buddha

Viharamaha Devi Park Buddha statue

And there is a new theater and concert hall that more looks like a stadium:

Colombo theatre and concert hall

Colombo theater and concert hall

The old colonial town hall looks like the U.S. Capitol or White House, white and shining in the tropical sun:

Colombo Town Hall and tuk tuk

Town Hall of Colombo

And above all, there are tuk tuks, red, green, black, everywhere and in all colors:

Colmobo street view

Colombo tuk tuks

And –  since Colombo is gateway to Sri Lanka, there is a good choice of hotels.  Most tourists stay here a night or two before going on an island tour or to West or South Coast tourist resorts.

Where to Stay in Colombo

Hotel Mirage Colombo

Hotel Mirage Colombo, Sri Lanka

After landing we stayed our first night south of downtown Colombo. It was an oceanside hotel, Mirage Colombo, with an outdoor pool up on the second floor and a splendid ocean beach in front, behind a road and a railway line that were easy to cross.


As we arrived after sunset and left early morning we didn’t have time to use those facilities, we only dined, had our breakfast and slept away our sleepless night spent on the plane and in an airport lounge. The room was good and so was the buffet with both Sri Lankan and international dishes.

This hotel really made us feel at home, far away in Asia: the first people we met were a bus group of Norwegian travelers heading to a Sri Lanka tour. Their group leader told me about travel in Sri Lanka and explained local habits, all in Swedish!

You can find more information on our first Sri Lanka hotel on the Hotel Mirage Colombo website.


Negombo fishermen

Fishermen at work, Negombo Lagoon

Negombo is the north end of the tourist-oriented West Coast that in the south begins at Hikkaduwa. This coastal strip has hundreds of hotels along the sandy shoreline and is yet a living Sri Lankan area. In Negombo fishermen catch fish in the Indian Ocean and repair their nets on the sheltered lagoon. This man is one of them, working in the center of Negombo.

Negombo lagoon is what you first see when landing in Sri Lanka, the airport is just behind it. No wonder tourists choose to stay in Negombo, at least a night or two before heading inland to where the sights are. But these fishermen don’t care, they go on doing their work.

Negombo fisherman

Negombo fisherman

Negombo fishing boats

Typical fishing-boat

Negombo fisherman

Preparing for a fishing trip

Negombo village lies between the lagoon and the ocean. It looks like a very typical Sri Lankan village, except that there are the tourist stalls, hotels and souvenirs. Some views of the village:

Negombo fishing boats

Lagoon seen from Negombo village

Negombo street view

Nebgombo main thoroughfare

Negombo traffic

Negombo traffic

On the ocean side Negombo has a huge fish market, normally busy but pretty empty on Sundays:

Negombo fish market

Negombo fish market

Tuna fish

Fresh tuna fish

Negombo fish market

Fish market bustle

Negombo fish market shrimps

What about fresh shrimps?

Negombo market

Or a Pepsi?

Where does all this fish come from? The fishermen we saw on the lagoon side catch it in the Incian Ocean. They bring the fish to the hot sand dunes on the Ocean side where they dry it. They salt the fish and leave it in the strong sunlight for a couple of days.

These women are are busy sorting drying fish and turning the fish where needed.

Handling fish, Negombo

Negombo fish market women at work

Negombo harbor drying fish

Neatly sorted drying fish

Negombo harbor drying fish

Almost dry!

Negombo harbor drying fish

Fish in equator sunlight

Even if birds don’t take salted fish drying fish needs to be protected:

Negombo fishing harbor

Drying fish in shelter

Learning how dried fish is being prepared we started to feel hungry, but maybe not fish for lunch this time. Instead we took our car again and went for a hotel lunch.

Touring Sri Lanka West Coast

Driving from Colombo to Kalpitiya: our car with driver

Lunch at Negombo Hotel

Negombo Goldi Sands Hotel lunch

Dessert plate

We took a buffet lunch right on Negombo Beach, in the Goldi Sands Hotel. I didn’t really think about using hotel lunches before, it was our travel agency that found it out for us. Hotel lunches on the road in countries like Sri Lanka instead of simple roadside eateries definitely is a good idea. Hotel lunches also offer you an air conditioned and relaxing break.

We sat a long while gazing at the beach and as always I first remembered my camera when we had almost finished and it was dessert time.

Negombo Goldi Sands Hotel beach

Negombo beach from hotel restaurant

I felt I could stay here the rest of the day, on soft Negombo sands or maybe by the pool. What could be a better way to spend Sri Lanka’s National Day than enjoying what the country’s nature offers?  But there was another beach and pool to come and we were looking forward to that. Our destination was Kalpitiya and the magnificent Villa Kalpitiya that you will see after a while.

Goldi Sands Hotel pool

Goldi Sands Hotel pool, Negombo

But this hotel too looked very good in all respects and the buffet lunch was delicious. And we drank a lot of sparkling water which you need to do in a hot climate. Sparkling or not, you need water.

Contact information of Goldi Sands Hotel, Negombo

Negombo to Kalpitiya

Rice fields Sri Lanka West Coast

Sri Lanka West Coast, rice fields

After Negombo we finally got to the countryside which was what we came to this country for! Pure, green nature all the way on roadsides: rice fields and coconut plantations. We now passed less villages but all villages we went through had a temple or church, or many of them.

West coast palm trees Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka West Coast, coconut plantations

Hindu temple Sri Lanka West Coast

Gate of Hindu temple

Hindu temple peacock statue

Hindu temple peackock

Hindu temple monkey statue

Hindu temple monkey

Hindu temple peacock gate

Peacock gate

Christian church on Sri Lanka West Coast

Christian church, West Coast of Sri Lanka

Temple, Colombo to Kalpitiya

Roadside Buddhist shrine

Hindu temple elephant heads

Hidu temple elephant heads

Temple, Colombo to Kalpitiya

Hindu or maybe Buddhist shrine?


Kalpityia Peninsula

Kalpitiya palms and beach

Kalpitiya palms and beach

Then we reached the peninsula! Kalpitiya Peninsula is a long, narrow strip of land between the Indian Ocean and Puttalam Lagoon. Unspoilt, white, sheltered beaches backed by coconut groves, wherever you look and on both sides of the road. Why did we get here first now?

Cow on Kalpitiya main road, Sri Lanka

Cow in traffic, Kalpitiya

And first now we are meeting cows, a lot of them, on rice fields, between coconut trees and on the roads. The walk without chains and don’t care about cars and they just stop where they want. But we are on holiday and there’s no reason to  hurry…

Road traffic in Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka

Cows on the road!

Cow on the road, Sri Lanka

Kalpitiya cow in equator sunlight

Kalpitiya villages have a slow tempo compared to more developed areas. You can tell these people love their peninsula, their palms, beaches and cows and they can take it easy! Kalpitiya is a perfect tourist destination and still almost undiscovered. So good that we came the long way from Colombo to Kalpitiya!

Kalpitiya Peninsula main road, Sri Lanka

Kalpitiya village life

Kalpitiya main road, Sri Lanka

Tuk tuk parked on the roadside, Kalpitiya

Biking man, Kalpitiya

A biking man and his load

Seafood stall in Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka

Street food stall


Kalpitiya Side Roads

Tuk tuk on Kalpitiya village road

Tuk tuk on a Kalpitiya road

Finding our accommodation was not so easy. Not even our driver had been to this specific place before and we got a bit lost on the bumpy dirt roads that were not the least planned for cars.

So we were driving very slowly and to save the car getting off and walking outside the car where it was the most bumpy – and all tuk tuks did it much better! Probably the locals already know where the worst holes are.

Kalpitiya Peninsula gravel road

Dirt road in Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya road and cattle fence

Cow fence, Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya cattle

Cows by the lagoon 

Fisherman's huts in Kalpitiya

Fishing huts used for drying salt

Kalpitiya fisherman

Kalpitya fisherman with his nets

Kalpitiya fisherman

Sorting out fishing nets

Then finally we found the right place. We followed these white roadside stones – to our booked accommodation the Villa Kalpitiya. What a villa!

Villa Kalpitiya road

Road to the Villa Kalpitiya 

The Villa Kalpityia

It was not a hotel but rather a country house, cottage or villa, but so different from what we normally have in my country and in our climate.

Blue and green window shutters, thatched palm roof made of local materials, outdoor living and dining rooms, a sandy garden with a pool and a sandy beach. What more can you demand, we had found a little paradise.

The Villa Kalpitiya window shutters

Our colorful window shutters

Villa Kalpitiya pool

The Villa Kalpitiya pool 

Villa Kalpitiya pool and wall

Pool backed by white wall

Villa Kalpitiya coconut roof and flowers

A house with coconut leaf roof

Villa Kalpitiya coconut roof and flowers

Coconut leaf roof and bougainvilleas

Kalpitiya temple flower plant

Just planted temple flower

Our young hosts Theresa and Udayang were so nice, they met us with a smile and prepared our coffee, dinner and breakfast in their outdoor kitchen and served us to the long table – where we sat alone, with our driver since we happened to be the only guests that particular night.

They had planted temple flowers in the hot sand, you can see one of the plants above.

Villa Kalpitiya hosts

Our host couple Theresa and Udayang

Villa Kalpitiya dining area

Open dining room and view to beach

Villa Kalpitiya view from upstairs

View from upstairs lobby

What about our room then? All rooms were like in a side building, with doors to a sandy patio. Unlike the public areas our room had all four walls which made me happy. There was a roof too, but all construction was very airy and there was no way to prevent mosquitos from coming in. In addition the bathroom had no roof where the shower was – so the bathroom was partly outdoors.

Knowing what mosquitoes spread in tropics I was so worried but there were the solutions: proper evening clothing, mosquito spray and above all mosquito nets. These solutions totally saved us from those hungry insects.

I never tried a mosquito net before and was worried if I can sleep at all but I managed it and would certainly do it again. Next summer going to my country cottage in Finland I’ll bring a mosquito net and sleep well.

Villa Kalpitiya rooms

Villa Kalpitiya rooms

Villa Kalpitiya room

Night spent inside mosquito nets

Villa Kalpitiya bathroom

Bathroom with both natural and man made rain shower

The Villa Kalpitiya pool after sunset

Pool at sunset

The Villa Kalpitiya pool after sunset

Pool with lights on

We only stayed one night in the Villa Kalpitiya but it’s a place where I definitely would like to stay longer. This is a little paradise on earth and so different from what usual hotels are like. More information on the place on their Facebook page: The Villa Kalpitiya


Our Sri Lanka Round Trip

Our West Coast drive from Colombo to Kalpitiya was the initial section on our Sri Lanka round trip.

To travel around the tropical island of Sri Lanka we used a car and a driver and the total trip duration was two weeks. You can see our whole travel itinerary on this map:


To see what the highlights of Sri Lanka are and how we arranged our trip check out my Sri Lanka main post: What to See in Sri Lanka.


Next Post: Touring Sri Lanka’s Ancient Cities

In my next post our journey will continue to the jungles. We will see Central Sri Lanka and explore the country’s ancient capitals. Touring Sri Lanka’s Ancient Cities

Polonnaruwa stupa, Sri Lanka

A dagoba, Sri Lanka’s ancient cities



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