Just over 40km from Colombo, bustling KALUTARA is the first town you reach travelling south to retain a recognizably separate identity from the capital. It’s one of the west coast’s largest settlements, but the long stretch of beach north of town remains reasonably unspoilt, dotted with a string of upmarket hotels. Sitting next to the broad estuary of the Kalu Ganga, or “Black River”, from which it takes its name, Kalutara was formerly an important spice-trading centre, controlled at various times by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Nowadays, it’s more famous as the source of the island’s finest mangosteens.

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