Presenting an infinitely sublime littoral experience, Kalpitiya is a peninsula consisting 14 islands located on the west coast in the Puttalam District of North Western Province, Sri Lanka. The town is situated 130 kilometers north of the Bandaranayake International Airport and approximately 165 kilometers from the commercial capital Colombo, 168 kilometers from Kandy and 225 kilometers from Trincomalee.
Placed in between the Puttalam Lagoon and the glorious Indian Ocean to its east and west respectively, the peninsula stretches to a length of 48 kilometers and is 6-8 kilometers wide. It is home to a remarkable variety of habitats ranging from bar reefs, saltpans, mangrove and salt quagmires, flat coastal plains and sandy beaches.
Dotted with a number of spectacular and vast sand dune beaches, Kalpitiya is home to an exquisite marine sanctuary and natural environment that is unparalleled. The famous Bar Reef in Kalpitiya embraces a rich biodiversity that surpasses that of any coral reef in the waters surrounding India and is considered among the few pristine coral reef systems in Sri Lanka.
Regular sightings of Sperm whales, dolphins such as Spinners, Bottlenose and Indo-Pacific Humpbacks, and sporadic sightings of Blue whales in its coastal waters has given rise to Kalpitiya being considered the prime destination for offshore whale and dolphin watching on the island. The starting point of these boating excursions is the famous Alankuda Beach. Other enchanting marine wildlife including sea turtles, Manta rays, Reef Sharks, exotic fish, pelagic sea birds and enigmatic Dugongs that are popularly referred to as the ‘cows of the sea’, can also be found wandering the splendid seawaters of Kalpitiya and explored via snorkeling or scuba diving.
Kalpitiya is also the leading spot for Kite-surfing in Sri Lanka. In addition to this, watersports such as Stand-Up Paddling, Wind-Surfing, Diving, Sailing and simple surfing could also be experienced here. One can even embark upon a deep sea fishing excursion in Kalpitiya.
Kalpitiya Lagoon, referred to also as the Puttalam Lagoon is another popular attraction. Situated to the east of the peninsula, this tranquil marsh oasis contains brackish water, extensive mangroves forests and sea-grasses, and can be explored via a canoe or boating excursions. The lagoon is enclosed by coconut plantations, open forests, grasslands, shrub-lands and attracts a wide variety of Anatidae.
The shorefront of Wilpattu National Park, one of the largest and oldest National Parks in Sri Lanka, can be approached via a boating excursion through the lagoon. Wilpattu National Park is highly distinguished for its unique “willus” (natural lakes) and leopard population.
The Puttalam Salt Pans with its dazzling white salt dunes are situated in close vicinity to Kalpitiya is a fascinating site to visit. Kalpitiya peninsula is often wandered by beguiling wild donkeys endemic to Puttalam that were once used to haul salt from Palavi.
In ancient times Kalpitiya was known Kal Putti by ancient Tamils and also as Arasadi, which translates to “place of Arasa Tree” in Tamil. Arasa Tree also referred to as sacred fig/ Bodhi tree, is considered to have religious significance in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism which originated in the Indian region. According to records, Kalpitiya peninsula was linked to maritime trade and smuggling escapades since ancient times.
Kalpitiya was first colonized by the Portuguese in the 17th century, which was later followed by Dutch and British occupation. Kalpitya was known as Calpentyn during the colonial era and the northern end of the peninsula was utilized as a strategic base for a military fortress and naval garrison to control trade supplies such as salt and cinnamon to the mainland. A Dutch church from this era remains today, along with the well-preserved Dutch Fort which is currently occupied by the Sri Lanka Navy.
The Portuguese heritage is paid tribute and still kept alive by means of the effervescent St. Anne’s Day held annually at the ancient St. Anne’s church at Talawila on July 26. This vibrant occasion attracts thousands of Catholic pilgrims from across the island.
How to get there
There are a few options of travelling from Colombo to Kalpitiya which are via car, bus, train and air.
By car – Renting a car to travel directly to Kalpitiya would be the easiest and most comfortable option. The main route is to drive straight via the Colombo – Puttalam Road (A3 Highway) and take left turn onto Palavi-Kalpitiya Road (B349) before the Palaviya Railway Station. The journey would 3 and half hours to 4 hours. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can help you make arrangements to rent a car.
By bus – Travelling by bus would be the much cheaper option and depending on the time of day the journey could take 3-4 hours. Private buses are usually faster and more comfortable than the government buses (red buses). There are direct busses departing from Pettah Bus Station in Colombo and to Kalpitiya several times a day. Alternatively, you can also step aboard any buses heading from Pettah Bus Station to Puttalam, Jaffna, Vavuniya and Anuradhapura, and get off at the Palaviya Junction. Palaviya is the town just before Puttalam and is also the main turn off onto Kalpitiya Road (Palavi-Kalpitiya Road: B349). From Palaviya you can take any bus heading towards Kalpitiya, or even a tuk tuk. However, please note that there are no buses commuting from Palavi to Kalpitiya after 6pm. The tuk ride should cost you an addition of approximately 250 LKR.
By train – Another cheap mode of travelling, taking the train up to Kalpitiya is another option. You can board the train from the Colombo Fort Railway Station and get off at Palavi Railway Station just before Puttalam. From Palaviya you can take either a bus or tuk tuk to Kalpitiya. The Colombo – Puttalam – Mannar line runs a few times a day, you can find out train schedules on Sri Lankan Government Railway website. Taking the train offers more space in terms of seating and luggage compared to taking the bus; however the train ride is quite slow and may take up to 4-5 hours.
By air – Unfortunately there are no flights heading from Colombo to Kalpitiya seeing as the nearest airport to both cities is the Bandaranaike International Airport which lies in between.
From Kandy – 168 kilometers lies in-between Kalpitiya and Kandy. The easiest option would be to rent a car to drive to Kandy, which would take approximately 3.5 half hours. Taking public transport from Kandy would be rather tedious and tiring seeing as the distance between is quite large and would also require a combination of train and bus rides to arrive at Kalpitiya. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can help you make arrangements to rent a car for you to drive from Kandy to Kalpitiya.
The best season to visit Kalpitiya is during the dry season, from October to May. The average annual temperature here is 28 °C. Temperatures in Kalpitiya are usually always high, with temperatures fluctuating very little.
The area experiences high humidity throughout the year, with low chance of rainfall most of the year considering the heat and humidity. The warmest month is May and the coldest in January. The least and most humid months are March and December respectively.
Food and Drink
The food in Kalpitiya extends from local cuisines to Asian, Middle-Eastern and Western cuisines. Kalpitiya is popular for its scrumptious seafood available in the various restaurants across town. It is a paradise for seafood lovers, with freshly-caught seafood ranging from fish, clams, shellfish, prawns and more.
Popular restaurants among tourists are Kite House Café, Dolphin Beach Resort Restaurant, Welle Wadiya Beach Restaurant, Lak Laguna Bar-Restaurant, Angel Rest Restaurant, Mamas Here Restaurant, Ruuk Village Restaurant, Balagoon Café, Kite-surfing Lanka Restaurant, DE SILVA Restaurant, The BNKR Café and Blue Whale Bar-Restaurant.
Dolphin and Whale watching – Embark upon an ocean adventure to witness the enchanting dolphins and whales that wander the azure waters in Kalpitiya. Regular sightings of whales such as Sperm whales and Blue whales are experienced here. Be charmed by the spirited acrobatic stunts of dolphins such as Spinners, Bottlenose and Indo-Pacific Humpbacks that roam these waters. The season for Dolphin watching is from November to March/April.
Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary – Dive or snorkel and explore the vibrant marine wildlife that exists below the Kalpitiya waters at the famous Bar Reef, the largest coral reefs system in Sri Lanka. This exquisite coral reef system embraces a vast biodiversity superior to that of any coral reef in the waters surrounding India and was declared a marine sanctuary in 1992. Exotic fish, pods of dolphins and whales, dugongs and many other marine life can be witnessed here.
Kite surfing – Experience this epic extreme sport at Kalpitiya, which is well known as the leading spot for Kite-surfing in Sri Lanka and embraces the best conditions for the sport in tropical waters. This is bound to be unforgettable experience for both beginners and adrenaline junkies alike. The kite surfing season is from May to October.
Puttalam Lagoon (Kalpitiya Lagoon) – Escape the hustle-bustle of Kalpitiya town and cruise the serene waters of the Kalpitiya Lagoon via canoe or boar ride. Feast your eyes on the mangrove forests and shrub-lands and the various water birds that visit the area.
Kalpitiya and Alankuda Beach – The famous Alankuda beach is the most idyllic of beaches in Kalpitiya and popular among tourists. Bask in the sun, take a stroll, explore the marine life or and take a relaxing dip in the coastal waters of Alankuda beach.
Bird watching in Kalpitiya – Cycle across the peninsula in search of birds or experience a tour lead by local experts and be a spectator of the plethora of pelagic birds that migrate to this area.
Kalpitiya Dutch Fort & the Dutch Reformed Church (St. Peter’s Kerk) – Walk the brilliant ramparts at sunrise and roam the remains of the Kalpitiya Fort erected by the Dutch once upon a time. Explore the rich history that surrounds this historical location. The Dutch Reformed Church is also a religious historic sight to behold and is one of the largest Protestant churches on the island.
Deep sea fishing excursions – Cast your line into the deep blue waters of the Kalpitiya seas and learn the intriguing ancient fishing practices followed by the local fisherman in Kalpitiya.
Puttalam Salt Pans – Wander among the picturesque ivory salt mounds and understand process involved in the production of salt in Puttalam.