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Whitewater rafting in Kitulgala and Nature holiday 

Whitewater rafting in Kitulgala and Nature holiday

Sri Lanka is still known to many people around the world as CEYLON, as it was called during the British rule. Sri Lanka or Ceylon is a popular destination for holidays even during the British rule and many records show the arrival of popular personalities such as British queen to the island. Sri Lanka attracts a large number of tourists every year and tourism has become a very important source of income for the country.

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Being a tropical island, today Sri Lanka hold a reputation as one of the best beach holiday destination in Asia. Same times the cultural sites and historical places of the island gained an importance during the last several decades. But most other resources that are very potential for the progress of the tourism industry such as rainforests, adventure sites, national parks are overlooked. In this article, we discuss whitewater rafting in Sri Lanka at the well-known adventure playground of  Kitulgala. There are several places on the island where you can do whitewater rafting, but none of them is far superior to Kitulgala for this adrenaline-pumping adventure.

Whitewater rafting in Kitulgala and other adventure activities in Kitulgala is one of Sri Lanka’s best-kept secrets. It is a magical landscape with mountains and escapement that covered with tropical rainforest vegetation. The region is full of perennial waterways, shimmering rivers, waterfalls that running through the forested hills.

Inland water resources such as rivers, canals, and tanks, are also underutilized for recreation activities in the country. But, still, there is an upward trend of doing kayaking, whitewater rafting, fishing and boating in inland water resources, according to the experts it has a long way to go. Kitulgala is the most popular destination for whitewater rafting in Sri Lanka. Several private companies provide the well-trained personnel to conducts this excursion in a very safe manner. Rafting at Kitulgala is suitable for novices as well as more experienced. Depending on the requirement you will be given a difficult or less adventurous terrain.

Kitulgala is a remote and sleepy town in the western Sri Lanka, which is about 80km from the commercial capital, Colombo. Most adventure lovers heading for Kitulgala in order to appease their never-ending desire for adventurous activities. Settled in a forested locality bordering the Kelani River, the visitors of Kitulgala are bestowed with beautiful scenery and many sites for adventure sports. This photogenic region is a settlement for a large number of mountains, and a top hiking spot for the ramblers on the island.

Kitulgala is the main playground for adventure enthusiast heading to the island. For people who are holidaying on the beach, it is just a 3 hours drive from west or south coast to experience an adventurous whitewater rafting in Sri Lanka at Kitulgala. You can explore Kitulgala in a day excursion from your beach resort and actively take part in many adrenaline-pumping activities such as whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, trekking, mountain biking, caving. Kitulgala was a world popular filming location in 18s, as it was the site where the part of the film, ‘bridge over the river Quai’ was filmed. A part of the file was done in Thailand and rest of the filming was done in Kitulgala.

It is just two hours inland from the west coast, you can enjoy days exploring the beautiful tropical forests, mountains, valleys, and beautiful villages. There are several caves near Kitulgala that dates back to many thousand years. For instance, Belilena is a cave, which inhabited by most ancient human inhabitants of the country, is well worth a visit.

Public transport in this less populated area is limited; hiring a vehicle is the best option to reach this picturesque area. There are a number of treks for hiking, cycling and walking in the area. A large number of mountains provides the possibility to do mountain climbing for adventure holiday enthusiast.

Kitulgala is an ideal holiday destination if you look nature retreat or holidays with outdoor activities. One of the longest rivers of Sri Lanka, Kelani River flows through Kitulgala; it can be used to do fishing and other water sports such as kayaking, and whitewater rafting.

Streams and rivers with crystal clear water are shaded by thick tropical rainforest vegetation. The area is full of green and ideal for nature lovers. There are several natural swimming pools for refreshing swimming opportunities in the area. Visitors of Kitulgala have plenty of opportunities keep to themselves occupied with various activities even for many days. The trips can be organized into surrounding attractions such as mountain villages, ancient caves, waterfalls, rainforests and a Buddhist temple.

Even though there is a lot of important places to visit and see within Colombo, one can have an interesting day trip, travelling to Kitulgala that located west of Colombo. This would be an ideal escape from your routine activities in the office. You can get the taste of Sri Lanka’s natural wealth that Colombo does not offer.

Apart from the adventurous activities, Kitulgala is another great location for rainforest exploration and bird watching. The City is lack of luxurious accommodation despite the abundance of natural attractions. The city has a type of visitors, who are the thirst for adventure activities, sightseeing and nature trails rather than relaxing in a luxurious hotel. Many Eco-friendly small hotels are dotting along the Kelaniya river, providing accommodation at an affordable rate. Most tourists passing by stop here and enjoy the sights of fauna and flora residing in the unspoiled rain forests with the looming mountains in the backdrop.

jungle trek kitulgala

Kitulgala is one of the least explored destinations among the foreign travellers too, compared to places such as Kandy, Sigiriya, Bentota. Most foreign tourists, as well as local travellers, are not aware of its potentiality for adventure tourism. Even though there had been an upbeat on tourism in the recent past the resort is set to become a hotspot. Kitulgala is cheap, accommodation, food, adventure activities all are affordable compared to other tourists hot-spots in the island.

If you look for challenging mountaineering activities places like Kitulgala can be promising places for your holiday. Located about 80m kilometres from Colombo, Kitulgala is one of the most greenish remote villages in the country. There is a very rugged terrain in Kitulgala with abruptly rising mountains with green caps. Large rocks originated millions of years ago are a prominent sight in the low lying area of Kitulgala. It was here, a part of the world-renowned Oscar-winning film “Bridge on the River Quai” was filmed.

trekking in kitulgala

How to get there?

This beautiful laid-back village located about 80km from Colombo on the A7 main road. Kitulgala is located in the foothills of Central highland. You will meet this fascinating holiday spot on the way to Nuwara Eliya, of central highland from low-country via Ginigathhena, about half-way down the track. Therefore the travellers who are travelling from low-country to Nuwara Eliya or vice-versa can easily arrange several activities in Kitulgala on their way either to low-country or Nuwara Eliya. Several activities such as whitewater rafting, trekking or bird watching can be done within several hours, so that one can accommodate those activities in their tour itinerary without much trouble.

First thing I need to tell you here that getting to Kitulgala is not easy: There are no trains to go to Kitulgala yet public buses can be used to get there. One can get a bus from the main bus station in Pettah. Hatton/Nawalapitiya bound busses or busses plying to Nuwara Eliya via Avissawella can serve you. Taxi is the best option with regards to the transportation to Kitulagala, it is faster and comfortable.

Adding Kitulgala to multi-day Sri Lank tours

For travellers who take part in multi-day Sri Lanka road trips, have a better chance of coming across kitulgala. Because central mountain includes in most Sri Lanka tour packages. Kitulgala is located in the foothills of the Central mountain range and one can reach Kitulgal from any of the cities in the mountains within a few hours time.

Kitulgala is a place for an adventure holiday in Sri Lanka and it is one of the most beautiful laid-back cities on the island. It is about 2 hours drive to Kitulgala from Colombo. Kitulgala is located in the wet zone of West Sri Lanka and gets nearly 5000mm of rainfall a year thereby making the wettest region in the wet zone. Kitulgala is surrounded by Evergreen low land rainforests and the region is abundant with mountains, escapement and rainforests.

The city of Kitulgala is a popular place among the people in Sri Lanka and abroad, while it was selected as the venue for the world-renowned, award-winning film “The Bridge on the River Kwai“. It was filmed on the Kalyani Ganga near Kitulgala. Unfortunately, there is nothing remains from the site, where the filming took place.

Many tourists make a day excursion to Kitulgala and local People make their way to Kitulgala in the weekend to enjoy the nature and make some adventure sports.

Organized tours and excursions are the most popular way to visit Kitulgaala. Most travellers visit kitulgala on organized tours while some of the tourists hire private vehicles to get there. Most tourists occurring here are the adventure enthusiasts and young crowd, heavily European crowd. I guess most older travellers stay away from Kitulgala because most activities offered here demand good physical strength and movability.

Kayaking kitulga

What are the adventure activities available in Kitulagala?

Whitewater Rafting Kitulgala Sri Lanka

As the title of this article suggests the main ingredient of the article should be whitewater rafting in Kitulgala and here after I’m going to stick to it. Kitulgala is the whitewater rafting hotspot and many travellers head on to this serene locality for a quick day trip. If you are stationed in Bentota or any other beach resort in the west or south coast, you are not far from Kitulgala and it is a good idea to take this two days adventure tour with whitewater rafting to add a uniquely memorable and experience to your Sri Lanka holiday package.

With whitewater rafting in Kitulgala, you can relinquish quit, Whitewater experience with its 5 major rapids and 4 minor rapids. November to April is the best time to engage in water-rafting in Kitulgala, because of the boost resulted in due to weather pattern during this period; rainfall is lowered making a river to flows in style and moderate speed rather than in wild nature.  It is little chilly unlike the basking sunshine in Beach holiday spots like Bentota beach and Negombo beach, but it will not do much harm for your fun.  If you do whitewater rafting in Sri Lanka in a day excursion from your beach hotel and not stay nearby, pack extra layers and dry cloths to use after the adventure.

One can expect to have beautiful scenery around Kitulgala. It provides ample opportunities to make adventure activities such as Jungle walk, Waterfall, jumps, Sliding, Whitewater Rafting, Mountain climbing, Hiking, Trekking and Mountain biking. Kitulgala considered as one of the best palaces for biking, with many tracks through the mountains, escapement, tea plantations, slopes, valleys, as well as jungles. Mountainous terrains in Kitulgala provide maximum adventure experience for the bikers and some of these terrains being considered as finest biking sites in the world.

Kitulgala is the place where you can expose your self for a stretch of wild waters of Kelaniya river. The river is deep and water flow is much much calm toward the leeward side, but towards the latter part, the river starts to flow hurridly through the formation of rocks creating miniature waterfalls.

whitwwater rafting kitulgala

Whitewater rafting in kitulgala can be done throughout the year, but there are instances that whitewater rafting is dangerous due to the extreme roughness of the water during the monsoon season. Sometimes whitewater rafting can be hindered due to the low level of water in the river too, during the drought. Therefore it is very important to choose the best time of the year to set off on your whitewater rafting session. Generally, the period from November to April is the best period of the year for whitewater rafting in Kitugala. During this time the river provides the best conditions for exhilarating adventure with plenty of water to drive you down swiftly. The whitewater rafting in Kitulgala is categorized under grade six based on the difficulty and the danger posed.

Physical fitness and good health are very important in order to undertake whitewater rafting. People with heart ailments, epilepsy and people who have difficulties in turbulent waters should avoid whitewater rafting.

Rafting can be tricky if it is your first time, especially the way of paddling has to be changed depending on the conditions of the waves. During the rapid drift, you are not allowed to loosen the grip on the paddle and you are likely to get drenched more. With the experienced mentor at the helm, you will find the proper rhythm to paddle very soon. Positioning your feet correctly under the raft is important to keep your balance during the turbulence upon reaching big waves.  Life jackets and helmets are essential materials due to the looming rocks out of the water.

You tend to scream as you go through the rapids and happy afterwards knowing you are through.  Natural pools formed by the formation of rocks along the river allow you to take a break and to have a bath in the refreshing water. The river banks on both sides are set on a higher elevated ground and covered with lush vegetation. You would see the pure green cover and hear bird songs as you drift down fast. The rate of your heartbeat can hit an atypical level as you hear the roaring sound of the minor waterfall in the distance, some people filled with enthusiasm hearing the sound while some others plunge into fear and exhilaration in full swing.  Kitulgala offers plenty of activities and can keep people engaged for weeks, so be sure to add it to your Sri Lanka tour itinerary. Don’t try planning to hang on here for a long time; it can be a blow to your budget due to many inviting adventures.

Below are the specification of whitewater rafting grading 1 to 6

Grade One: roughness of the water is low, ability to slight manoeuvring is sufficient. (very basic skill level)

Grade Two: roughness of the water is greater than of grade 1, some rock formation can be seen, basic paddling skill required with some ability on manoeuvring.

Grade Three: small waves are visible, the white water there can be small drops along the way. should have significant manoeuvring skills.

Grade Four: Medium waves with white water, considerable manoeuvring skills required, considerable drops and water move faster, therefore, good paddling skills required.

Grade Five: Large waves, a large volume of water that flows very fast, white water, high drops due to large rock formations. the chances for capsizing is great therefore ability on precise manoeuvring is essential.

Grade Six: highest grade of white water rafting very difficult to navigate, not suitable for novices and undertaken by experienced adventure enthusiast.

Trekking and mountain climbing in Kitulagala

Kitulgala provides many sites for mountain climbers. There are many mountains in the area and one can experience the enjoyment of mountaineering adventure. Mountaineering in Kitulgala allows the climbers to explore the fascinating mountain ranges. The mountains in Kitulgala, offer breathtaking, enthralling, climbing routes. Kelani River and the waterfalls around Kitulgala are other key attractions that enhance the experience of trackers and hikers.

Kitulgala is rich in history and tradition, and it is a paradise for the nature photographer’s with plenty of visual delights: tumbling waterfalls, mountains, tea estates, and sweeping gorges.

kingfisher, five lesser known natural attractions

Is Kitulgala good for Birdwatching?

YES! Kitulgala and surrounding provide one of the best sites for bird watching on the island. Most of the endemic bird species are sighted in Kitulgala making it most visited places among the nature lovers. The Ceylon Spur Fowl, Crested Serpent Eagle, the Ceylon Hanging Parrot and the Lay lard’s Parakeet are some of the mostly sighted rare birds around the Kitulgala Adventure lovers can explore deepest rivers, highest mountains, wildlife, and one of the best bio-diversity hot spot in the world. A seven kilometre Mountain bike track from Kitulgala takes you to Beli Lena.

Caving sites in Kitulgala

Beli Lena one of the few places, where the pre-historic man lived on the island. The cave is situated two thousand meters above the sea level and surrounded by rubber plantation. The cave was occupied by the pre-historic man called ‘Balangoda man’ or ‘Homo Sapians balangodensis’. During the excavation on the site, archaeologists have found 16,000 years old skeletal with some other stone implements.

Some other caves produce even older specimens, for example, Fa hien-lena with 37000 years old skeletal, Batadombalena with 31000 years old skeletal. Artefacts found in this cave are also dating back to the pre-Christian era. Archaeologists have discovered some pre-historic tools that are 30000 years old from the Batadombalena. These artefacts provide valuable evidence about the South Indian civilization existed in the pre-Christian era.

accommodation kitulgala

Accommodation in Kitulgala

As I have already mentioned above Kitulgala mainly caters to the adventure lovers. Most travellers arriving here are young travellers; even the most of our customers who book this 6 days adventure tour are young travellers. There are no noteworthy cultural or historical attractions near Kitulgala. If you kind of person, who love to explore the culture and history of the foreign country you better head on to cities in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka or Kandy.  On the other hand, if you are a traveller who enjoys city life again Kitulgala is not a thing you love, because Kitulgala hardly shows the characteristics of busy cities.  If you love to sleep in the lap of Mother Nature, hear the bird songs; enjoy the rhythm of water flow while engaging in adrenaline-pumping activities Kitulgala is the best bet for you.

Almost all places (Kiuylgala, Udawalawe, Sinharaja ) that you come across in this 6 days Sri Lanka adventure tour is suitable for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. None of these places offers activities for cultural and historical enthusiasts.

When it comes to accommodation in Kitulgala; don’t expect big scale accommodation providers like in beach resort areas or cultural cities of Sri Lanka. In Kitulagala you get only a limited number of accommodation providers and they also have properties with limited room inventory. Most properties have 10-15 guest rooms. Most properties provide standard facilities with air-conditioning, hot/cold water, and meals. There are only very few luxury hotels in Kitulgala, due to the low-demand. Due to the type of travellers who come to Kitulgala; that mainly looking for adventure activities and rainforest treks, the demand for luxury accommodation is at a very low level. Most travellers, who come here are price sensitive and not pay attention to luxury but look for a thrilling adventure with exposure to true nature.

In this 6 days Sri Lanka adventure tour you will be accommodated in a 3* standard hotel near the Kelaniya River. The hotel is built in a calm and quiet place making you the space to enjoy inner-peace. The hotel provides a nice and clean spacious room with AC, hot/Coldwater, twin beds, telephone facilities, Free WIFI, private VC, dining fasciitis, parking space, driver accommodation etc.

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

This blog is all about travelling in Sri Lanka, I am trying to illuminate my readers with a wide range of information related to Sri Lanka travel. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you need more information. Furthermore, we can organize your holiday package or any travel related requirement in Sri Lanka. Please contact us on

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