Bentota is Sri Lanka’s favourite beach for those who like to spend relaxing holidays in a comfortable beach resort with a wide range of Ayureveda and sports and fun facilities.
Guests who intend to see the hinterland and learn more about the country’s cultur have lots of opportunities to do this on half-day or full-day excursions starting and ending at their hotel in Bentota.
So what could Bentota holiday makers during their beach holidays do for a change. Here’s a list of proposals. All of them are half-day trips allowing you to relax in your resort or at Bentota Beach in the afternoon. All destinations (or starting points for boat trips) mentioned in the list can be reaches by Tuktuk, because the distances are not too far. (A list of half-day excursions by car will follow next week, full-day excursions from Bentota will be presented in a last separate Bentota blog article one week later.)
Beruwela lighthouse: The Beruwela Lighthouse tower, one of only four international lighthouses in Sri Lanka, is located on the small Barberyne Island, 500 m away from Beruwela beach. Boat trips to the lighthouse can be arranged, it takes about 10 minutes for one way. Barberyne Island, picturesquely covered with coconut and mango trees, is inhabited by lighthouse keepers. A circular gravel path leads to the Beruwela lighthouse, which stand about 15 m above sea level. The 38 m tall Beruwela lighthouse was built by the British in 1928, who continued to operate it even after Ceylon’s independence, until 1972. 140 steps lead to the top level, which offers spectacular scenes of Sri Lanka’s south-western coastline. Barberyne Island is ideal island to have a picnic or to meditate.
Beruwela is within tuktuk driving distance, just north from Bentota at the opposite side of the Bentota river. Beruwala is a commercial fishing harbour and was once the island’s major seaport for international Muslim trade in the Indian ocean. Beruwala is proud to be a traditional centre of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority. The best time to visit the harbour is the early morning between 6.00 and 7.00 am, when the night fishing boats return and sell fresh fish directly.
Toddy is a palm wine created from the sap of various species of palm trees, paticularly borassus and coconut palms. The sap is collected from the cut flower of the palm tree. Palm wine cay be distilled to create a stronger alcoholic beverage, which is called Arrack. Coconut trees are high and far apart. In order to avoid climbing to the treetops repeatedly, toddy tappers have evolved a quicker but a risky method of transferring themselves from one treetop to another without climbing down. They tie two ropes between two treetops, one for placing their feet and one for thei hands to hold them from falling. Watching them doing their work is simply breath-taking.
Besides tea and coconut, rubber is one of Ari Lanka’s agricultural products cultivated in large estates. Rubber is still a natural product that can not be replaced by man-made materials. When the barks of rubber trees are cut, the latex will flow out and is collected in a vessel. Rubber plantations are wide-spread in the hilly hinterland of Bentota. You can easily organize a trip to a rubber estate or see it on the way to destiantions such as Ratnapura or Kitulgala.
Bullock carts, also known as ox carts or a bullock wagons, are a traditional means of transportation people and goods. They are still used today in Sri Lanka’s rural areas, as a cheap vehicle, and some owner offer bullock cart tours for foreigners. Your hotel staff should be able to organize a bullock cart ride for you.
Benthara Galapatha Rajamaha Vihara
The ancient Benthara Galapatha Buddhist temple is a cultural must-see for Bentota’s holiday makers in only 4 km distance from Bentota beach. It is situated on a rocky plateau overlooking the Bentota river. Its dagoba is said to shelter a tooth of Maha Kassyapa, a famous disciple of Buddha, who was in charge of the order after the passing away of the Buddha. According to inscriptional evidence, the original temple is from the Polonnaruwa period. It was destroyed by Christians in the 16th century. The temple that can be seen now is from the Kandy period depicting Jataka tales and flowers. The two image housee contain a number of brightly coloured statues. A sleeping Buddha is 8 m long. The monks’ residence, called Avasa, shows touches of colonial elements such as collonades and vaulted windows. A unique feature of Benthara Galapatha Raja Maha Vihara is a natural stone filter called “Galperanaya”. It is an oval basin without punctures but porous enough, that after some minuted clear water drops to the bottom basin.
The Sapugoda temple, located in only 800 m distance from the Beruwela port, is named after the monk Sapugoda Anandha Thero, who established it in 1750, during the reign of Kandy’s King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe. Due to the Portuguese destructions of non-Christian sanctuaries, the Galapatha Temple had been the only temple in the surrounding od Bentota where Buddhists could carry out their rituals. With the assistance of the Galapatha Temple, Sapugoda was able to established his new Vihara on a grand scale in Nallahena village. The colourful image house is adorned with typical Kandy paintings.There are three huge statues in the Sapugoda Viharaya, a sitting Buddha in Samadhi posture, a standing Buddha. and a reclining Buddha. The Samadhi statue is 2 m tall, the standing statue is more than 5 m high. The length of the reclining statue is almost 9 m. In addition, there are statues of the four Hindu deities most venerated by Sinhalese Buddhists, namely Saman, Vishnu, Vibheeshana, God Kataragma. Another statue depicts a local god called Nathadeva. A unique feature are 24 statues of Buddhas (Suwisi Buduwarus) who lived before our present world cycle, which has 4 past and one future Buddha.
Sri Lanka’s oldest mosque, Kechimali mosque, is located between Beruwela beach and Beruwela’s port, on top of the 30m high isolated rock called “Beruwela point”. Beruwela is the first recorded Muslim settlement on the island of Sri Lanka. The Kechimalai Mosque is built near the site of the landing of the very first Arab traders, who arrived in the 8th century. This was the early period of the Bagdad caliphate. However, a muslim saint buried at the site of Kechimalai mosque in the 9th century, is believed to be a Yemenite sheikh.. (Yemen and Oman, countries of origin of many Arab seafarers, were not under full control of the Caliph in Bagdad.) The Kechimalai Mosque was renovated by the British as a gift to the Muslim community living in this area. Other muslim prayer hall in Beruwela are Hiliriya Mosque Moliyamalla and Ul-Abrar Mosque.
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