Kitulgala is located 95km away from Colombo, halfway along the Avissawella–Hatton motor road in the Sabaragamuwa province.
Kitulgala is reached by Colombo–Avissawella–Hatton main motor road. Being set about halfway along the Hatton of Central Highlands of Sri Lanka to Avissawella of low lands of Sri Lanka, Kitulgala is surrounded by wooded hills making way to the swift waters of River Kelani Ganga. Surrounded by low wooded hills, Kitulgala is a village of lush vegetation.
Kitulgala, the light adventure attraction
Kitulgala being blessed with two monsoons each year records the highest rainfall in Sri Lanka. However January to March is the dry period that makes Kitulgala Sri Lanka’s foremost tourist attraction of those who venture into White Water Rafting. In addition to the white water rafting Kitulgala affords the opportunity to engage in nature adventure, jungle trekking, outdoor camping, mountain biking and Bird Watching.
Birdlife at Kitulgala
Many birders stay at Kitulgala. Just across the Kelani River is a primeval forest with lush tropical flora, home to about 54 rare species of birds. Though in a lesser density, most of the rain forest bird species that are found at the Sinharaja rainforest can be sighted at Kitulgala. Elusive endemic species like Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Green–billed coucal and Spot–winged Thrush too are seen in the woods. The hills above the rubber plantations are populated with Mountain Hawk Eagle, Crested Treeswift and Layard’s Parakeet.
Whitewater rafting at Kitulgala
The stretch of Kelani River 5km upstream from the village of Kitulgala provides seven grade two and three rapids for white water rafting. The upper section is suited to the experienced white water rafting adventurers. The lower section is suited for the beginners of white water rafting. In between the rapids are few calm stretches of 6.5 km Kitulgala run that takes about 90 minutes to complete. Each rapid brings off its own distinctive character. Their colourful names–Head Chopper, Virgin’s Breast, Butter Crunch, Killer Fall and the Rib Cage–could perhaps carry indications as what to expect.
The river flowing through the village is exceptionably enjoyable. Though generally broad, at Kitulgala, Kelani River is shallow for the major part of its width and provides safe locations to swim and enjoy the waters and surroundings especially in the first three months of the year. The other bank can be accessed from the village by fording out in the shallow waters and then by a traditional outrigger canoe. The name of Kitulgala is derived from the Kitul Palm tree (Sinhala: Sago Palm tree) that abound in the village of Kitulgala. Kitul palm syrup is a necessary ingredient in preparations of numerous traditional Sinhalese sweets.
Numerous varieties of Banana together with other fruits and vegetable are grown in the village of Kitulgala. The restaurants and Hotels at Kitulgala are famous for traditional Sinhalese rice and curry supplemented by the dessert of curd sweetened with Kitul palm honey.
Movie location at Kitulgala
Kitulgala has been famous for being the location where the award winning classic movie "Bridge on the River Kwai" directed by David Lean was filmed. The picturesque location of the movie by the river is accessible to all visitors.
Excursions from Kitulgala
Beli Lena caves, 8km from Kitulgala revealed the remains (ten skeletons) of prehistoric "Balangoda Man" (Homo sapiens balangodensis), Sri Lanka’s oldest inhabitant, deduced to have lived there 32,000 years ago.