Kalutara is a large up and coming coastal town. It is known for its relaxed holiday atmosphere and traditional culture with glimpses of colonial charm. The tropical setting includes the bright blue Indian Ocean, palm fringed beaches, the presence of a roaring Kalu Ganga and more than one Kalutara Beach hotel. Sri Lanka, being a primarily Buddhist country, also gives importance to the town because of the imposing white Gangatilake Stupa that marks the town’s entrance.

Among the many things to do, a popular activity is to watch the local artisans in action. Kalutara is home to a large community of basket weavers. Tourists are often captivated by the skills used to expertly twist natural materials into beautiful creations. The Kalutara Basket Center, located right at the center of Kalutara town, a short distance from AVANI Kalutara Resort, is one of the area’s main attractions. It is also a quirky shopping experience where you can expect to find a few memorable souvenirs.

The art of basket weaving has been handed down through the generations and is alive and well today. It has developed into a thriving cottage industry that is the livelihood of many of the town’s residents. Export quality products coming out of Kalutara have even made it to big name handicraft stores in Sri Lanka. The raw materials are mainly types of palm fronds such as ‘Indikola’ and ‘Wetakeiya’, which grow in the area. The fronds are put through a rigorous process of softening, bleaching and dying before they are ready for weaving. An array of products from homeware to accessories can be purchased at the Kalutara Basket Center. Browse floor mats, lampshades, coin purses and shoulder bags; some of which come in bold shades of pink, purple and green. Baskets, which are very much the main focus, come in all different shapes and sizes.

Intrigued by history, art and food, Lavinia Woolf is a writer who is passionate about the extraordinary and writes of the exhilarating and enchanting.