Kitulgala is a top destination for adventure activities in Sri Lanka. Enjoy a variety of thrilling activities such as white water rafting down the majestic Kelani River rapids, in addition to canyoning, jungle treks and bird watching in Sri Lanka.
Kithulgala is the main white water rafting destination in Sri Lanka. Rafting along the Kelani River is a thrilling activity, which can be enjoyed by all levels of competency. The upper section of the river has 5 major rapids, which are more suitable for experienced rafters, while 4 minor rapids (Grade 3) are located in the lower section of the river, which are ideal for beginners and intermediate rafters.
White water rafting on the Kelani River is suitable for anyone who is 10+ years old, and comes with safety gear, life jackets, modern rafts and a comprehensive briefing by experienced rafting instructors prior to each session.
Enjoy stunning views as you glide by the calm stretches, and take in the breathtaking natural landscapes of forested hills. Watch out for the famous bridge location of the 1957 Academy Award winning movie ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’, which is an excellent place to jump in for a swim.
Canyoning (Rock Sliding)
Following your white water rafting experience, you can opt for extra thrills by trying your hand at canyoning (rock sliding).
This involves a short jungle trek to another small river in the vicinity, which has several natural pools with plunge pools, waterfalls and canyons.
After a comprehensive safety briefing, you will slide down rocks to enter the beautiful natural plunge pools, and jump off the top of small waterfalls into a natural pool for ultimate thrills.
You can also try scrambling, abseiling, climbing or simply enjoy a swim in the clean and refreshingly cool water.
Another popular activity in Kithulgala is bird watching, where over 50 rare species of birds can be seen. This is perfect for nature lovers, who will be able to spot rainforest bird species such as the Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Spot-winged Thrush and Green-billed coucal.
Sri Lankas’ most recently discovered bird – The Serendip scops owl can also be found here. Species such as the Mountain Hawk Eagle, Layard’s Parakeet and Crested Treeswift can be seen on the hill above the rubber plantations. Sri Lanka’s endemic bird species such as the Chestnut-backed owlet and the Sri Lanka Orange-billed babbler, and a variety of butterflies can also be spotted in Kitulgala.
The Beli Lena Cave
Situated less than 1.5 km away from Palmstone Retreat and the town of Kitulgala is the Beli Lena cave. This is one of the largest prehistoric caves in the country, and was the site where the 12,000 year old skeletal remains of the Balangoda Man were found.
Recent excavations here have found several fossils that are said to be more than 32,000 years old. The cave is accessed by a 1 km steep path on the hillside, which looks down over stunning views of the lush tea and rubber plantations.
White water kayaking
Intermediate to advanced kayakers will enjoy white water kayaking in Kithulgala along the Kelani River and surrounding rivers, which offer exciting kayaking in the countryside amidst steep mountains, thick jungle and tea and rubber plantations.
The Kelani River has seven distinct challenging Class II and III rapids over 7 km, which lets you surf a few waves while watching out for the next horizon line. The upper section of the Kelani River, with five world-class Class IV rapids over a 7 km run, offers a more thrilling experience.
The nearby monsoonal Seethawaka River is another kayaking haven best run during or just after the wet season, with several Class III-V rapids for expert kayakers which are bound to get your adrenaline pumping.
Hiking enthusiasts of all fitness levels will be delighted with what Kithulgala has to offer, with a variety of walks through stunning scenery. Enjoy guided hikes through the verdant forests around Kithulgala, where you can climb up and be spellbound by stunning views of the Kelani River valley, the jungle and the rocky hills of the Hill Country.
Walk through dense tea and rubber plantations and take a leisurely stroll through the communities to reach Beli Lena Caves, which is one of the largest prehistoric caves in Sri Lanka. Cool down under a refreshing stream under the waterfall here that drops over the mouth of the main cave, before heading to Sandun Ella Waterfall, which is a gorgeous 100 ft waterfall, with an infinity pool that has stunning views of the valley and surrounding mountains.
The Makandawa Rainforest Reserve is another popular hiking destination, where you can walk under a thick canopy of lush forest and observe a vast number of endemic species of birds.
Those looking for an adrenaline rush like no other will love abseiling in Kithulgala, where you will be able to enjoy stunning waterfalls up close and personal, hanging on a rope! Enjoy a half hour hike through the tea country to Sandun Ella waterfalls, which offers stunning panoramic views of the jungle clad mountains.
Abseiling is done in a controlled environment with the assurance of international standards of safety with necessary gear, so you are rest assured as you step off the ledge and descend off the 100 ft waterfall surrounded with awesome views of the mountains.
This thrilling descent ends in an infinity pool, which is the perfect finish to this adrenaline packed activity.
Another way to explore all that Kithulgala has to offer is by biking through the jungles, tea and rubber estates and past the rivers. There are many mountain cycling tracks that cover several scenic locations around Kithulgala, which is a great way to visualize the local village lifestyles.
You can cycle through flat land, and uphill through the rural villages, past the green forested hills and through rubber plantations, and can even stop en route and take a dip in a stream and relax by a waterfall.