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Sixty two kilometres south of Colombo is the popular destination of Bentota. Visited by the residents of Colombo at weekend it is also a busy tourist resort for package holidaymakers. Graced by palm trees and an atmosphere of serenity Bentota is far more cosmopolitan than neighbouring Beruwela but shares the same stretch of beautiful beach.
The name Bentota comes from a local mythical story of a time when a demon called Bem ruled the banks of the river. Bentota has a few rather obscure claims to fame. It is the home of the famous Sri Lankan jeweller Aida; the ancient art of healing called Ayurveda derives from here and it is also well known for its production of a drink called Toddy made from coconut nectar. Bentota was another Sri Lankan town that suffered massage damage in a Tsunami, this one in December of 2004. Popular for water sports, Bentota hosts a few world acclaimed hotels.
There are a few attractions worth visiting in Bentota one being the Brief Gardens. This is the house and gardens of the acclaimed landscape architect Bevis Bewa. This former rubber plantation is now a museum with many of Sri Lanka's best sculptors and artists on show. The Japanese gardens are well worth viewing.
The Galapata Vira dates back to the twelfth century. Reputed to have been built by the Greek Pakramabuha the Great this is one of the most beautiful temples in Sri Lanka. Mazes of tunnels connect the areas of the temple underground. The Sea Turtle Project is part of a campaign to preserve the sea turtles of Sri Lanka. The hatcheries are open to the public daily and a rather unique opportunity can be found here. That of releasing a three day old turtle back into the ocean.
The beach at Bentota is an attraction in itself. Water sports are popular here and equipment can be hired on the beach; don't be afraid to haggle over the price, with competition all around a good price can usually be settled on. Boat rides will take you up either of the two rivers that border Bentota the Ganga and Lulu Ganga; this is a good way of seeing the Sri Lankan interior and some of its wildlife.
The bazaar is a worthy day out for lovers of shopping and bargain hunting. A government approved centre the prices are more fixed than you will find in the Monday morning market, local artifacts and gifts can be bought here reasonably.
The National Resort Holiday Complex is a collection of hotels, restaurants, markets and homes and will keep you browsing for hours. There are some bargains to be had here and for those with a bit more cash to spare fourteen carat gold sets with semi precious gems are available in the jewellers. One of the area's most popular restaurants, the Sea View, is in the complex selling the local beverage "toddy" it offers good food in a pleasant setting.
Bentota offers varied cuisine in its restaurants ranging from Sri Lankan to sea food to international establishments. The Golden Grill, on the banks of the river has English speaking waiters and the steak and grill come highly recommended. The Tarshish is situated in the Hotel Serendib. Reasonable priced food can be found here in pleasant surroundings overlooking the sea. The hotel also has two bars that are open to the public to relax in after your meal.
Bentota can be lively in high season and the floating discotheque Ceysands is the place to head for if you fancy dancing the night away. A unique night out you reach the Ceysands by catching a ferry and then spend the night with the Indian Ocean at your feet and the stars overhead. For most of the season Bentota is quite laid back and most visitors prefer to sit back and enjoy a leisurely meal.
Bentota offers a range of quality accommodation. The Dalmanatu Gardens is a boutique hotel just outside the hustle and bustle of the main resort. The chalet style rooms are large with two bathrooms. Peaceful and serene the hotel sits right on the banks of the river. The River House is a tiny little establishment with only five rooms but all are decorated to a high standard and are extremely large. Ideal for those looking for a romantic getaway. Most Bentota hotels will be found on the seafront.
Bentota is easily reached form Colombo by train and there are also connections from Aluthgama Station to Hikkaduwa and Galle. The station is two kilometres from the centre of the resort so local taxis may be needed to help transport you to your hotel initially but can then be reached easily by foot. Bentota is an active city without being too hectic and out of high season offers a peaceful getaway in the beautiful surroundings of this part of Sri Lanka.