Kitulgala is located about 80 kilometres from Colombo on the A7 main road that runs to Nuwara Eliya via Avissawella. Kitulgala is a pleasant town set amidst green hills thick with tropical vegetation. The name Kitulgala itself is derived from the Kitul palm tree, groves of which are abound in the expanses. Kitul sap is concentrated and then crystallized to produce jaggery. Kitul sap is also fermented to make palm wine.A rain forestry area, which gets two monsoons each year, and is one of the wettest places in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, it comes alive in the first three months of the year, especially in February, the driest month. The Academy Award-winning movie The Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed on the Kelani River near Kitulgala, although nothing remains now except the concrete foundations for the bridge Kitulgala is the base for white-water rafting in Sri Lanka.
Large numbers of people make the excursion from Colombo at weekends to enjoy the beautiful scenery, play in the river, Jungle Walks, Adventurous water fall jumps/ slides, White Water Rafting and have an excellent rice and curry lunch at the local restaurants.
The Kelani river is wide at Kitulgala, but it is shallow apart from a deep channel near the opposite bank, so in the drier months it provides a safe and attractive place to swim, wash and play. Many birders stay at Kitulgala. This area has most of the rainforest bird species that are found at the World Biosphere Reserve at Sinharaja, although in lower numbers. However, the secondary forest and cultivation at Kitulgala is more open than the pristine woodlands of Sinharaja, and elusive endemic species like Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Green-billed Coucal and Spot-winged Thrush may be easier to see. So Kitulgala is a primary spot for bird watching enthusiasts.
Cycling to Belilena Cave in Kithulgala is a great way to experience the nature and the rural village lifestyles. Located up a steep path on a hillside close to the town of Kithulgala, The Belilena Cave is the place where 12,000 years old skeletal remains of “Balangoda man” were found. This mankind was given a scientific name of ‘Homosapiens Balangodensis’. Fossils believed to be approximately 32,000 years old have been found in recent archaeological excavations. Belilena Cave’s damp and dark depths are famed for the thousands of bats that have taken up residence in the cave’s cool interior, and they flit about seemingly haphazardly, in the discomforting beam of your torchlight. Colorful butterflies can be seen dancing around the entrance to the cave.