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Gampaha

Literally translated to ‘Five Villages’, Gampaha is considered to be one of the more populated places and one of the fast developing towns in the entire country. Although overlooked by many a traveller, the bustling town of Gampaha does have quite a few intriguing attractions up its sleeve that is worth witnessing when making your way around the Paradise Island. Boasting of rich heritage, along with enclaves of natural bliss, it certainly is difficult to turn a blind eye on the town.

Top Reason to Visit

Previously known as Henerathgoda, during the colonial times, Gampaha is a place that has been forgotten and presently only lingers in the annals of history due to the rapid growth of urbanisation and habitation within the town. Now a collection of 5 villages, namely Ihalagama, Pahalagama, Medagama, Pattiyagama and Aluthgama, the town is a collection of ancient heritage, colonial heritage and natural heritage, thus, providing the top reason to visit the town.

While You’re There

The forgotten side of Gampaha:

Gampaha is often compared to the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan Colombo due to the relatively small size of the town (25.8 hectares) and high number of inhabitants (9,167). However, a closer look into the town and this feature is nothing compared to the many other unique features the town has. Gampaha boasts of being an important economic sector that contributes enormously to the primary sector of Sri Lanka’s economy, as the rural parts of the town boast of verdant paddy fields, along with rubber cultivation, pineapple cultivation and betel cultivation. Making it all the more enticing to the nature lover is the presence of the Henerathgoda Botanical Gardens, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the country that also happens to be one of the 6 botanical gardens in the country. The botanical gardens prove to be the place in which the first rubber tree in Sri Lanka was planted in 1867. A simple stroll around such nature certainly does make you forget about Gampaha’s population and admire the town’s more unique features.

Monuments of the ancient kingdoms and the old world:

Gampaha does not only boast of natural heritage, but also ancient and colonial heritage. This is best signified by the number of monuments that are scattered throughout the town, such as the Asgiriya Raja Maha Viharaya, Yatawatte Purana Viharaya, the Wathumulla Ketawala Ambalama and, of course, the Henerathgoda Old Railway Station. Going back to the period of the 1st Century BC up until the colonial times of the 19th Century AC, Gampaha was a centre of activity and still remains today to the local folk.

Culture that thrives among the bustle:

Although the town of Gampaha is transforming itself into a cosmopolitan one, very similar to the commercial capital of Colombo, the town still boasts of culture that thrives in the midst of the rapid development. The rural outskirts of Gampaha has virtually been unchanged in the face of development and still practices traditional techniques of manufacturing unique products, such as pottery, tiles, handloom textiles and coconut related products. A drive around the outskirts of the town will certainly light up your imagination, as you will wonder how simple life was in the days of old.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about in Gampaha is not difficult due to the number of transportation methods in the form of bus services and tuk-tuks for hire. Should you be looking to hire a tuk-tuk, it is highly suggested that you hire one with a metre.

Weather: Gampaha experiences typical tropical climate throughout the year, however, the months from November to February have proven to be the time in which the town experiences a relatively stable climate, where temperatures average around 28°C with a relatively stable humidity too.

Money: Credit and debit cards are accepted in a number of shops and supermarkets, however, it is important to carry cash on hand with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s, so as to make transactions all the more easier.

Clothing: Light, comfortable clothing is the best way to traverse the hot streets of the crowded town. Do keep in mind that when visiting places of worship, a modest attire that respects the customs of the religion is followed.

Safety: Although Gampaha is a fast paced town, it is a safe place to travel. However, do keep a watchful eye on your personal belongings, especially in crowded areas.

Meals and refreshments: There are a number of eateries in the town area that serve local, as well as international cuisine. You could also opt for your accommodation provider to cover this as well.

Gampaha then, is an ideal destination for those looking to wander off into the lesser known parts of the country and admire the beauty of the Paradise Island, even in the face of increasing cosmopolitanism.

Title image by: Department of National Botanic Gardens
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