Kitulgala Backpacking Travel Guide

Information on hostels, transportation, cheap food and drinks, sights to see, activities and more.


Kitulgala is small town situated on the Kelani River only a few hours east of Colombo. It is the best spot in Sri Lanka for adventure sports such as white water rafting and canyoning. There are also jungle hikes and waterfalls to visit. A small piece of trivia, Kitulgala was the setting for the WWII film, The Bridge on the River Kwai.


Kumbuk Sevana Adventure Camp

A really nice place situated on the river bank right in the heart of the whitewater rafting area. There is a fantastic restaurant on site that provides tasty and cheap food for breakfast lunch or dinner. A few times a week they also cook up a barbeque with a range of different meats. You can quickly and easily book a rafting or canyoning trip with the friendly and helpful staff. The tents available are a great option for budget travellers. They comfortably fit two or even more people, the mattress is huge. Some new cabins were being constructed during my stay. They look great and would also be a great option. Book Kumbuk Sevana here!


The cabins at Kumbuk Sevana

Sights and Highlights

Adventure Sports in Kitulgala

The main reason to come to Kitulgala is to try some white water rafting or canyoning. The Kelani River flows right through Kitulgala and is the perfect spot to try some adventure sports. The rafting trip includes a range of different rapids interspersed with leisurely drifting and even some swimming opportunities. The water here is crystal clear and free from any rubbish or pollution. Check out Their pricing for a rafting or canyoning trip is only $20.


Makandawa Forest

This is something I stumbled on while I was in Kitulgala. There is an area of untouched jungle/rainforest on the southern side of the Kelani river. There are a few waterfalls to visit and pristine jungles to hike through. In order to reach the jungle, find your way to Kitulgala Rest House, a nice hotel in Kitulgala. There will be a guy down on the river front near here that will transport you across the river for a small fee. Once you have crossed the river, walk up the path leading away from the river. After about 5 mins you will reach a ticketing booth to enter the national park. You will also see a map on a large board of the hiking area. The map is accurate and if you keep track of the river crossings you make it is not too difficult to navigate.

There is not a lot of information available about this area online but the locals know all about it. Ask any local you meet in the area if you need advice or directions. Make sure you wear long pants and decent enclosed shoes. There are leeches on some of the paths so check for them regularly and bring some DEET-based repellent.

For Food

The food provided at the restaurant inside Kumbuk Sevana Adventure Camp is really good. For a cheaper local option, walk to the main road and turn left. Cross the river, walk past the intersection and then look for a small local restaurant on the right-hand side. They serve tasty rice and curry as well as rotis and samosas for taking away.

For general information on popular Sri Lanka dishes, check out my article Sr Lankan Food on a Budget.



Tuk-tuks are the best way to get around Kitulgala. Most accommodation in the area will have their own drivers to transport you to and from the rafting locations. But you can also flag down a driver from the main road that runs along the river.

Getting In and Out

Kitulgala is conveniently located along the no. 18 Colombo – Nuwara Eliya bus route. This bus also passes through Hatton on its way to Nuwara Eliya. My recommendation is to visit Kitulgala right at the end of your trip through Sri Lanka as you head back towards Colombo.

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