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With endless beaches uncorrupted by traditional trappings, Sri Lanka’s Bentota is a tropical paradise.
  Broad sandy beaches run alongside a frame of thick foliage and paddy fields, quiet enough for one to hear bird calls and the whirring of bicycle wheels against a soundtrack of lapping waves. Despite an abundance of beautiful hotels and resorts, Bentota strikes a rare balance: a tropical paradise, with comfort and luxury in all the right places.
  Just a two-hour drive south from Colombo, Bentota’s strict building regulations have left its beaches largely clear of bars and restaurants. Intersected with a colourful railway, it is a place that sacrifices convenience and crowds for the sake of splendour and tranquillity.
  A careful selection of small boutique hotels and opulent resorts, sprawled along the southern beach, cater to the varying whims of adventurers, hippies and families alike. Perhaps most notably is the hallmark style of renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, whose hotels (such as Lunuganga, Club Villa and Villa Bentota) have breathed a touch of contemporary design into the natural landscape a form often called ‘tropical modernism’.  
  To the north is Aluthgama, a small town boasting a little more bustle, in the form of stalls and a fish market. It sits on the mouth of Bentota River, opposite a thin strip of land, known as Paradise Island. Staring out over the crystalline Laccadive Sea, this is Bentota’s go-to hub for watersports a bonanza of fishing trips, jet skiing, deep-sea fishing, banana boats and windsurfing not to mention lagoon trips.
  A sleepy river safari takes guests cruising past crocodiles, water monitors, chameleons, more than 100 types of bird and other critters hiding in the luscious mangroves. Elsewhere, the Induruwa Sea Turtle Conservation Centre offers the opportunity to learn about endangered sea turtles and watch them hatch.
  The river feeds into Dedduwa Lake, overlooked by the 12th-century Galapatha Raja Temple, home to some truly curious Buddhist relics such as the canine tooth of Buddha’s disciple, Kasyapa within a 2,500-year-old stupa. The lake is also the site of Geoffrey Bawa’s country home, Lunuganga Estate. Bawa spent half a century transforming the rubber estate into a landscaped garden, his very own experimental canvas which remains a stunning testament to his philosophy, life and works.
  His brother, Bevis Bawa, who began his working life as a planter on a rubber estate, curated his own magnificent garden at the nearby Brief Garden a two-hectare (five-acre) madcap jungle masterpiece north of the river. He, too, spent 40 years playing with form and space, producing one of Asia’s most beloved gardens, which features sculptures, artwork and antique furniture.
  For a change of pace, set between Bentota’s river and beach is the bazaar, an eclectic market hawking local trinkets, textiles, carved woodwork and brassware. Just to the south is the Ranra Tea Centre, a colonial-style estate serving up pipinghot brews of its signature Ceylon tea on the picturesque veranda.
  While Bentota remains a sleepy paradise for most of the year, at the end of December visitors are treated to the annual Buddhist festival, Perahera. During the celebrations, the town is overrun by spectacular fire jugglers, musicians, dancers, elephants and torch bearers.