Puttalam is located about 80 miles north of Colombo and is mainly due to one of the largest lagoons Sri Lanka known. With almost 800,000 inhabitants of the place is the largest city in the same District. The transport links to major cities like Colombo, Kurunegala, Kandy and Anuradhapura is via the daily commuting bus. In the city itself, especially bicycles and mopeds are used as a means of transport. There are also numerous tuk tuks that the tourists are available in addition to taxis. With the taxi / van you need about 3 hours until the Bandaranaike International Airport in the north of Colombo.
Puttalam (meaning New Saltpans) is a wind-swept fishing settlement that gives little indication of its history. In the 14th century it was the capital of a Tamil king, Arya Chakravarty, who, although little more than a pirate, possessed a portion of the northwestern coast of the island. It was off Puttalam that Ibn Batuta – an adventurous Moor from Tangier – appeared after a storm and perceived the island of Serendib raised in the air like a column of smoke. Ibn Batuta came ashore and proceeded to Chakravarty’s capital, which he describes as a pretty little place, surrounded by a timber wall and towers.
At that time it was a centre of the regional cinnamon trade, for he writes: All the neighbouring shores were covered with trunks of cinnamon trees, torn up the torrents. The wood was collected on the beach, and formed as it were hillocks. The inhabitants of Coramandel and Malabar take it away without payment, save only that in return for this favour they make a present to the King.
Although the town presents little of interest to today’s visitor, the peculiar wind-stunted trees of the area are worth a look. Then there is the expansive Puttalam Lagoon – Sri Lanka’s second largest, in fact. Deep and widely navigable, it is used by prawn and crab fishermen.
Ten miles inland from Puttalam are the ruins of Tammana Newera, the original Tambapanni (or Taprobane), where Vijaya, the first Hindu immigrant, established his kingdom.