On the island’s northwest coast, just two hours from Colombo, a narrow spit of land juts out between a salty lagoon and the Indian Ocean. Stretching for more than 30km through arid, flat scrubland shaded by crackling palmyrah palms, the Kalpitiya peninsula is famed for its long deserted beaches, its laid back charm and its rich local culture. Fishing is the mainstay of many local residents here, and you can often spy colossal catches of fish being hauled onto the region’s expansive fir-fringed beaches and laid out to dry on the sand. Opportunities for deep-sea fishing are plentiful, and other ocean-pursuits include whale and dolphin watching, kayaking, snorkelling, kite surfing, sailing and diving. Bar Reef, a complex of pristine coral reefs, sits a kilometre offshore.

Many visitors come to Kalpitiya for its total tranquility. Aside from the handful of resorts pitched beside the sea, there are few other tourist facilities in the vicinity, which adds greatly to its desert island appeal. Inland, you can cycle through local villages, across blinding white salt pans and to St Anne’s Church in Talawila, home to the island’s largest Christian pilgrimage in March and August every year. Other regional attractions include the Kalpitiya Fort at the very end of the peninsula, the Munneswaram Hindu Temple and even Wilpattu National Park.