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North Western Province is comprised of two administrative districts viz. Kurunegala and Puttalam. The provincial capital is Kurunegala that has a population of 28,571. The province is well known for its coconut plantations. Other main towns in this province are Chilaw (24,712) and Puttalam (45,661), both of which are small fishing towns. The majority of the population in the province is Sinhalese. There is also a substantial Sri Lankan Moor minority around Puttalam and Sri I,ankan Tamils in Udappuwa and Munneswaram. Fishing, prawn farming and rubber plantations are other prominent industries of the region. The province has an area of 7,888 km2 and a population of 2,184,136. The climate is tropical, with a marked dry season, and temperatures averaging between 20°C in January and 25°C in March. The south of the province is wetter, with an annual rainfall of 2000 mm, but the northern part of the province is one of the driest regions in Sri Lanka with an average annual rainfall of 1100mm.

The province is replete with many archaeological sites being the seat of four medieval kingdoms of Sri Lanka between the mid 12th and mid 14th centuries. Having been forced to move capitals due to foreign invasions, Sri Lankan kings nevertheless built magnificent citadels in areas like Panduwasnuwara, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa and Kurunegala. Impressive remains of those citadels, palaces, Buddhist temples and monasteries provide breathtaking sightings to visitors.

The province is also home for other ancient Buddhist rock temples, mostly with 1st century BC roots, with wall and ceiling frescos, colossal Buddha images, stone inscriptions and sculptures dating from early medieval to 18th century.

With the sparkling blue surf of the Indian Ocean and scenic tropical lagoons, the province has a long stretch of wide, sun drenched golden beaches. These beaches extend from Waikkal at its southern end to the Dutch Bay in the Puttalam district.

Some of the province’s best beach resorts are Marawila, Talawila, Kalpitiya and Waikkal. These beaches are often with the bonus of a lagoon or a river front and make excellent bases for stay-put beach holidays. Some of the beach resorts also offer viewing of underwater coral wonderlands off Kandakuliya and Karaitivu. Many fishing villages are seen in the coastal areas.

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Text by Neil Kiriella