Mount Lavinia on the immediate suburbs of Colombo has been famous for its beach since colonial times. The sea provides a safe and popular bathing spot with calm and clear water and the soft sandy beach is scattered with recreating tourists and local families especially in the evenings. The town is mostly a middle class and residential suburb and has not yet seen towering buildings that are springing up in neighbouring cities and urban centres. The beach stretches almost a mile and is aptly named the “Golden Mile”.
The beach is full of hotels that offer classy accommodation, restaurants that produce delicious food especially sea food and bars. Mount Lavinia has always been a hot spot for tourism and provides entertainment for those who wish a late nightlife. The beach here is famous for its use by various organizations, offices and clubs for beach parties, annual Christmas parties, new year parties, etc.
There are several stories of how the name ‘Mount Lavinia’ came to be. It is believed that Sir Thomas Maitland the Governor General of Ceylon from 1805-1811, when he built the Governor’s Palace named it ‘Mount Lavinia House’ in honour his forbidden secret lover Lovina who was a dancer from the Gypsy tribe. The statue of ‘Lady’ Lavinia, as the girl later became known, is still found in the middle of a water fountain at the entrance of the Mount Lavinia Hotel. The Gypsy village that surrounded the Governor’s mansion today forms Mount Lavinia city where several businesses have sprung up especially in relation to tourism.
Other explanations include “Lihiniya Kanda” or “Lihiniyagala” meaning the hill of the sea gull or the rock of the sea gull used by the Sinhala people who lived on the coastal belt.
The local name for the town today is Galkissa – Kissa being a somewhat obsolete Sinhala word for rock. However, the town was officially recognized as such when Governor Maitland used the postal address Mount Lavinia, Ceylon, while writing to the then British Secretary of State, Lord Castlereagh.