Sri Lanka is a hotspot for adventure galore. Take your pick, from treks along picturesque and challenging terrain, embarking on journeys to extraordinary landmarks and clandestine monuments, travel brazenly to the heart of ancient cities and discover the majesty of kingdoms etched in the troves of the nation’s history, be mesmerized by mystical ruins, wade through glorious tea plantations and be awestruck by exotic excursions, be thrilled by nighttime bicycle rides and have your adrenaline flood in torrents while you white water raft. Whittalls Travels offers you an adventure experience that will instill itself in you for a lifetime and beyond!
Anantaya Resort and Spa - Passikuda
Heritance Tea Factory - Nuwara Eliya
Jetwing St. Andrews - Nuwara Eliya
Hotel Topaz - Kandy
Arie Lagoon - Negombo
Colombo Court Hotel & Spa - Colombo
Fairway Colombo - Colombo
One of the most archaeologically important sites in Sri Lanka, the Belilena is a large cave that houses evidence of pre-historic civilization from as early as 30,000 years ago. This anthropological delight requires effort to get there, however; situated deep inside the Kitulgala jungles, the trek is slightly challenging, and requires protective clothing from insects and leeches. But the sight of the cave is truly worth the endeavour to get there.
Inside, you’ll find examples of ancient tools and even a few skeletal remains.
The Southern Coastal Belt of Sri Lanka is renowned for its incredible beaches, and abundant marine life that venture close to these shores. One of ...
Hikkaduwa National Park
The Southern Coastal Belt of Sri Lanka is renowned for its incredible beaches, and abundant marine life that venture close to these shores. One of the best ways of experiencing the rich marine bio-diversity is via Hikkaduwa National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s three national marine parks.
Visitors to Hikkaduwa travel to its National Park for scuba diving among the coral reefs, and for an opportunity to interact with marine life from a safe distance.
At 220 m (720 ft) in height, Diyaluma is among the most picturesque and inviting. Located in Kosalanda, close to Badulla, Diyaluma is derived from ...
At 220 m (720 ft) in height, Diyaluma is among the most picturesque and inviting. Located in Kosalanda, close to Badulla, Diyaluma is derived from the Sinhala phrase Diya Haluma or ‘liquid light’. What an apt name for this gorgeous natural wonder. With the help of a guide, visitors can traverse up the steep rocks to reach the top of the fall. The trek up is incredible as Diyaluma treats its visitors to natural infinity pools along the way - each with an outstanding view. This is best experienced during the dry season in March and April as the rocks leading to the ledge are known to be very slippery.
Even if this is a visitor’s first time in Sri Lanka, there is a likelihood he has seen the Kitugala Bridge before; it was here, ...
Even if this is a visitor’s first time in Sri Lanka, there is a likelihood he has seen the Kitugala Bridge before; it was here, the director David Lean filmed his WWII epic The Bridge on the River Kwai. Visitors in the Kitulgala area for white-water sports can use a guide to take them to the bridge, which is a kilometre inside this forest town.
Kalpitiya has always had a magnetic appeal to visitors. During colonial times, the Portuguese first and then the Dutch saw the area as a key ...
Kalpitiya Dutch Reformed Church
Kalpitiya has always had a magnetic appeal to visitors. During colonial times, the Portuguese first and then the Dutch saw the area as a key strategic point in safeguarding their territory. The Dutch conquered the area in 1659 and built a Church there that stands today.
The Dutch Reformed Church is another vestige of the profound influence of Protestant Christian thought on the part of the colonizers. The architecture – with its bold strokes of 17th century Dutch styling, including the towering tomb stone – is a mini time machine to a time when European powers of the time desired this Indian Ocean paradise.
Located inside the southern town of Matara, the Matara Star Fort was constructed by Dutch in 1765 and was originally called Redoute Van Eck. Built ...
Matara Star Fort
Located inside the southern town of Matara, the Matara Star Fort was constructed by Dutch in 1765 and was originally called Redoute Van Eck. Built in the shape of a six point star, the fort was built to resist attacks from the mainland Kandyan kingdom. The outer wall is 7.5 m high (25 ft) and is surrounded by a deep moat that is 6 m wide and 3 m deep. Once the Dutch lost control of the island to the British, the latter converted into an administrative office, a role it played well into the 1960s, at which point it was briefly converted into a library. Today it is home to a museum that showcases the history of Matara.
Located in Tangalle, an important coastal outpost for the Dutch keen to protect their strategic interests from other European colonial powers, this fort is unique ...
Tangalle Dutch Fort
Located in Tangalle, an important coastal outpost for the Dutch keen to protect their strategic interests from other European colonial powers, this fort is unique in that it lacks ramparts like most Dutch-built forts of the time. Today, the fort is used mostly as a prison by the Department of Prisons.
Knuckles Mountain Range
The British, upon viewing this distinctive range of mountains, likened it to a clenched fist; the peaks looked like the knuckles of this fist. The locals called it Dumbara Kanduvetiya or ‘The Mist-Laden Mountain Range’. The Knuckles is home to 34% of Sri Lanka’s endemic trees, shrubs and herbs - and found nowhere else in the island. The range is, therefore, of great scientific value in addition to its ecological importance and its aesthetic beauty.
When trekking the range, visitors can experience rapid weather changes, and brushes with exotic wildlife.
The Knuckles range can be explored via Kandy, the hill country capital.
Another vestige of colonial times, the Katuwana Fort, however, is unique in that it was among the handful inland forts built by the Dutch. The fort is found 40km inland from the southern coastal town of Matara, at the start of the hill country towns. Back in the 18th century, this fort was used by the Dutch to safeguard against attacks from the still-free Kandyan kingdom in the centre of the island.
It is located on a sloping hill, with ramparts that are 5m in height (16 ft), a single gateway, and a walkway on top. A must visit to those intending to go to Kandy from the southern coast.
Pidurangala is the lesser-known cousin of Sigiriya Rock Fortress. While the latter is steeped in history and beguiling art, Pidurangala is a more strenuous climb that is sure to attract enthusiastic climbers. The rock is only a few kilometres from Sigiriya and it isn’t unusual for visitors to catch the sunrise from atop Pidurangala before they climb the stairs of Sigiriya.
There is a rock temple during the ascent, hinting at the generations that have walked these very paths countless times.
Pidurangala, like Sigiriya, can be accessed from Dambulla and most cities within the Cultural Triangle.
The waters off Sri Lanka’s southern and south-western coast is feeding ground for dolphins and whales - and is a must-see for visitors who are enthralled ...
Marine Mammal Watching
The waters off Sri Lanka’s southern and south-western coast is feeding ground for dolphins and whales - and is a must-see for visitors who are enthralled by nature. These parts of the Indian Ocean are best explored via Sri Lanka’s southern coastal belt, especially Mirissa, Kalpitiya, Weligama and Trincomalee. Boat tour operators are available for day-time excursions into the sea.
Located just 11km west of Aukana, the Saseruwa site is home to an ancient unfinished statue of Lord Buddha. This statue is shrouded in mythology, some say that while carving the Saseruwa statue, a huge crack down the middle appeared, forcing the sculptors to abandon this site and start anew in Aukana. Another legend says that the Saseruwa and Aukana statues were carved by a master and his apprentice, as a competition to see who would finish first, which is why Saseruwa, the apprentice’s statue, was left unfinished.
The Saseruwa Buddha statue is carved straight into the large rock behind it and is thought to have once been housed in an image house. The nearby shrine, a monastery from the 2nd century B.C.E., and other buildings have long since been destroyed, but their ruins still give scholars and visitors a glimpse into the past. Since then, two caves along the path towards the Saeruwa statue have been converted into image houses, containing smaller statues of the Lord Buddha, as well as mural paintings. One of these cave image houses is home to a 12-metre-long reclining Buddha statue. Nearby, visitors can see an ancient Bo tree, a sapling from the Sacred Sri Maha Bodhi tree planted in Anuradhapura. Saseruwa is a unique mix of history, religion, and legend, and worth a stop for any visitor.
The northernmost tip of Sri Lanka, the town of Point Pedro is a tranquil beach area, where on clear days it is said that India can be seen from the sandy beaches. Point Pedro has historically been an important shipping and trading town, with a harbour used by ancient traders, the Dutch, and then the British. The Point Pedro Lighthouse is a famous site, and easily accessed from Munai Beach. The waters along Point Pedro’s beach are generally calmer than most beaches in Sri Lanka, making this an ideal place for a swim and the clear, sandy beach is an attractive place for families to have a day out.
Visitors to Point Pedro will see the effects of the long history of trade and travel, with both Vallipuram Hindu temple and the St. Lourdes church sitting in close proximity to each other. Driving from Point Pedro to Valvettiurai is a gorgeous, scenic drive along the northern coast, and regarded as one of the most beautiful drives in Sri Lanka.
A small, unassuming town in the Jaffna District, Nilavarai’s Bottomless Well is a hidden gem. Quite literally the colour of topaz, the Bottomless Well is ...
Nilavarai Bottomless Well
A small, unassuming town in the Jaffna District, Nilavarai’s Bottomless Well is a hidden gem. Quite literally the colour of topaz, the Bottomless Well is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. The well structure itself is chipped and crumbly, but the water inside is fresh, crisp, and clear. Locals use this well as a recreational spot and are welcoming of the visitors who come to enjoy the well.
One of legends surrounding this well is that it was created when Rama and Sita (the main characters of the Hindu mythic story, the Ramayana), where travelling back to India from Sri Lanka, Sita was overcome by thirst. Rama shot an arrow into the ground and this well appeared. The locals love discussing their mysterious well with visitors, telling them about the various dives and experiments people have done over the years to ascertain the depth of the well. There are many legends about the well so be prepared for tall tales from locals – listen courteously and you’re in for a yarn. Whatever the story, legend, or truth may be, the Nilavarai Bottomless Well is worth a visit.
Martin Wickramasinghe is one of Sir Lanka’s most well-known authors and considered the father of modern Sinhala literature. His books delved into the lives of ...
Martin Wickramasinghe Museum
Martin Wickramasinghe is one of Sir Lanka’s most well-known authors and considered the father of modern Sinhala literature. His books delved into the lives of real Sri Lankans, exploring their everyday lives, folk-lore, and culture. His novels have gained worldwide acclaim and have been translated in many different languages. So it is only fitting that Wickramasinghe’s childhood home should be turned into a museum detailing the folk traditions and culture of the region.
The museum is made up of the restored childhood home of Martin Wickramasinghe, including some of the original furniture and personal effects. In addition, there is the Hall of Life, which details Wickramasinghe’s life and work through photos, letter, and manuscripts. From there, visitors can walk through the Museum of Folk Culture, where a collection of cultural, theatrical, and religious artefacts are on display, bringing Wickramasinghe’s words to life. In addition, this museum houses folk technology that contributed to the agricultural communities in the region. The final section of the museum is the garden, a large 7 acre sprawl that visitors are encouraged to explore, relax, and picnic in.
The Aluvihare Rock Temple is located 3.5km from Matale, in the ancient town of Aluvihare. Founded in the 3rd century B.C.E. by ...
The Aluvihare Rock Temple is located 3.5km from Matale, in the ancient town of Aluvihare. Founded in the 3rd century B.C.E. by King Devanampiyatissa. as Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka under his reign, and so the Buddhist shrine and Bo tree planted by the king is one of the first Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. Later, in the 1st century B.C.E, Buddhist monks first transcribed the Dhamma (Buddhist teachings) on palm leaves. As such, this site holds deep historical and religious significance for Sri Lankan Buddhists.
Aluvihare Rock Temple is also dotted with caves covered in inscriptions, painted with religious imagery, and housing statues of the Lord Buddha. Visitors can explore all of this, and the shrines and ruins of parts of the temple and adjoining Buddhist library, destroyed in the 19th century during the Matale Rebellion of 1848. The majority of Aluvihare is intact, and visitors can have a spectacular visit, not just through the caves and the cave museums, but through the shrine, and up to the top, where the view next to the stupa is spectacular.
Negombo Fish Market
Negombo is a famous fishing town, just 37 km north of Colombo. As such, the Negombo Fish Market is an authentic look at the huge variety of fish and seafood that made Sri Lankan seafood famous the world over. Walking along the beach near the market, Visitors will see huge sheets laid out in the hot sun, covered in various types of fish and sardines in the drying process. The men manning these sheets diligently turn the thousands of fish every hour, to ensure an even drying process.
The fish market itself is a sight to behold, it is an open market, with 4 walls and no roof, letting the bright sun in and letting the smells of freshly caught fish out. The market caters to both wholesale and retail, so the sheer quantity of fish and seafood can be overwhelming. Not only does the Negombo Fish Market sell the types of fish and seafood that is regularly found in restaurants and grocery stores, fishermen bring in a host of exotic catches like barracuda or shark. Visitors should be prepared to go early, to watch the fishermen bring the catch in on their boats, as well as to get a look at the fresh seafood and fish before it all sells out.
Sitting in the middle of a sprawling green lawn, the Colombo National Museum is housed in a huge 19th century Italian-style building. Founded by the ...
Colombo National Museum
Sitting in the middle of a sprawling green lawn, the Colombo National Museum is housed in a huge 19th century Italian-style building. Founded by the British Governor of Ceylon, Sir William Henry Gregory in 1877, the museum was dedicated to the preservation and display of Sri Lanka’s cultural and natural heritage. This legacy continues today, as the museum continues to house large collections of Sri Lankan regional cultural artefacts and archaeological finds.
Visitors can walk through a pre-Colonial history of Sri Lanka on the ground floor, mapping out the various kingdoms on the island through many historical and archaeological items. On the second floor, visitors will be able to explore the regional culture of Sri Lanka through exhibits on arts & crafts, theatre, and paintings. Visitors can finish up the trip with a quick trip to the gift shop, which sells an array of books on the history and culture of Sri Lanka, as well as reproductions of famous paintings and pieces in the museum.
Galle Dutch Fort & Galle Harbour
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Galle Fort has an ancient history. The first known mention of Galle is from 125-150 C.E., when it was a large trading hub in the ancient spice trade. The fort as is stands now traces its history back to 1541, built by the Portuguese. In 1640, the Dutch captured Galle fort, and the large stone fortifications were added. Galle fort has been completely re-vamped in recent years, and now hosts a plethora of shops, restaurants, bed & breakfasts, churches, galleries, and museums. This quaint part of the larger Galle town is a delightful walk through the history of Galle, as well as an experience of modern Sri Lanka. Each year, the fort hosts the Galle Literary Festival, with local and international authors alike. With its sunny weather, eclectic ambience, and artistic heritage, Galle Fort is a must-see for any visitor.
Galle Harbour is one of the oldest natural harbours in Sri Lanka, and is still a favourite among the international yacht societies who recognize Galle Harbour as one of the world’s best attractions for yachting. Inside the Galle Fort, the Maritime Archaeology Museum charts the history of the harbour and lays out the current preservation activities for the harbour and the many sunken treasures that have accumulated at the bottom over the centuries. Visitors are encouraged to visit the museum, to see how the layout of the harbour has changed over time, and then take a walk to the harbour, to appreciate the long history Galle has had with international trade.
Adam’s Peak is undoubtedly one of Sri Lanka’s most popular destinations. The large mountain is only 32 km southwest of Hatton, and 40 km northeast of Ratnapura, and is well worth adding to any Sri Lankan itinerary. This site draws thousands of tourists a year from all over the world, as well as local pilgrims, for the giant footprint shaped mark at the top. Buddhists believe it to be the footprint of Lord Buddha, Muslims and Christians believe it to be Adam (hence the name), and Hindus consider it to be the mark of Lord Shiva. In addition to those who make the journey for religious reasons, many trekkers make the journey throughout the night to watch the spectacular sunrise from the summit.
Adam’s Peak has multiple trails to the top, most of them are made up of stone steps, with lights to help with the trek, and small shops and roadside eateries to break up the 5-7 hour total trek. This is a trek that anyone can do, and visitors will see small kids and elderly adults on the paths as well.
Just 5 km from beautiful Nuwara Eliya, is Sita Eliya, a place shrouded in and mythology. According to the Hindu epic, Ramayana, Sita was a ...
Just 5 km from beautiful Nuwara Eliya, is Sita Eliya, a place shrouded in and mythology. According to the Hindu epic, Ramayana, Sita was a beautiful Indian princess, married to Rama, who was tricked and captured by the demon-king Ravana of Lanka. Ravana brought Sita to Sri Lanka and imprisoned her in the Ashoka forests. Sita Eliya is thought to be the exact location where Sita was held. The idyllic and remote landscape provides the perfect backdrop for this legend. The foot-print looking depressions nearby give even more credence to the story, as legend has it that those are the footprints of the monkey-god Hanuman, who helped Rama find his beloved Sita. Visitors offer flowers to the nearby stream, in remembrance of Sita’s eternal devotion to her husband, and her daily prayers for him to save her. Nearby lies the Sita Amman Kovil, the only temple dedicated to Sita in the world. In addition, a small shrine to Lord Hanuman sits nearby, a reminder of the great lengths Lord Hanuman went through to help Rama in his quest.
Independence Square is a popular stop for Sri Lankans and tourists alike. Located in the heart of Colombo, Independence Square is home to the Independence Memorial Hall, built in commemoration of Sri Lanka’s Independence from colonial rule. The Memorial Hall is a collaborative effort between 9 of the most highly respected Sri Lankan architects, basing their design on the Celebration Hall of the Kingdom of Kandy. It sits next to a public garden, where school children on class trips can be seen playing, or young people enjoying their lunch hour.
Visitors can learn more about Sri Lanka’s journey to independence through the Independence Memorial Museum, located at the base of Independence Memorial Hall. Here, visitors can find busts of Sri Lankan Presidents, as well information and exhibits about the men and women who helped forge the path to an independent Sri Lanka.
Being one of the largest cities in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, Trincomalee has a coastal belt of its own that, while not the most secluded, ...
Being one of the largest cities in Sri Lanka’s eastern province, Trincomalee has a coastal belt of its own that, while not the most secluded, is still charming in its own right. The beach is easily accessible from Trincomalee town and is renowned for its white sand and blue waters.
In the mornings, it is a great place to catch the sunrise from while listening to the city wake up in the background. In the evening, it is a social gathering of the local folk that will surely charm visitors.
The kite surfing capital of Sri Lanka is a storied place. Known in ancient times as Arasadi (the place of the Bo Tree) then Kalputti before its current moniker of Kalpitiya, this beach resort town was a favourite among colonial powers too. Dutch-era fort and church, and a Portuguese-era church bear testament to the town’s timeless appeal.
Today it attracts visitors from all over the world intent on surfing or kite-surfing. The season times sync with the island’s monsoon seasons – the south-west monsoon opens the summer kite-surfing season between May and October while the North-east monsoon creates a window between December and February.
The town is also another gateway into the miracle of marine life – from Kalpitiya, visitors can hire boats to go whale or dolphin watching, an opportunity that every tourist in Sri Lanka has to grab.
Being a very popular holiday destination, Kalpitiya now attracts hotels and accommodation options of all sorts, from rustic, beach-front properties to luxury hotels that offer stunning views and a touch of class.
Passikudah meaning Green Algae Beach in Tamil is among the calmest and most inviting beaches in Sri Lanka. With one of the lengthiest stretches of shallow reef, the adventurous have ventured a couple of kilometres into the sea, with the water level barely going over chest level.
Sunrise with the glowing ball juxtaposed against this calm blue sheet of water is a truly spectacular site that should be experienced by all who visit Sri Lanka. Due to its rural roots, the accommodation options aren’t the widest but they are universally clean, comfortable and hygienic.
Among Sri Lanka’s most scenic beaches, Marble Beach in Trincomalee is a cloud-soft, white sand beach that will bedazzle with its clear blues. Start early ...
Among Sri Lanka’s most scenic beaches, Marble Beach in Trincomalee is a cloud-soft, white sand beach that will bedazzle with its clear blues. Start early and watch the sun rise from behind the ocean horizon, a truly beautiful occasion at the right of the year. One can laze around on the beach, and swim in the calm waters undisturbed by anyone – save for the occasional passing ship in the distance.
The shoreline too is interesting with a nest-like forest covering the beach, providing a natural buffer from the outside world. A truly lucky traveller can laze around in the crystal blue waters, fish swimming around her, and – were she to turn around and look at the forest – see peacocks swaggering while monkeys play on the trees.
A number of accommodation options are available including chalets built and maintained by the Sri Lankan Air Force – clean and comfortable, visitors should go stay here for the incredible views of the ocean.
Arugam Bay is Sri Lanka’s surf capital, but so much more. Walk up Elephant Rock, found in its namesake bay, and enjoy a panoramic view of the entire locale. From here, you’ll see the many hotels and surfing schools that have sprung up since 2005. During high season, you’ll discover why Arugam Bay has gained a reputation as one of the world’s best surfing destinations - it is why companies such as Red Bull have chosen to stage their extreme surfing competitions here.
Travellers who are looking for something beyond the surfing will find the village’s culture and heritage a charming escape from the waves. A lagoon safari, for instance, is a must; local fishermen will take travellers on 2-hour long safaris into the lagoons Kottukal or Urani where you can spot crocodiles, elephants and various bird life.
Easily the most well-known beach in Sri Lanka’s northern coastal belt, Casuarina Beach is named after the lining of Casuarina Trees. Very popular on weekends, ...
Easily the most well-known beach in Sri Lanka’s northern coastal belt, Casuarina Beach is named after the lining of Casuarina Trees. Very popular on weekends, it is best experienced early on a weekday. Alternatively, visitors can pay the local fisherman to take you out to the fairly shallow waters - about 2-3 km away from shore - for a more secluded swim in the waters between Sri Lanka’s northern most point and India’s southernmost coast.
A fishing village at heart, Weligama is now also beach resort that attracts surfers, especially beginner-intermediate level, who want to acclimatize with more temperate waves before moving on to the more demanding Arugam Bay.
Weligama or Sandy Village couldn’t be more apt for surfers and beach-lovers in general. This idyllic village’s transformation began when one of the country’s oldest surfing schools, and one of its few ISA-certified surf instructors, started operating. Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa were becoming popular among tourists but they weren’t exactly inviting to novices. Weligama soon filled that hole. Today, partly in thanks to Weligama’s inviting waves, surfing as a sport shows signs of increasing in popularity - even among locals.
Unawatuna (or Una as the locals call it) was the primary beneficiary of increased tourist visits to Hikkaduwa and Galle. For decades it was a ...
Unawatuna (or Una as the locals call it) was the primary beneficiary of increased tourist visits to Hikkaduwa and Galle. For decades it was a tiny outpost, popular among divers and marine biologists, but has expanded since mid-2005 as one of the most exciting beach towns in the country. The beach is narrow, but lined with hotels offering accommodations, views of the ocean, and signature menus. The lagoon is calm and inviting, and seeing people float around languidly under the sun is a common sight.
The Unawatuna beach is also a gateway to the oceans: boat-rides from here will take you up close and personal with dolphins and whales as they eat, play and lunge out of the water.
During season time, Unawatuna doesn’t sleep. This is among Sri Lanka’s favourite nightlife spots with EDM festivals being very popular among tourists and locals.
The first of the Big 3 Beach resorts, Hikkaduwa (lovingly called Hikka by the locals) was a tiny sea-front village that became a favourite among surfers in the late 90s and early 2000s. Today, it offers accommodation, both high-end and budget, along its coastline. Depending on where travellers choose to stay, generally they’d have access to the respective property’s beach front. Some hotels offer private beaches while others are a lot more relaxed.
Around Hikkaduwa, visitors have access to charming arts and crafts marketplace that offer a variety of locally-sourced handicrafts and garments for sale.
The season time; from November to April offers the best time for water-sports and exploratory activities such as surfing and diving.
Sighting Beruwela’s beaches lets travellers know that the Sri Lanka’s incredible southern coastal belt is starting. This town of gem merchants is home to high-end ...
Sighting Beruwela’s beaches lets travellers know that the Sri Lanka’s incredible southern coastal belt is starting. This town of gem merchants is home to high-end hotels that dot the coast. The beach themselves are renowned for their pristine white beaches and crystal blue waters. Other attractions within the area include the Beruwela Harbour which, for a nominal fee, you can explore on foot; more adventurous tourists can take a short boat ride to the lighthouse, situated on a tiny island, and enjoy a panoramic view of the coast.
Bentota is the grand old dame of Sri Lankan beach resorts. Colonial powers from the Portuguese to the British came upon its picturesque beach, especially ...
Bentota is the grand old dame of Sri Lankan beach resorts. Colonial powers from the Portuguese to the British came upon its picturesque beach, especially the post-card-perfect coconut trees and white sand, and were left mesmerized. Today, that heritage can be seen in the Bentota Beach Hotel – once a fort, it was converted into a Dutch rest house before the British, yearning for relief from the cold weather in their homeland, built a resort.
The beach itself hasn’t lost its beauty despite plenty of subsequent development happening around it, and has now become one of the country’s prime venues for water sports; diving, snorkelling, jet-skiing, water-skiing, and deep-sea fishing are just some of the options available for tourists.
Another one of the larger towns in the Southern coastal belt of Sri Lanka, Matara’s beaches are unique in that the proximity to the Garanduwa Lagoon opens up a whole new range of experiences for the curious traveller. The lagoon’s name is a nod to its past when crocodiles had roamed the lagoon - today it is safe for beach-dwellers to explore the lagoon using its walking paths, and observe an incredible bio-diversity of insects, plants, birds, and marine life. Observable species include birds such as woolly-necked storks, Indian pond heron, Ceylon blue magpies, Ceylon green pigeon, and purple coot; while trees include breadfruit and its wild cousins Kirala (sometimes referred to as the Mangrove Apple), Kadol, and Bael fruit.
Closer to the coast, the beaches of Matara also offer an alternative departure spot for whale and dolphin watching.
Mirissa is quaint little sea-side village that has transformed in the last decade into a beach resort that is famous for whale and dolphin-watching, water sports, and its thumping Electronic Dance Music-infused nightlife. It isn’t for everyone, but those who have ventured past the better-known Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa beaches know that Mirissa’s beaches offers signature experiences that can’t be found elsewhere.
The clean beach means that, in addition to swimming and surfing, other water sports are also available to experience. Snorkelling opens a whole new marine world for travellers wanting to experience swimming with turtles and other marine life. In addition, the view of the corals and the delicate eco-systems that they give rise to is sure to bestow a burning need to do whatever possible to protect them for future generations.
Mirissa is also home to some secret beaches – ask the locals and they’ll be happy to guide you to the locations of these less-known beaches. They are secret mostly because they are relatively inaccessible, but those who manage to find these beaches will be rewarded with relative solitude and pristine beach.
Located about 196km from Colombo, Tangalle is a beach town that is fast becoming a favourite among tourists, especially the up-market kind. The beaches around Tangalle, located in Madaketiya and Goyambokka, are renowned for their white sandy beaches that are relatively unspoilt. Half an hour away, Rakawa Lagoon is also popular for its calm swimming spots as well as turtle watching. The Turtle Conservation Project allows tourists to learn more about these fascinating creatures and their millennia-old relationship to Sri Lanka’s southern shores.
The locals have also started diving schools for those interested in seeing what lies under the sapphire-blue ocean surface, and has fast become one of the most popular activities among tourists heading to the Sri Lanka’s southern beaches.
While Galle is best known for its charming fort, it boasts beaches that have a character all their own. Here, visitors can see fishermen return from their pre-dawn excursions into the ocean in search of the freshest fish. This fish is then sold immediately at the beach itself, making it a prime location for restaurateurs, chefs and general foodies who demand the very best seafood; whether it is fish, crab or prawns that catch your fancy, you’ll find choice selections at this fish market.
In addition, some fishermen engage in the time-honoured art of stilt fishing; climbing a high stilt planted in the water, a fisherman sits on his slit with his fishing rod and waits for his catch. This activity usually takes place during sunrise or sunset, making it an ideal time to catch an Instagram-worthy photo or two.
Galle is also a natural harbour, and is the only Sri Lankan port-of-call that services pleasure yachts.
Medirigiriya is a tiny hamlet off the World Heritage city of Polonnaruwa and is best known for its imposing Medirigiriya Vatadage, an ancient temple that ...
Medirigiriya is a tiny hamlet off the World Heritage city of Polonnaruwa and is best known for its imposing Medirigiriya Vatadage, an ancient temple that still stands today. This architectural masterpiece is almost two millennia old and was, at its pomp, much admired by ancient visitors from around the world.
The town and the Medirigiriya Vatadage can be reached from the closest city, the World Heritage site Polonnaruwa.