David Hoffman from David’s Been Here is another one of our favourite travel bloggers. As well as being a lovely guy he’s also one of the most well travelled people we know. He hit the road back in 2007 and hasn’t looked back, visiting over 50 countries and creating a strong brand including guidebooks, merchandise, custom tours and even handy trip planning services along the way. Sri Lanka, the island country in the northern Indian Ocean has been on our travel wish list for a long time now so we thought there was no better person to ask what its famously beautiful Southern Coast was really like…
Sri Lanka’s southern coast is littered with an impressive diversity of attractions and things to do. Here you will find everything from lush, tropical beaches to impressive religious and historical sites. Below you will find my comprehensive list of the highlights.
Colombo is Sri Lanka’s capital and largest city. It is home to a dichotomous mix of colonial and modern features, and it remains the center of the country’s commercialism. Visit the National Museum for a crash course in Sri Lanka’s culture and history, wander the harbor, take a dip in the cool waters, and snap some pictures of the lavish mosques and temples.
Situated just beyond the Kalu Ganga River bridge is the impressive Kalutara Vihara Temple. Constructed in the 1960s, people come from near and far to leave offerings and burn incense in this magnificent white-domed stupa.
The highlight for those just learning about Sri Lankan culture is the 70 murals depicting various scenes from Buddha’s numerous lives.
Ambalangoda’s Ariyapala & Sons Mask Museum pays tribute to the town’s reputation for their superior production of traditional masks. Visitors are given the unique opportunity to learn about the three traditional varieties: Kolam, Raksha, and Sanni. All colorfully ornate, they make great souvenirs and are available for purchase onsite.
Meetiyagoda is the center of the island’s promising blue moonstone mining industry. Here visitors can tour the moonstone mines. Tours will walk you through the shaft, and the sifting process, as well as provide you with the opportunity to view uncut raw moonstones, stone cutting, and ultimately the finalized product. I recommend Beruwalage Gems & Jewellery. You can even purchase one of these natural beauties as a souvenir!
With 130 acres, you are going to need a couple of days to explore Galle’s impressive colonial fort. Inaugurated by the Portuguese in 1588, it got its nickname, The Dutch Fort, for the Dutch renovations and additions made during their occupation.
Highlights include the Galle Fort Lighthouse, the Dutch Reformed Church, the 1707 Dutch clock tower, and the National Maritime Museum housed in what once served as the Great Warehouse.
Unawantua is a gem that is all-too-often overlooked. However, situated just four miles from Galle, there is really no excuse for missing out on this hidden treasure. It is home to one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. Snorkel in the crystalline waters, enjoy a beverage under a thatched umbrella, or bird watch in the lush greenery that lines the shore.
Weligama is known for its traditional practice of stilt fishing. It’s truly a site to behold as no boats or nets are used, just a stilt and a fishing rod. Be sure to bring your camera to capture this one-of-a-kind local custom.
Mirissa is a soft sandy beach, lined with lush, tropical greenery. Just offshore, the waters are home to a prosperous whale population. If you wish to see one these majestic nautical creatures, whale watching is one of Mirissa’s most memorable activities.
The town of Matara was once a strategic port for the Dutch. The main attraction of the town is the town’s Main Fort. Highlights include the colonial houses, the Dutch Reformed Church, St. Mary’s Church, and the unbarred sea views.
Hambantota is a small coastal town that was tragically devastated by the 2004 tsunami. However, thanks to a renewed interest from tourists, in recent years the town has begun to steadily rebuild in a valiant effort to restore Hambantota to its previous glory. Stroll the shores, snap some pictures of the local fishermen, and sample the local specialty, Kalu Dodol, a tasty sweet meat.
Over 2,500 years ago, the small town of Tissamaharama served as the capital of the Kingdom of Ruhuna. The town serves as the gateway to Yala National Park and the town of Kataragama. However, there are a few buildings remaining from as early as the 3rd century B.C.
Just fifteen minutes away from Yala National Park, is the famous Kirinda Temple. From here you can capture unparalleled views of the coastline. Its gem is the statue of Queen Viharamaha Devi, who legend states drifted ashore after being sacrificed to atone for her father’s sin of brutally executing a monk in scalding oil.
Kataragama is a city with an impressive diversity of practiced religions. Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians flock here to worship at the temples. Fascinating religious rituals take place daily and make for a unique and immersive cultural experience.
Yala National Park rests on 380 square miles of protected land. Residents include water buffalo, elephants, egrets, crocodiles, and a diversity of amphibians and birds. However, the park is best known for its thriving leopard population.
All words and photos by David Hoffman of David’s Been Here