2023 Feb 25
The Southern coast of Sri Lanka is everyone’s first thought when it comes to planning a trip. But how many of us know where to go when we’re actually there? Although it’s known for its scenic beaches, the southern parts of Sri Lanka is more than just that. From selfie lovers to history buffs and wildlife enthusiasts to adrenaline junkies, here are our top picks for you!
1. Ariyapala Masks Museum in Ambalangoda
Out of all the former mask-making families around the area, the Wijesuriya family has diligently retained the dying heritage for generations. This museum is home to numerous exquisite and opulent masks, each of which has a fascinating backstory that the staff is happy to share with visitors. The Museum also offers a retail store, workshops, and a library inside where you can dive deep into their peculiar tradition.
Address: 432, Galle road, Ambalangoda
Open hours: Daily, 9.30 am to 5 pm
2. Rathgama Lake in Hikkaduwa
Situated further south from Hikkaduwa’s main town, the Rathgama Lake offers a greener landscape than the usual coastal surroundings of Hikkaduwa. The natural lake stretches for more than 17 km, and is renowned for its distinctive biodiversity housing a variety of fascinating plant and animal species. On your visit there, you’ll find various activities, including boat rides, bird watching and the unconventional fish therapy for your feet!
3. Sea Turtle Hatchery in Mahamodara
This family run sea turtle hatchery is not only a hatchery, but also operates as a rescue centre that supports the conservation of this endangered species. Visitors are given a briefing as soon as they arrive at the centre about their system and efforts, as well as a tour through the facility. You can mindfully interact with the turtles during your visit and make donations to contribute to the cause.
Tel: 0769 757 471
Address: 417 D/1, Colombo Road, Mahamodara, Galle
Open hours: Daily, 9 am to 5 pm
4. Historical Mansion Museum in Galle Dutch Fort
The best way to describe this renovated Dutch home on Leyn Baan Street inside Galle Fort is, “a history buff’s dream come true”. You can find rows of colonial artefacts within these walls, including collections of vintage typewriters, cameras, jewellery and other antiquities belonging to the private collector, Abdul Gaffar. In the courtyard, there is also an antiquated Dutch well which is believed to be built in 1763. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a live presentation of traditional gem cutting and beeralu lace embroidery on your visit here.
Tel: 0777 921 555
Address: 31, Layn Baan Street , Galle Fort, Galle
Open hours: Daily, 9 am to 6 pm
5. Stilt Fishing in Koggala
Stilt fishing is a traditional fishing technique used by native fishermen in Sri Lanka, particularly sighted on the shores of Koggala. Fishermen sit on crossbars known as a “petta” attached to vertical beams driven into the sand a few metres offshore. Here, they wait for their catch of the day with perfect balance and unfathomable amounts of patience. Catch them in action, or what’s better, try it out yourself! Regardless of your balancing skills, at least you can snag an Insta-worthy pic!
6. Snake Farm in Weligama
Located near Weligama city in a small town called Telijjawila is a snake sanctuary that holds about 20 to 40 snakes at a time. It’s managed by a father and son duo who also operate an ayurvedic snake bite treatment centre alongside the farm. The snakes are taken out for demonstration only when the owner is present. Non-dangerous snakes can be handled and carried by visitors, while venomous snakes can be observed from a safe distance.
Tel: 0777 968 320
7. Coconut Tree Hill in Mirissa
If you’re in Mirissa, you can’t pass up on visiting this dome shaped hill with its towering coconut trees. Located close to the town, the hill can be accessed at any time of day and is only a short trek from the base of the hill – just make sure you put on some comfortable shoes before you make your way up.
8. Star Fort in Matara
The name says it all. Built in the late 1700s in the shape of a six-pointed star, this fort is the last major defence work built by the Dutch in Sri Lanka. The Star Fort is located 350 m past the Matara Fort on the West bank of the Nilwala River. If you’re a historical enthusiast or just want to marvel at Dutch colonial architecture, this is a must-visit landmark!
9. Paravi Duwa Temple in Matara
The temple is located on a small island encompassed by the Indian Ocean. Regardless of the temple being a Buddhist place of worship, it attracts plenty of visitors from various religious faiths and beliefs simply due to its sheer beauty. Many visitors grace the temple to take pictures of the bordering sea and the beautiful gardens around the temple grounds. Access to the temple is connected by a long metal bridge that stretches towards the island but due to its recent collapse, a temporary bridge has been installed.
10. Blue Beach Island in Nilwella
Blue Beach Island is a small island in the Nilwella area between Dickwella and Tangalle. What makes this location stand out is the fact that the island is connected to the mainland through a small stretch of sand dune almost like a natural bridge. But do note that at certain times of the year, this layer of sand is covered by sea waves. Though it’s a private property, the owner accommodates campgrounds for visitors to rent out, and the freedom to go snorkeling and swimming.
11. Mulkirigala Rock Monastery in Hambantota
Located roughly 19 km inland from the Tangalle coast, the Mulkirigala Rock Monastery is perched on a 600 ft high natural rock. There are seven cave temples situated in five terraced areas of different altitudes and hold age-old murals within cave walls depicting Lord Buddha’s life and tales from the famous Jataka stories. These terraces can be accessed comfortably through well paved granite paths.
12. Mirijjawila Botanical Garden in Ambalantota
This well maintained garden contains a vast and beautiful collection of endemic and exotic flora and flowers. You can take a full tour – which rounds up to 1.5 hours to complete – around the entire garden in an electric cart with one of their experienced guides.
13. Birds Park / Birds Research Center in Hambantota
With approximately 180 varieties and around 3,200 birds, Birds Park is a haven for unique and exotic birds. Among its collection of exotic birds, the most prominent are the birds hailing from the Amazon rainforest. The park is categorised into five zones, namely; Wetlands, Wings of Asia, Flightless Birds, Macaws and Cockatoos, and Parrot Paradise. The 35-acre park is also one of Asia’s largest bird research centres. The full tour around the park will take approximately 1.5 hours to complete and the best part is, you get to feed the birds – another Instagrammable experience!
Address: Birds Park / Birds Research Center, Nagara Lake, Hambantota
Open hours: Daily, 6 am to 6 pm
14. Lunugamwehera National Park in Tanamalwila
This is a preferred destination for elephant sightings because the park acts as an elephant corridor between the Yala National Park on the East and the Udawalawe National Park on the West, facilitating the animals to move from one to the other. This park receives significantly less visitors compared to the Yala National Park, making it the ideal place for animal sightings due to the serene and quiet environment.
Tel: 0473 489 159
Address: Yala National Park, Kalapa 06, Kalu Paalama, Thanamalwila
Open hours: Daily, 6 am to 4.30 pm
15. Ranimihitenna Tele Cinema Village in Tissamaharama
If you’re a fan of cinema and urban exploring, you’re going to like this one! This is the only tele cinema park in Sri Lanka. The village holds unique structures and movie sets that resemble some iconic attractions around Sri Lanka. Here, visitors can gain insight on all things related to cinematography. Since some structures are abandoned and rundown, take extra caution when you’re exploring.
Tel: 0472 255 445
Address: Mahinda Rajapaksa National Tele Cinema Park, Jule Bridge, Raminithenna, Tissamaharama
Open Hours: Daily , 8 am to 5 pm
Hope this list comes in handy to make your trips down south more adventurous and exciting!