Sri Lanka’s south coast offers a wealth of variety, from forests and beaches to parks and pilgrimage centers. Heading south from Colombo, the first stop along this 150-mile (241-km) long trunk road will be the Dehiwela Zoo, reputed to be the best in South Asia. A comprehensive visit will take the entire morning, and on the way back, stop by at Mount Lavinia Beach and the Mount Lavinia Hotel.
The Gangatilaka Vihara in Kalutara is the next historic landmark. The huge new dagoba is built on the site of an ancient temple and is hollow inside with a gallery of fine paintings. The bo tree shrine in front has a till, to which drivers traditionally make offering to ensure a successful journey. Kalutara is also known for its delicious mangosteen fruits and fine basket-weaving.
The popular beach resorts begin from Beruwala and continue up to Hikkaduwa. In between are a multitude of excellent swimming spots and an equally generous number of wonderfully scenic sites.
At Bentota are a series of luxury hotels, with ample shopping, cultural displays and exhibitions. Some excellent local seafood is available here. From here, visit the 12th century Galapata Vihara and ‘Brief’—the sprawling, beautifully landscaped home of well-known artist Bevis Bawa.
Next stop is Kosgoda, known for its turtle hatchery, established by the Hasselblad Estate and operated by the Wild Life Protection Society of Sri Lanka.
Ambalangoda, the next major town, is noted for its ritual masks and ‘devil dancing’ (exorcism rituals). The town is also famous for its woodcarving and puppetry.
The most important town on the south coast is Galle, which at one time served as a major port. The oldest landmark is a large fort built by the Portuguese and later added to by the Dutch. Other than walking around the ramparts and eating large quantities of delicious seafood, drop in at the Closenburgh Guest House, overlooking the beautiful bay of that name, then go on to Buona Vista for a panoramic view of the entire area.
Main Tourist Attractions of Galle, Sri Lanka
- Dutch Fort
- National Maritime Museum
- Dutch Reformed Church
- Kottawa Conservation Forest
- Hikkaduwa Beach
Hikkaduwa is the most famous beach resort on the island, catering to all tastes and pockets. The mile strip of road through the town is lined with a mass of shops selling batiks, swimwear and assorted curious, eating houses and low-budget rest houses. The beach here is superb and the colorful reef is snorkeling paradise. For those who don’t like to wet their feet, most hotels have glass-bottom boast at reasonable prices.