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The South/Sri Lanka

Introducing The South

The South needs to figure prominently in any traveller’s visit to Sri Lanka. The Unesco-listed old port town of Galle is fast gaining international fame as one of the best-preserved examples of colonial life in Asia. The streets of the 17th-century Fort are lined with old, unrestored buildings that vividly show the influences of the Dutch, Portuguese, British, Muslims and the many other peoples and cultures that have passed through. As upmarket hotels open, Galle is on the cusp of becoming something much bigger.

Just around a rocky headland from Galle, Unawatuna has shaken off the devastation of the tsunami (even if the memories linger) and continues to be the idyllic beach town of many a traveller’s dreams. The perfect crescent of sand inspires a languor that can last for days, if not weeks. Just east, luxurious, picture-perfect villas welcome the well-heeled.

Among the smattering of villages and coastal towns between Unawatuna and Tangalla there are bare-bones guesthouses fronting the amazing surfing breaks at Midigama, and character-filled family-run resorts on their own little coves. The popular beach town of Tangalla, with its long stretches of white sands, will be reborn as the tsunami devastation recedes over time. At the far corner of the island, Yala National Park is the place to see leopards, elephants, monkeys and much more amid its remote savanna plains.

As you head east along the south coast the road becomes less and less crowded, and it becomes easier and easier to feel part of local life. Stretches of dramatic coast alternate with the lush green interior, and there are many important places of local culture, like the temples at Kataragama.