Must-see attractions in The South

  • Mirissa Beach

    Mirissa Beach


    A vision of tropical bliss, Mirissa Beach boasts powdery pale sand, while its azure water is framed by an arc of coconut palms. The west side is the…

  • Staircase at the Mulkirigala rock temple.

    Mulkirigala Rock Temples

    Tangalla & Around

    Dangling off a rocky crag 16km northwest of Tangalla and nestled away among a green forest of coconut trees are the peaceful rock temples of Mulkirigala…

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    Bundala National Park

    Bundala National Park

    Bundala National Park is a fantastic maze of waterways, lagoons and dunes that glitter like gold in the dying evening sun. This wonderland provides a home…

  • Raja Maha Vihara temple, Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka.

    Tissa Dagoba


    This large much-restored dagoba looming between Tissa town centre and the wewa is believed to have been originally built around 200 BC by Kavantissa, a…

  • Tea tasting  in the he Handunugoda Tea Estate and Tea Museum.

    Handunugoda Tea Estate

    The South

    This exquisite tea plantation in the hills above Koggala offers (free) highly informative tours of the estate. You'll sample and learn how they produce…

  • Old fort, Galle, Sri Lanka

    Flag Rock


    Flag Rock, at the southernmost end of the Fort, was once a Portuguese bastion. Today it is easily the most popular place to catch a sunset. During…

  • Star Fort in Matara.

    Star Fort


    This fort was built by the Dutch to compensate for deficiencies in the neighbouring rampart, but it’s so small it could only have protected a handful of…

  • Dutch Reformed Church in the Fort Galle.

    Dutch Reformed Church


    Originally built in 1640, the present building dates from 1752. Its floor is paved with gravestones from Dutch cemeteries, while other impressive features…

  • Artificial lake Tissa Wewa with clouds and long time exposure, Hambantota District, Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka

    Tissa Wewa


    The centrepiece of the town and its surrounds is the lovely Tissa Wewa (Tissa Tank), a huge artificial lake. In the evening, check out the flocks of…

  • Tuk tuk drives through the entrance of the old Dutch gate with British Coat of Arms above.

    Old Gate


    A beautifully carved British coat of arms tops the entrance to the Old Gate on the outer side. Inside, the letters VOC, standing for Verenigde…

  • Pagoda Sri Lanka

    Yatala Wehera


    Lotus ponds surround this site, which has a wealth of elephant details in the carvings (note the footpads). It was built 2300 years ago by King Mahanaga…

  • Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Art Museum

    The South

    This interesting museum includes the house where respected Sinhalese author Martin Wickramasinghe (1890–1976) was born (the traditional southern structure…

  • Maha Devale


    This is Kataragama's most important shrine. It contains the lance of the six-faced, 12-armed Hindu war god, Murugan (Skanda), who is seen as identical to…

  • The old fishing sailboat in the maritime museum in Galle, Sri Lanka.

    Marine Archeological Museum


    This spacious maritime museum occupies a colossal old spice warehouse built by the Dutch and dating back to the late 17th century. The structure was…

  • Man near waterhole scouring landscape with binoculars in Yala National Park.

    Yala National Park

    Yala National Park

    With trumpeting elephants, monkeys crashing through the trees, peacocks in their finest frocks and cunning leopards sliding like shadows through the…

  • The gardens, lawn and pillars of the local popular Nupe Market, a grand old historical Dutch colonial building and center of trade for centuries.

    Old Dutch Trade Centre


    On the western side of town, this magnificent T-shaped building (once the town's market) will fascinate architectural buffs: it has an imposing, steeply…

  • Rumassala Peace Pagoda


    On the hillside west of Unawatuna, this impressive pagoda was built by Japanese Buddhist monks of the Mahayana sect in 2005, as part of their scheme to…

  • Meeran Mosque


    Facing the lighthouse, this beautifully maintained whitewashed building is a highly unusual construction combining eclectic architectural features that…

  • Kirinda Temple

    The South

    Kirinda centres on this imposing hilltop Buddhist shrine, which includes a stupa and huge standing Buddha. It's dedicated to Queen Viharamahadevi, who…

  • Jungle Beach


    One of those 'secret' spots that everyone seems to knows about, Jungle Beach is a pretty bay just west of Unawatuna. There are a couple of slim-line sandy…

  • Yatagala Raja Maha Viharaya


    Just 4km inland from Unawatuna, the Yatagala Raja Maha Viharaya is a quiet rock temple with a 9m reclining Buddha. The mural-covered walls are painted in…

  • Sudharmalaya Temple


    Gazing over the lawns on the western side of Galle, this small whitewashed temple complex includes a prayer hall (the unusual design of which, including a…

  • Dutch Hospital


    Now fully restored and home to myriad upmarket boutiques and restaurants, this vast, colonnaded colonial landmark dates from the 18th century. Its size…

  • Bandrawatta Beach


    This lovely natural cove beach is well away from the main highway, has sheltered swimming and also a surf break further offshore. Look out for stilt…

  • Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka

    Wewurukannala Vihara

    The South

    A 50m-high seated Buddha figure – the largest in Sri Lanka – is a highlight of this somewhat gaudy temple, which is often thronged with worshippers…

  • Amangalla


    The Amangalla was built in 1684 to house the Dutch governor and officers. Later, as the New Oriental Hotel, it was the lodging of choice for 1st-class P&O…

  • Koggala Lake

    The South

    Next to the road, Koggala Lake is alive with birdlife and dotted with islands, one of which features a Buddhist temple that attracts many visitors on poya…

  • Matara Fort


    This historic, though run-down district, was once the heart of Dutch, and later British, Matara. There are no real sights, but it's an intriguing area…

  • Historical Mansion


    More of an antique store than a museum, this Fort townhouse (which dates back to the Dutch days) contains the private collection of a long-time local…

  • Ho-o-maniya Blowhole

    The South

    The Ho-o-maniya blowhole is sometimes spectacular and other times a fizzle. During the southwest monsoon (June is the best time), high seas can force…

  • Kataluwa Purwarama Temple

    The South

    Rarely crowded, this feels like the temple time forgot. Dating from the 13th century, it has some recently restored murals, including some large ones…

  • Taprobane


    Just offshore – you can walk out to it at low tide – is this tiny island. It looks like an ideal artist’s or writer’s retreat, which indeed it once was:…

  • Main Gate


    The Main Gate in the northern stretch of the wall is a comparatively recent addition – it was built by the British in 1873 to handle the heavier flow of…

  • Weherahena Temple


    On the east side of Matara, turn inland 1km off the main road for this gaudy temple that features an artificial cave decorated with about 200 cartoon-like…

  • Dutch Rampart


    The smallish Dutch rampart occupies the promontory separating the Nilwala Ganga from the sea. Built in the 18th century to protect the VOC’s kachcheri …

  • Dondra Head Lighthouse

    The South

    The landmark Dondra Head Lighthouse provides an exclamation mark to the southernmost point of Sri Lanka. Visitors are not currently permitted to enter the…

  • Museum


    This small museum, next to Yatala Wehera, contains an extraordinary range of treasures including an ornate, ancient bidet, which – as well as an elaborate…

  • Galle International Cricket Stadium


    Once a racecourse for wagering British colonials, Galle's cricket ground was established over 100 years ago. Since 1998 it has been used for international…

  • Polhena Beach


    The best beach in the area is a small sandy cove that's sheltered by a reef offshore. There's good snorkelling in the bay, and though visibility is not…

  • Parey Dewa


    A pedestrian bridge near the bus station leads to a small island, Parey Dewa (Rock in Water), which is home to a tiny Buddhist temple with a very fancy…