Matara, the most important settlement on the south, is situated at the end of the south coast railway line, 160km from Colombo. The town contains many remnants of Sri Lanka’s colonial past such as Dutch forts, churches and the famous statue of Our Lady of Matara. Matara was popular in the olden days due to its strategic location for trade of gems, spices and elephants. The name Matara was formed after the use of the names Mahatara and Maturai by the Portuguese which meant Great Harbour and Great Fortress respectively.
The Nilwala Ganga – the islands’ third longest river splits the old town of Matara from the new. Though there are some beaches in Matara town, it is not a beach resort. Polhena is the most famous beach of Matara. Slowly picking up as a tourist destination are the beaches of Mirissa which offer a quiet, beautiful beach alternative to the more vibrant Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna.
Dondra Point and Mirissa are some of the best locations to set off on whale and dolphin watching tours. Dolphins, Blue whales and Sperm whales are seen as the migrate across Dondra Point during October to April.
Hummanaya is a well-known attraction in the deep South which lives up to expectations. On a large expanse of rocky cliffs, water comes shooting up like a tall fountain with a huge whooshing sound through a fissure in the rocks.
The Parey Island Buddhist temple is a picturesque temple located along the beautiful beach of Matara. It sits on a small island that is connected to the beach by a walkway.
Weligama bay is a beautiful beach with stunning coral reefs which gives the opportunity to relax in a tranquil setting. It also provides as a great surfing point for beginners.