A Leopard Spotted during a Kumana Safari
A Leopard seated on a lawn yawning, Spotted during a Kumana Safari

Sri Lanka, the pearl that lies amidst the waves of the Indian Ocean, has been one of the leading countries in the field of Asian tourism. It is not just a few places on the island, but every bit of it is attractive, scenery and rich with beauty. However, the coastal areas of this country gain more credits when it comes to tourism in Sri Lanka. Besides, when paying attention to the coastal belt of this wonderful land, we can never forget Hambantota. Indeed, that is because it is a town with numerous places to visit and enjoy the beauty.

So, haven’t you visited Hambantota yet? Don’t you know the importance of visiting there? Then, there is a lot for you to know. Don’t worry! Here comes a full tour of Hambantota. Continue reading!

Where is Hambantota?

Hambantota, as mentioned above, is a town in the Southern part of Sri Lanka. In fact, it is a main city in the Southern Province, one of the nine provinces in Sri Lanka. Also, this town is to the right of the two other Districts in the province, Galle and Matara. Further, it is around 258.7km away from Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka.

Further, it was formerly ‘Ruhuna’ mainly in history, and it was then one of the Kingdoms as well. Since then, it has been a principal port in Sri Lanka. Still, after being a victim of the tsunami and being severely damaged by it, Hambantota is once again developing to become a major seaport in the country. At the same time, one can find the only inland airport (Mattala) in the country, in Hambantota. Hence, it is a major landmark in Sri Lanka where one can find it all in one place.

Moreover, being at the edges of the country’s margins, this city owns a part of the delicate ocean around the island. Considerably, Hambanthota has a large sea area compared to the other Southern parts. In fact, it has become a plus point to it becoming the primary and mandatory destination for a traveler. Not only these facts, but the unique ambiance it owns also makes Hambantota a frontline contributor to the field of tourism in Sri Lanka.

Best Things to Do in Hambantota

As mentioned earlier, there are several reasons for Hambantota to earn this fame and position in the field of tourism. One of the main reasons is the ambiance or the formation of it, filled with dozens of interesting things to do when one reaches the city. There are indeed hundreds of things to do starting from visiting, sightseeing, exploring to watching, but below mentioned are the best and worth of doing as the majority believes.

  1. Visiting Mirijjawila Botanical Garden
  2. Exploring Bundala National Park
  3. Visiting Ridiyagama Safari Park
  4. Visiting Yala National Park
  5. Bird Watching at Kumana National Park
  6. Visiting Ramba Viharaya
  7. Visiting Agro Technological Park
  8. Going on a Walawe River Safari
  9. Visiting Sithulpawwa Buddhist Monastery
  10. Visiting Mulkirigala Rock Temple
  11. Exploring the Religious City of Kataragama
  12. Visiting Birds Research Center & Resort
  13. Exploring Ussangoda National Park
  14. Visiting Madunagala Hot Springs
  15. Visiting Martello Tower

Of course, you might be willing to know more about the delight of these things to do in Hambantota. Take it easy, because the following sections will give you enough and more information about each of these activities.

1. Visiting Mirijjawila Botanical Garden

This garden is one of the five botanical gardens and the second largest in the country. It is situated facing the Colombo-Kataragama road, making it more convenient for anyone to reach the place. Located in between the two major landmarks of the country, Mattala International Airport, and Hambantota Harbour, it has a pleasant environment along with a greener environment, endemic exotic plants, flowers, and artistic water bodies. Developing a monotonous area covered with shrubs and abandoned lands into an attractive garden, the purpose of this is not solely to create a space for nature visits. In fact, building this garden has a side story in conserving the environment from what nature has.

The main reasons to convert an abandoned land to a garden are to conserve both the dry zone plants of Sri Lanka with the medicinal herbs that are rare to find. At the same time, promoting ecotourism, botany, and floriculture while providing knowledge and training on them is another aim. Thus, primarily it is to conserve a valuable piece of land along with its rare content is the aim of this being a garden.

Moreover, there are three water bodies namely: Kohobagas Wewa, Malitthangas Wewa, and Demataththa Wewa to make it more eye-catching and pleasant to the visitors. It helps to preserve the moisture in such dry land as well. Hence, the structure of the garden is very eco-friendly and human-friendly, serving both purposes tactically. Thus, it is worth a visit there.

The best time to visit the garden is after monsoon rain since it might be dry and hard to watch the surroundings. It takes around 3 hours to explore the entire garden and though you can find electric vehicles there, the best experience comes with walking around.

2. Exploring Bundala National Park

Bundala national, which was to be a wildlife sanctuary first, has become a national park due to its location, resources, and environment. It was the first wetland in Sri Lanka as per historical records. It is the fourth biosphere reserve on the island where one can find both rare fauna and flora in one place. Most importantly, most of the tourists and travelers who visit Bundala recommend it as the best bird-watching sight in Sri Lanka. In fact, one can not only find endemic birds but also the number of migrant species in this reserve. It is the best experience that one can gain from visiting Bundala. Thus, it has been recognized as one of the most important bird areas in South Indian and Sri Lankan wetlands. 

When it comes to other fauna types, except for birds, one can find many fish species, reptiles, amphibians, and even species of butterflies inside this wetland park. Some rarely seen mammals with few Asian elephants are also a part of this national park. Thus, this is one of the open zoos in Sri Lanka rather than just a national park. 

Since it is in a lagoon, the area is an area with dry thorny shrubs and herbs along with several terrestrial habitat types and few wetland types that are quite unique. Also, unlike other lagoons, this has a small area with mangroves widespread with a unique type of them. 

3. Visiting Ridiyagama Safari Park

Ridiyagama safari park, the first-ever safari park in Sri Lanka, is a 500-acre park or an open zoo situated in Ridiyagama in Hambantota District. The construction of it was a project of the National Zoological Department of Sri Lanka aiming to uplift the field of tourism in the country. As for the major exhibits, it consists of different species of animals and birds. Besides, the visitors can have a drive-through zoo experience from this safari park since it is an open zoo.

There are around 22 species of animals, including mammals imported from different countries as well. The newly arrived animals are leopards, cheetahs, kangaroos, and giraffes. One can also find scary animals such as African lions and Bengal tigers freely moving around. 

When it comes to the structure of the park, there are 6 zones separately for animals depending on the type of the animals; 4 zones for carnivores and 2 zones for herbivores. Also, there are African lions, Sri Lankan elephants, World, African, American, and Australian zones with a small animal kingdom as well.

However, unlike other parks or reserves, one can find animals roaming around at any time of the day. So, the hardships of traveling before dawn are no longer a problem when visiting Ridiyagama. Thus, this is also the best place for nature lovers, safari lovers, and both animal and nature photographers since they can have beautiful sights of animals without being in trouble.

4. Visiting Yala National Park

Yala national park is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka, after Wilpattu. They are also the first two national parks on the island. It gets the most number of visits than any other national park in the country. Lying at the borders of the Indian ocean, it has two main parts inside the park namely; Ruhuna National park and Kumana Bird Sanctuary. The latter is an adjoining area in the vicinity of the park. Dividing the park into two major parts has given the opportunity to the travelers and the visitors to explore all the includes of the park freely and thoroughly. Within these two parts, there are six national parks with three wildlife sanctuaries in the landscape of Yala. However, the best part of the park is the wildlife.

Not only this park is a habitat for fauna and flora, but also an area with different landscapes and ecosystems making the park rich with nature. The moist monsoon forests, freshwater, and marine wetlands are some of them. The diversity is vast in the wildlife to flora to landscapes to ecosystems within the vicinity of this impeccable ambiance.

Moreover, the park has historical importance as well. Back in history, it was the host of several civilizations. Still, within the ground, the same significance remains to have two well-known pilgrim sites namely; Sithulpawwa and Magul Vihara. 

Besides, it has a large area to discover that takes at least two full days with safari trips and sightseeing. Thus, it is worth visiting Yala, most importantly to the environmentalists, wildlife specialists, naturalists, travelers, and explorers. 

5. Bird Watching at Kumana National Park

Kumana national park or the Yala East national park is best known for avifauna due to its presence of large flocks of migrant birds and about 6 endemic bird species. This is a popular bird breeding and bird nesting ground in Sri Lanka. Thus, the Kumana Bird Sanctuary is the most important part of the national park. 

The park is also rich with flora and other wildlife species along with the water bodies. It is a habitat for mammals like jackals, elephants, leopards, wild boars, and other species. This separates it from the other part of the Yala national park by Kumbukkan Oya. Along with that, 20 lagoons and some tanks provide water resources to the birds and wildlife within the park. When it comes to flora it is a wetland with dry zone tropical thorn forests along with inland forest plants.

However, the best season to visit and do bird watching is the migratory season. It allows the visitors and the explorers to have sight of around 250 species. Hence, the bird watchers and the nature travelers are the most visiting and ideal visitors to the park.

6. Visiting Ramba Viharaya

This is Southern Sri Lanka’s second-largest ancient monastic complex dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Located on the bank of Walawe river in Udarata, Nonagama-Rathnapura road, this historical site spreads over 200 acres of land. This area was before Maha Nagakula and was the capital in ancient times. Hence, the Ramba viharaya was the Royal temple of the day. Also, since there are several historical incidents revolving around the site, it is a significant place in Ceylon history.

After excavating the site recently, they could find the monuments and unique architecture in the place. The steps are taken to conserve and preserve them for another generation as well. Through the findings, one can say that this is one of the important places to study the beauty of ancient archeology and its smooth process. Thus, it is an ancient place that has historical importance the same as Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura ancient cities.

However, the sight is worth having since the exposed ancient buildings contain ancient foundations, pillars, unbroken plasters, balustrades, steps and ornamental stone carvings, terracotta swans, etc. Also, one can find ancient image houses as well. Having a preserved base of a clay reclining Buddha and another with standing still enhances the religious glamour it used to have. Thus, it is a must to visit Ramba Rajamaha Viharaya if it is a trip to the Southern part of the country.

7. Visiting Agro Technological Park

Agro Technological Park is another park among the dozens of parks in the vicinity of Hambantota, yet different from others. This is a man-made park filled with greenery, natural art made with the trees, bushes, and plants it has. This is the best place to study the well-known and lesser-known vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, medicinal crops, and other useful crop species. One tour in the entire park gives you bulks of knowledge about varieties of rare plants and their origins as well.

Besides, this has a structure of a home garden layout even with a scarecrow to give that feeling of seeing a natural agriculture field, which is very common in Central hills, in Southern Sri Lanka. Thus, this not only gives knowledge but also inspires the visitors on garden making and maintaining. At the same time, it displays new and older agricultural technologies as well. It consists of a Floriculture garden, Dry Zone Home garden, Herbal garden along with both old and modern agriculture equipment, irrigation methods, model houses made with clay, etc. 

Also, this is a very well-maintained park with highly innovative wooden sculptures and a water body with a side path for walking and relaxing as well. Thus, it is worth having a visit here since it inspires a youngster to a grown-up elder on agriculture, farming, and gardening. 

8. Going on a Walawe River Safari

Walawe river safari is a unique boat ride safari that you can find in Ambalantota in Hambantota District. This is equally popular among locals as well as tourists since the ride is worth having owing to the rich biodiversity one is getting to experience. The uniqueness of this safari is that instead of safari jeeps and safari buses, it is safari boats engaged in this safari. Streaming through the Walawe river one can explore the diversity of the bird and mangrove worlds on both riversides. 

The biodiversity of the Walawe river contains six varieties of mangroves, 52 fish species, 72 fish species, 38 plant varieties, and 28 animal species. The river lines occupy with bats and cranes in shifts, thus, perhaps black and perhaps white in color. The scenery is nice to have a look at. Yes, it is pleasant when the greens are covered with black or white. 

Another amazing instance of this safari apart from the all flora, fauna, and diversified environment is the turn it gives to the sea and the beach. When it reaches the sea one can have a nice sea sight with calm walking and capturing photographs. Thus, this safari is rich with most riverside and seaside experiences.

Not only for natural wonders but also for the tourists, the Walawe river safari is a memorable experience of discovering and exploring.

9. Visiting Sithulpawwa Buddhist Monastery

Sithulpawwa Buddhist Monastery or Sithulpawwa rock temple is a pilgrim site with historical significance. This temple can be reached by going about 12km in Tissamaharama-Yodakandiya road towards the Yala National Park. Having been built in the 2nd century, this has now become one of the greatest Buddhist pilgrim sites. The original name of the monastery is “Chittala Pabbatha” which means ‘the hill of the quiet mind’. Hence, it derives the location of the temple along with its purpose. At the same time, it conveys the fact of about 12000 monks attaining the highest level of mind at the site as well.

As you already know, the temple lies on a rock surface. Thus, the tourists need to climb a considerable amount of steps carved on the rock itself to reach the destination. The final scenery is incredible as it gives the sight of the surroundings at the top of the rock hill. Being a creation of the reign period of King Kawanthissa, it consists of paintings, ruins of stone Buddha images, image houses, circular relic houses, and ancient arts. Also, there are small stupas around the main one on the top.

However, it says that the best time to climb the rock is early mornings or evenings due to the climate in that area. 

10. Visiting Mulkirigala Rock Temple

Mulkirigala Rock Temple or Mulkirigala Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient temple in Mulkirigala in Hambantota District. One can reach the site coming along the Beliatta-Weeraketiya main road. As in the name, it is located on a rock high about 200m and surrounded by a pleasant sight of four other well-known rocks. The rocks are Benagala, Kondagala, Bisoogala and Seelawathiegala. 

The temple has levels with some terraces until it reaches the top, the Stupa and the visitors can observe and explore the beauty of all these levels. These terraces are namely, 

  • Siyambalamaluwa with a museum
  • Lower terrace with two cave temples
  • Cave terrace with the Vihara Maluwa
  • Bodhiya terrace with the Bomaluwa
  • Cave terrace with cobra temple
  • Cave terrace with Parinirvana viharaya
  • Final ascend with Upper Bodhiya terrace and Chethiya Terrace

Apart from all these caves, there are paintings and sculptures belonging to the Kandyan era in every cave and even at the final ascent as well. Most of these artifacts reveal the life of Buddha, and episodes of Jathaka stories. 

This is a site that has significant historical importance and the inscriptions that are there on the rock prove it. There are three inscriptions related to different periods of history namely, Mulkirigala Cave Inscription, Mulkirigala Rock Inscription, and Mulkirigala Rock Inscription near the pond. 

Thus, the one who visits this ancient rock temple can obtain lots of knowledge about the history and the life of Buddha along with his early lives through Jathaka tales.

11. Visiting Birds Research Center and Resort

Hambantota Birds park and research center is Asia’s largest birds park and research center. Expanded in 35 acres of landscape, this park has become a home to endemic variety of birds in Sri Lanka. There are around 3200 birds from 180 species. Being a significant landmark of the Southern part of Sri Lanka, the birds’ research center and resort in Hambantota became an essential destination for bird watchers and nature lovers.

When it comes to this site, it has five main exhibits. They are Wetlands, Wings of Asia, Flightless birds, Macaws & Cockatoos, and Parrot paradise. These different exhibits work on different purposes aiming mainly to preserve the endemic birds in Sri Lanka and Asia. Also, these exhibits work on the types and varieties of birds to ease the examination of the visitors. Moreover, when it comes to the exhibit called wetlands while showcasing the diverse birdlife, it aims to spread awareness of the importance of wetland ecosystems as well. 

Opening a door to a diverse yet rare bird world, this site even provides resort facilities to the visitors in order to let them have a calm and relaxed experience. The aim of providing this particular facility is to take away the burden of bothering about the time constraints. It allows the visitors to stay and have a thorough study of birds and their habitats while enjoying their time.

Also, it provides an electronic birds park map that one can download from the website in order to make sure that the visitors do not miss a single inch of the site. Thus, it is worth having a visit to the bird research center and resort since it is one of the few destinations for birds on the island.

12. Exploring Ussangoda National Park

Ussangoda National park is essentially an archaeological site among Sri Lankan nature parks. Unlike other national parks, this gives importance to the landscape and the geographical features. It is a block of land of high ground by the sea and spreads over a significant area. Located in Southern turtle breeding zones, it is an area covered with grass and a few pockets of pygmy forests. 

At the same time, the significance of this land is that it consists of pink sand which is very rare to see. It is a very peaceful place with a historical background that goes back to the times of Ravana. Some believe that the indifferent heat that is there has a connection with that historical story as well. However, the site is picturesque with the backdrop of the ocean and is the best place to have a walk. No animals can be found except for some birds.

The best time to visit the place is late evening. The heat is considerably high and unbearable in the daytime. It takes around 1 hour to walk around and enjoy the view. The only difficulty you face is when you are locating the place, it does not pop up in the google map.

13. Visiting Madunagala Hot Springs

Madunagala hot springs are one of the famous natural hot springs in Sri Lanka. Located in Madunagala hermitage, this gives such a rare experience to the visitors. There is a central well and four tanks that get the overflowing water of the well. The heat level of the four tanks differs from one to the other. Hence, it is good to start with the last tank. 

The best experience of these hot springs can be taken with having a bath. Yes, it makes you feel the differences between the tanks well. But in seasonal periods, they do not allow bathing since the place gets crowded easily. Thus, the preferable time to visit the springs is in the evenings. The place had not much of a crowd at that time. 

However, there is a belief which says that the water of these springs has the ability to heal sicknesses, bruises, rashes, and skin problems. Due to this reason, it gets flooded with locals as well as tourists during vacations. Most importantly the water level of these tanks never reduces even with a big crowd. They are always overflowing. Also, it has separate changing rooms and rest areas for men and women. Thus, it is worth having a visit to these springs since it gives you a sort of monumental experience.

14. Visiting Martello Tower

Martello tower is one of few forts in Sri Lanka. This is a fort built by Dutch and it is one of the smallest and only fortifications built by colonials. Hence it is one of the rarest monuments in the world. Also, history says that this resembles the Martello Tower in Cape Town. It is said so because the designer of both the towers is the same. It is a circular-shaped fort of 25ft tall with a 39ft diameter width and 3.11ft thick walls. The ground floor of the fort consists of a magazine and a storeroom. 

Although it is an archeological site with a fisheries museum now, it was obsolete for a larger period of time after independence. Also through exploring this tower, one can get a better understanding of the colonial heritage along with their architectural knowledge as well. Thus, it is worth having a visit to Martello tower if you are an explorer and curious about the colonial heritage that existed on the island. Visiting Martello Tower gives you a historical fortification as well. 

How to Get to Hambantota?

As a part of Southern country, reaching Hambantota is quite easier from Colombo from all the routes; by road, by train, and even by flying as well. However, the recently built Southern Expressway has eased the traveling and transportation to the Southern part from many inland areas in the country.  If one takes the route to Hambantota from the commercial city of the country, Colombo using the Southern Expressway, it takes around 3hrs and 30 mins. There are around 8 ways to reach Hambantota from Colombo.

The main and the easiest way to reach Hambantota is by taking the bus. If you are traveling by bus, you can take the bus from Colombo Bastian bus terminal of bus route EX 1-12/32 to Tangalle. It takes around 3hrs to reach Tangalle and costs around LKR 250-LKR 350. Then you can take a taxi from there to reach Hambantota. If not, you can also take the Matara (EX1-2) bus, reaching Matara bus station, then take a 32-1 bus to Hambantota and drop by Sippakulama. Then, it is only a 5-minutes walk to Hambantota. 

If you prefer traveling by train, you can take a 4 hours train ride from Fort station to Talpe and then Talpe to Hambantota by taxi or bus. The train cost will be around LKR 120- LKR 450.

So there are many ways to reach Hambantota. So, after reaching it you can travel around by bus, taxi, tuk-tuk or even by scooter for fair prices. 

Transportation in Hambantota

When it comes to traveling around Hambantota, one can find varieties of transportation modes within the town. Obviously, the price is considerably convenient since it is one of the tourist destinations on the island. Of course, one can use the bus system to travel to and from Hambantota. Still, it is a must mention that cycling, tuk-tuk rides, taxi rides, and even scooter rides are more common out there. In fact, they are considered to be more convenient since there is a wide area to explore in the city. The best part of traveling around is traveling by cycles or scooters amidst the sea breeze and exploring around. Thus, if you are willing to visit Hambantota, make sure you have that rare experience as well. 

Places to Stay in Hambantota

Being a tourist destination, Hambantota has a wide array of accommodations of varied types according to the preference of the traveler or the tourist. One can find varieties like star hotels, budget hotels, romantic hotels, pet-friendly hotels, family hotels, bungalows, guests, and even homestays in Hambantota. However, the price depends on the facilities they have and the packages you choose. 

However, many locals and foreigners mention that it is best to have a stay on the beachside or seaside. Besides, the best part of staying and traveling around Hambantota is the variety of fresh seafood items and fresh king coconut drinks it has.  

The Bottom Line

All in all, Hambantota is a paradise in a paradise. So if you have not visited there yet, what are you waiting for? Have a nice journey and gain a lot of knowledge along with the fun and contentment. Happy and Safe Journey!