Sri Lanka is the perfect tropical country to spend a wholesome summer vacation. And yes, the beautiful beaches around the island provide stunning natural sceneries overlooking the dazzling Indian ocean. Thus, you can have a vacation of a lifetime with your family, friends, loved ones, or let alone even by yourself on a Sri Lankan beach. So, when you plan your next vacation to Sri Lanka, make sure to add a coastal area as well. However, since there are many such popular and stunning coastal areas in the country, you must be wondering where you should go. So, this article is to convince you to vacay in Matara. As you may have heard before, Matara is a tourist paradise and a major city in the southern province of Sri Lanka. There are several fascinating things for you to do in Matara. Keep reading to know about all of them!
Why Visit Matara?
It is a prosperous, commercial city in southern Sri Lanka. Besides, there are many major tourist attractions of the country located in Matara. Hence, many tourists who visit Sri Lanka don’t forget to pay a visit to Matara when they travel around Sri Lanka.
However, there are many amazing things that you can try as a tourist in Matara. Here’s a list of the15 best such things for you to choose from!
- Relax in Matara Beach
- Go to Parevi Duwa
- Visit the Dondra Head Lighthouse
- Surf at Hiriketiya Beach
- Visit the Matara Fort
- Pay a Visit to Weherahena Buddhist Temple
- See the Hummanaya Blow Hole
- Beach Day at Polhena Beach
- Visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Matara
- Explore The Old Dutch Trade Centre
- A Tour at Star Fort
- Enjoy the Scenic Views of Dickwella Beach
- Pay a Visit to Uthpalawanna Sri Vishnu Devalaya
- Witness the Dutch Reformed Church
- Visit the Seethagalla Natural Seawater Pool
Excited to know more about these fascinating activities? Continue reading!
1. Relax in Matara Beach
When you reach Matara city, Matara beach will probably be the first place you visit there. It is located very close to the town, near to the Matara main bus stand. Many people visit the beach to chill and relax because it is so easy to access from the town. However, this beach is not ideal for bathing or any water sports. But it is a beautiful sandy beach which is perfect to have a relaxing evening amidst the colorful scenery.
You can feel the warm waves on your feet and look at the colorful horizon on a calm evening. The magnificent views are at their best all throughout the day. But if you look at the sunrise/ sunset kind of person, you will love the vibe of the beach in the early morning or evening.
There’s a small playground at Matara beach. Kids can have an awesome time there in the comfort of the ocean breeze. Then, this beach is like the most popular hangout spot in the town. So after you reach Matara, you can have some relaxing time at the peaceful beach to energize yourself for the whole vacation. While you won’t get the typical beach experience here at Matara beach, you can have a peaceful moment there. And not to forget that there are several amazing beaches around this area. So, a visit to Matara will surely be incomplete if you don’t visit any of these charming shores. Thus, don’t forget to have a relaxing encounter with the Matara beach.
2. Go to Parevi Duwa
Parevi Duwa is a small island located off the coast of Matara beach. The significance is that there is a famous Buddhist temple on this small island. Besides, there is a bridge that connects the island and the beach. Walking to the temple on a bridge over the ocean is such an amazing experience.
There’s a beautiful view of the turquoise blue ocean from the temple building. The temple is also a very soothing and peaceful place. The scenic views around and the calming vibe of the Buddhist temple combined will take your stress away at a glimpse. So, this is the place to go to find some peace from the busy town of Matara.
You can visit the temple at any time of the day but the views are the best in the evening under the light of the golden hour. Many people go to the temple as a hangout spot. Still, you can also pay a quick visit to the temple when visiting Matara. However, since it is a place of worship, it is better if you can wear respectful clothing. After all, this is definitely worth a visit if you are in Matara.
3. Visit the Dondra Head Lighthouse
The Dondra Head lighthouse is situated 6 kilometers southeast of Matara town. It is one of the four international lighthouses in Sri Lanka. It was built in 1890, during colonial times. And the history reveals that all the necessary supplies for the building had been brought from England during that time.
The structure of the building takes the shape of an octagonal tower with a balcony and lantern. The Dondra Head lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the country with a height of 49 meters. Its significance is that it is located in the southernmost point of Sri Lanka. Upon climbing the 7 floors which consist of 196 steps to the top, you will be mesmerized by the jaw-dropping view of the ocean.
The Sri Lanka Ports Authority now operated the lighthouse. Owing to this reason, you have to take permission from the authority prior to your visit. Also, there’s an entrance fee to enter the lighthouse.
However, this iconic lighthouse is one of the most beautiful sceneries in the Matara area. Early morning or the evening are the best times to visit the lighthouse. It is located in a calm atmosphere with ocean views and sea breeze away from the Matara town. Therefore, it is an ideal location to have a relaxing tour. You can also have a safe sea bath from the nearby beach. Hence, this is a must-have experience in Matara.
4. Surf at Hiriketiya Beach
Hiriketiya bay and the beach is a tourist hotspot situated just 40 minutes away from Matara. It is one of the most charming and the best beaches close to Matara.
The ocean here is not too deep and not too shallow. So, the waves are perfect for surfing even for beginners. Usually, the beach is crowded with passionate surfers. If you are totally new to surfing, you can get a surfing lesson from a pro on the beach. Besides, if you are an experienced surfer, you can just rent a surfboard and hit the waters. Further, it is also safe to have a dip in the ocean.
Apart from all the adventures, you can even choose to sit on the golden sandy beach and enjoy the marvelous views while getting a tan. And of course, don’t forget to try some Sri Lankan dishes from the chique restaurants on the beach.
Visit Hiriketiya beach in the months of April, May, and September to get the best out of the experience. It is too hot in the afternoon so try visiting in the morning or evening. There are so many things for you to try at this small and beautiful spot. You can have a fun beach day at Hiriketiya beach. So, visiting this beach is one of the best things for you to do in Matara!
5. Visit the Matara Fort
Matara Fort is a historical landmark of the area. Besides, it is also a wonderful place with so many architectural values.
The Portuguese built the fort in the peninsula between the Nilwala river and the ocean. It was later captured by the Dutch. It used to be one of the largest Dutch forts of Sri Lanka back then. Afterward, the British used the fort as an administrative division. Now, it stands as a tourist attraction located close to the Parevi Duwa in Matara town.
It carries a little resemblance to the Galle Fort as well. You can explore through the ancient fort and see the large stone rampart inside. This is a perfect place to capture some iconic photographs. There are also shops and kiosks inside the fort. Therefore, Matara Fort is well worth a visit.
6. Pay a Visit to Weherahena Buddhist Temple
Weherahena Poorwarama Rajamaha Viharaya is a famous Buddhist temple in Matara. It is located on the Matara-Kekanadura road about 6 kilometers away from Matara town.
There is a belief that this temple is the largest and the first tunnel temple in the world. It was first built as an underground temple. Now, the temple complex spreads over 3 acres on the East side of the Matara area.
The huge seated Buddha statue is the highlight of the temple complex. It stands on a stage that looks like a lotus flower and is 39 meters tall. In addition, the unique statues and the paintings all over the temple make it so much more interesting. The construction of the temple began in the early 20th century. Buddhists from all over the country visit the Weherahena Buddhist temple in Matara.
You can also visit this unique Buddhist temple irrespective of your religion. It will be one of the most authentic experiences that you can get in Matara. There’s a big parking space available in this temple complex. However, remember to dress and behave modestly when visiting this impressive Buddhist temple, since it is a religious attraction after all.
7. See the Hummanaya Blow Hole
Hummanaya is one of the best natural sightseeing spots in southern Sri Lanka. Moreover, it is a wonderful creation of mother nature situated in Kudawella, just 1 hour away from Matara. It is the second-largest blowhole in the world.
Hummanaya is located on a small mountain top. You can see how a jet of water is pushed into the air through two giant rocks. Sometimes the jet of water goes above into heights of 80-100 meters too. Besides, Hummanaya got its name as the blowhole generates a sound like a loud ‘hum’ when it is active. And yes, you will feel the water droplets when you are close to Hummanaya as it sprays with a whistling sound.
Besides, there are amazing beaches and ocean views from above the cliff. There’s a small hike of 10-15 minutes through the village to reach Hummanaya. After the small hike, wait a few moments close to the cliff to see this extraordinary show put up by ocean and wind.
There’s a parking space at the entrance and you have to get a ticket before entering. On your way to the Hummanaya, there’s a small museum that consists of valuable exhibits and information on marine life. Besides, Hummanaya is a major tourist attraction with a geographical value. Therefore, Hummanaya and its surroundings are a fascinating destination to visit in Matara. The natural spectacle is at its best during the windy season. However, make sure that you avoid going in the afternoon because of the scorching sun.
8. Beach Day at Polhena Beach
Polhena beach is one of the most popular beaches in southern Sri Lanka, situated just 5 kilometers away from Matara. Also, it is well known as a safe beach to enjoy sea bathing and water sports. As the ocean here is shallow, even little children can enjoy a swim in the ocean. The clean and spacious beach is ideal for a fun beach day. It will be a wonderful experience to enjoy the beautiful scenery around while swimming in the warm ocean waters. If you are lucky enough, you will be able to spot a turtle swimming beside you. And why not? After a nice swim, you can sit back and relax on the golden beach. You will love taking a peaceful walk on the beach in the evening watching the sunset.
Actually, the options are endless at Polhena beach. Therefore, this mind relaxing and fun spot is one of the best for a family day out. Keep a full day of your vacation to enjoy your time at the Polhena beach to the fullest. Due to its popularity, Polhena beach is crowded most of the time. To get a more peaceful swimming experience, try to avoid weekends and holidays. Anyhow, this is a highly recommended beach for you to visit in the beautiful city of Matara.
9. Visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Matara
The Shrine of Our Lady is a well-known Catholic church in Matara. The history of the church dates back to the 18th century. It is located on the beach road of Matara city. The blessed shrine is devoted to the Virgin Mary.
The highlights of the church are the historical statue of the Virgin Mary and St. Michael, the archangel’s statue which belongs to the Portuguese era. Many believe that the statue of the Virgin Mary and the child in the church to be miraculous. Thousands of devotees, even from other faiths visit the church to worship this statue. The old and beautiful church resonates with solemnity, reverence, and peacefulness. In fact, there’s always a peaceful atmosphere in the church which contradicts the bustling nature of Matara city. So, don’t forget to pay a visit to this sacred church when you are in Matara.
10. Explore The Old Dutch Trade Centre
The Old Dutch Trade Centre is an ancient archaeological site in Matara. It is also famous as the Old Nupe Market and the Old Dutch Market.
It is located on the Wilmot Balasuriya Mawatha in Matara. The historic building takes much resemblance to the European style and it is built as the letter ‘T’. However, the roof of the building is built with ‘ulu’ tiles which were influenced by the Kandyan Kingdom. There is a belief that the Dutch built this market in the late eighteenth century. However, the Old Dutch Market shares a glimpse of the colonial era of Sri Lanka. You can imagine how active the market could have been from the grandeur of the building. Later, it was left abandoned for some time. In the present, the building is preserved and maintained by the Department of Archaeology.
Even though there isn’t any commercial activity happening in the market now, it is indeed an iconic place to visit in Matara. You don’t need any permission or entrance fees to explore through the open building. So, you can visit the building at any time. Visiting it would create you opportunities to get an idea about the ancient colonial architecture of Sri Lanka. Also, don’t forget to capture some vintage-style photographs while you are there as well. After all, if you are a fan of archaeological sites, this is a place you should visit in Matara.
11. A Tour at Star Fort
Star Fort is a great historical structure in Matara. Also, it remains as another iconic fortress in southern Sri Lanka. It is located on the East bank of the Nilwala River, a few minutes away from the Matara Fort. The Dutch built the Star Fort in 1765 after the construction of the Matara Fort. Originally, the Dutch called it the ‘Redoute Van Eck’. The small fort got its name as it is shaped like a six-pointed star. This unusual construction is what makes it more attractive.
However, the intention behind building this smaller fort is to protect the original Matara Fort from any enemy attacks. There are 12 large cannons around the fort to cover any attack from any direction. After the Dutch period, the British used the building for their administration purposes. Now, the Star Fort is under the governance of the Department of Archaeology. It is a museum that showcases the colonial history of the town of Matara.
This well-maintained site is a good source of information on the colonial era of Matara and of the whole of Sri Lanka as well. There is no entrance fee to visit the museum. However, you don’t have permission to capture any photographs inside the museum.
During your vacation, spare an hour or two exploring through the unique historical site. The unique architectural features of this site would surprise you for sure!
12. Enjoy the Scenic Views of Dickwella Beach
Dickwella beach is another beautiful beach in the south of Sri Lanka. It is situated in Dickwella town, just 40 minutes away from Matara. The eye-catching beach is like a hidden gem in the area. The beach is not suitable for surfing as there are various natural barriers around the beach. There’s a shallow end at the Dickwella beach where it is perfectly safe for even kids to swim. However, the beach is more ideal for off-the-water activities.
First of all, you can just lounge on the beach and enjoy the mesmerizing views. As a bonus, you can get a beautiful tan for yourself too. If not, you can have a relaxing moment with a massage on the beach. If you are an adventure lover, there are various sports that one can try on the shores as well.
Anyhow, remember to take a long peaceful stroll on the beach at the end of the day, as you will be able to spot one of the most beautiful sunset views ever. As Dickwella beach is a lesser-known beach close to Matara, you can enjoy a peaceful beach day here. It will add so many precious memories to your trip to Matara.
Besides, there are top-quality restaurants on the beach from which you can taste the best of local cuisine while enjoying the ocean views. This is a year-round destination but the best time to visit the beach is from April to June as there will be less rain in those months. This is a destination that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Matara as chances are high that this will be the favorite beach of your tour.
13. Pay a Visit to Uthpalawanna Sri Vishnu Devalaya
Uthpalawanna Sri Vishnu Devalaya or the Dewundara devalaya is a temple complex located in the Dondra Head of Matara district. The main shrine of the much-celebrated Hindu temple is devoted to the Hindu God, Vishnu or Upulvan. Inside the temple complex, there are 8 kovil shrines. The two main shrines are devoted to Hindu Gods, Vishnu, and Shiva.
There is also a Buddhist temple within the complex with a tall Buddha statue. According to popular belief, this is a work of King Dappula 1 in the 7th century. Hindu and Buddhist devotees from all over Sri Lanka visit the Dewundara devalaya. There’s a perahera and a grand cultural festival at the temple in August.
Devotees believe that the temple is miraculous and they pray at the site to receive divine favors. The temple is open from 6 am to 8 pm every day. There is ample parking space available at the site. Since this is a place of worship, visitors have to wear modest clothes and leave the footwear outside. It is also important to behave respectfully. Further, you don’t have permission to take photographs inside the main Vishnu temple.
As a whole, this is an interesting religious place that you can visit in Matara. So, make sure you pay a visit to it as you explore the charms of this scenic coastal city.
14. Witness the Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church is a historical church situated within the Matara Fort. In fact, it is the first thing that you will see when you enter the fort. This is another impressive construction by the Dutch empire in Matara.
The Dutch built this church in Matara in 1706. It was built as a smaller replica of the Dutch Reformed Church in Galle Fort. This well-preserved church is considered one of the oldest Protestant churches that are still in use in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, it is a great example of Dutch architecture in Sri Lanka. The Doric architectural style with a bit of Calvinist style has made the building look spiritual and more peaceful. Now, the Department of Archaeology conserves this historical church.
There are some gravestones inside the church which are identified to be of reputed colonial officers at the time. The gravestones were built at the cemetery of the church and later that landscape was reformed as the floor of the church. And yes, this church knows all the stories that Matara had to face since colonial times. So, if you are a fan of history, you will love visiting a historical place as such. Thus, when you are in Matara, pay a visit to this Dutch Reformed Church to study the iconic architectural structure and its history.
15. Visit the Seethagalla Natural Seawater Pool
Seethagalla Natural Seawater Pool is at a lovely beach situated just 25 minutes away from Matara. The pool is created with a rock barrier and it is filled through a pipeline and with high tide. This is a very safe place to have a swim in the warm ocean waters. You can enjoy the panoramic views of the dazzling Indian ocean from the pool while having a bath. You will feel like you are at a luxury jacuzzi but with seawater and postcard-worthy surroundings. It is ideal to have a fun and relaxing bath in the evening. This experience will be one of the highlights of your vacation for sure. If you love the ocean but are not a good swimmer, this is one of the places where you can get the feeling without the risk.
There are facilities to change clothes and use the washroom at the premises. There is also an entrance fee to use the seawater pool. Since the pool is filled with tidal situations, the pool gets empty in some months. So, it is better to visit the pool during the time period from April to August. You can also enjoy the pool with small children. If you visit in the early morning or evening, you will be able to enjoy amazing views of the horizon from the pool. This mind-blowing natural and man-made creation is one of the best destinations situated close to Matara. So, visit the Seethagalla Natural Seawater Pool to experience the ocean at its best.
Best Time to Visit Matara
Matara is actually a year-round destination. Still, you may need some information to decide the best time to visit Matara. So, here is all the information that you need to know before planning the perfect vacation in this beautiful town.
As a coastal area, Matara experiences hot temperatures throughout the year. Its temperature usually ranges between 26°C to 32°C. The hottest months for Matara are February, March, April, and May. On the other hand, it receives the most rainfall during May, September, October, and November. So, considering all the factors, we can mention that the time period between December and April will be the most favorable time for all of your plans. The temperature is warm and rainfall is less in these months.
How to Reach Matara?
Matara is situated 153 kilometers away from Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. The cheapest option is to take the train from the Fort station to Matara. This journey will take about 2 hours and 30 minutes. If not, you can take the bus from the Fort station to Matara bus station. This journey will also take about 2 hours and 30 minutes. If you don’t like traveling by public transportation, you can always hire a taxi or rent a vehicle to Matara from the airport itself. The journey will be way faster through the Southern Expressway but it would be quite costly as well.
There is a 271 kilometers distance between Matara and Kandy. If you are traveling from Kandy, you can take a bus from Kandy Good Shed bus station to Kaduwela and then to Matara bus station from there. This journey would take about 6 hours. If not, you can take the train from Kandy to Fort Station and another train to Matara from there. It will take around 6 hours and 30 minutes to reach Matara by train. You can also easily arrange private transport from Kandy to Matara.
The Bottom Line
The Sri Lankan coastline is just perfect. There are so many amazing coastal towns around the paradise island and Matara is indeed a significant highlight. This town offers you the opportunities to spend a memorable stay in Sri Lanka. Of course, the highlight of your visit to Matara will be the gorgeous beaches. Still, there are also impressive historic, religious, geographical, and architectural destinations in this town that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Plus, the tropical weather and the mouth-watering local cuisine make everything better. So, plan your ideal trip to Matara with your favorite destinations given above. Here is your chance to add Matara to your bucket list right away as one of your dream destinations. Happy and safe traveling!