Matara is a busy town booming with commercial activities. Situated 160 kilometers from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, the coastal town may not feature highly on the lists of tourists. The high rise buildings housing some of the leading multinational companies may not seem like an attractive tourist landmark in Matara. However, that does not mean that Matara holds next to negligible tourist value. The Nilwala River cuts through the city of Matara forming stunning views along its path. The river falls into the Indian Ocean at Totamuna. Additionally, the beachfront paints beautiful scenes along the coast of the city.
6 Best Tourist Places To Visit In Matara
Matara city has many sites that stand as a testimony to the past of Sri Lanka. You must visit Matara atleast ones in your lifetime to know Sri Lanka better. And, if you wish to make the most of your visit, include the following places to visit in Matara on your list:
1. Star Fort
As the name suggests, the Star Fort is constructed in the shape of a star. It was built by the Dutch to prevent attacks from external enemies. The fort is composed out of 6-points forming a star which has a point facing every direction. Each point is bolstered with two large canons. Still protected from all sides by a deep moat, the Star Fort houses a well in the center that offered water within the territories. Additionally, two prisons are also present within the fort’s premises. It was later occupied by the British to carry out administrative work. The Fort stands even to this day as a remnant of colonialism in Sri Lanka.
2. Old Dutch Trade Center (Nupe Market)
Architectural buffs will be mesmerized with the T-shaped Old Dutch Trade Center. Located on the western section of the town, it was once the town’s market bustling with trade activities. Composed of steep, imposing roofs and conical towers, the Old Dutch Trade Center still stands to this day in its grandiose. The open-sided structure is supported by wooden beams and columns, while a majestic entrance greets the visitors. The roof is latticed with clay tiles, locally known as Peti Ulu. It also bears British architectural influences with its decorated, whitewashed columns.
3. Weherahena Temple
The Weherahena Temple is located on the eastern part of the town of Matara. The temple contains an artificial cave, which stands decorated with scenes from the life of Buddha. The pathways of the Weherahena Temple lead to a colorful, gigantic Buddha statue towering over 25 meters height. As picturesque as the spot may be, photography is strictly prohibited within the temple. A procession of dancers and trained elephants celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the temple during late-November or early December.
4. Polhena Beach
The beaches in Matara are not very touristy. However, the Polhena Beach stands as an exception to the rule. The Polhena Beach may be hard to access, but it is worth all the navigation. Situated at a distance of 2 kilometers from the Matara City Center, the Polhena Beach has calm waters calling out visitors for a swim. The offshore coral reefs break the waves offering a serene sandy cove along the coast. Due to the romantic atmosphere of Polhena Beach, it enjoys the position of a popular honeymoon destination. It also acts as a weekend getaway for the locals.
5. Crow Island
The Crow Island is located right across the Polhena Beach, where the Nilwala Ganga River meets the Indian Ocean. Covered in lush green and wilderness, walking tracks, mangrove plantations, and freshwater lakes, the island carries great aesthetic value. The island hosts a mix of ecosystems. Locals often scout to the Crow Island Beach Park to spend time with their kids and other family members. The Crow Island Beach Park contains an array of parks, rides, and play areas that are perfect for unwinding. The sea along the Crow Island is choppy and hence is not suitable for swimming or bathing.
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6. Dondra Head Lighthouse
The Dondra Lighthouse is located at the Dondra Head on the southern tip of the Sri Lankan island. Touching a height of 160 feet, it is the tallest lighthouse in the entirety of Sri Lanka! The whitewashed monolith can be seen from every direction. Conceptualized by Sir James Nicholas Douglass, the structure is built in stone, which was imported from Cornwall and Scotland. The octagonal brick tower has a spiral staircase traveling to the top-most floor. The balcony offers the panoramic views including that of the Indian Ocean in the South and the Bulutota Mountain Range in the North.
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How To Reach Matara
The quickest way to reach Matara is by covering the Southern Expressway, which connects Colombo to Matara in the shortest driving time. Matara can be found towards the end of the Southern Expressway. This route bypasses the Galle Road, the highway which offers a charming view of the coast. Thus, if you wish to cover a more eye-pleasing route, you could also travel via the Galle Road, which connects the southern towns of Galle, Matara, and Hikkaduwa to the Sri Lankan capital.
With so many places to visit, a trip to Matara will positively be full of traveling to these destinations and diving into adventures. So pack your bags and book your tickets to Sri Lanka now!