Beyond the Beaches and Wildlife of the South Coast of Sri Lanka
Renowned for its stunning beaches and vivacious wildlife, the South Coast is one of Sri Lanka’s most gratifying places to visit! However, this region of the island is also home to acres of colonial townscapes, and Buddhist shrines & temples galore – not to mention the plethora of alluring places to stay, from lavish beach hotels to distinctive colonial-era villas and eco-friendly abodes, that are much less celebrated and visited!
As you sit at home and wonder where you should be going, here’s an article that explores some of the sites beyond the beaches and wildlife that you MUST add to your visit-list, when planning your visit to the South Coast of the Paradise island of Sri Lanka.
- Dondra Lighthouse
Dondra Head Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Sri Lanka and sits on the southernmost point of the island. It is 49 metres tall and was constructed in the late 1800s. It is a magnificent lighthouse and an easy stop, if you are headed to Gandara Temple or the city of Matara.
- Beeralu Lace Craft Village in Dickwella
Inherited from the ancient kingdoms, the creation of the traditional Bobbin Lace, known as ‘Beeralu Renda’ locally, is a spectacle to behold. The Beeralu lace craft village in Dickwella specifically, exhibits the craftsmanship and talents of skilled ladies, who spearhead the recreation of these traditional woven lace cloth. The revival and continuation of this art has brought employment to many rural women in the South Coast, and having mastered this craft over years of practice, these women put their heart & soul into creating unique, authentic and novel lace designs and products, and watching them work is certainly an absolute delight. Whilst visiting these shops are a definite must add to your list, purchasing from these ladies will certainly enrich their livelihood and what’s more, you get to take home an authentic masterpiece of Sri Lanka’s culture with you.
- Dhowa Cave Temple
Dhowa cave temple - often referred as part of the underground tunnel network of Ravana, is situated on the Badulla - Bandarawela main road.
Dating back to the Polonnaruwa period (11th Century), the temple has a natural cave - the most important attraction at the site. The spacious cave showcases a large number of Buddha statues and ancient paintings depicting scenes from the life of Buddha.
Mulgirigala is one of the oldest temples on the island near Tangalle, dating back to the pre-Christian era (2nd Century BC). It had been a Buddhist temple complex, learning centre as well as a library where a large number of books (including many original versions) and manuscripts were stored. The books were written by the scholarly monks of the monastery who are known to have duplicated every religious or secular book written on the island. So renowned was this temple, it is said that scholars around the world visited this library to get copies of the valuable writings.
The caves in the lower part of the temple had been used as shelters for meditating monks and scholars who had gathered from across the island, to study Buddhism and meditation.
- Handunugoda Tea Estate
The Handunugoda Tea Estate, situated approximately 45-50 minutes away from Galle, is a vast property of 200-acres, surrounded by the picturesque forests of Sri Lanka’s South and the only one of its kind in the coastal belt of the island.
While they offer free tours through their tea plantation and factory, visitors have the unique opportunity to learn about their artisanal luxury tea range in this estate and especially get insight on the production of the world renowned “Virgin White tea”.
- Coconut Tree Hill
A famed spot in Mirissa, the Coconut tree hill, which is at an elevation of 4m (13ft) above sea level, is about a 10-15 minute walk up from the street from Mirissa beach.
With its breath-taking view of the boundless sea and the Mirissa bay, this quaint spot is certainly an Instagram-worthy location and a visit will certainly allow you to add the popular frame of the headland leaving the sea with coconut trees, to your photo feed.
- Bentota River Mangrove Safari
Teeming with wildlife, the Bentota River is a vast gush of a waterbody, teeming with evergreen flora and fauna. An expedition down this river will give the chance to explore the mangrove forest, river banks and lily clad islands with sightings of prehistoric creatures such as monitor lizards, crocodiles and beautiful birds of prey which patrol the area.
- Japanese Peace Pagoda – Unawatuna
Built with the help of Japanese monks, the peace pagoda on Rumasalla Hill is one of three Buddhist stupas in Sri Lanka. Stupas are monuments that serve as beacons of peace for people of all nationalities and creeds, and the clean, rounded design of the Unawatuna pagoda epitomises this. Visitors can walk or drive the shaded path to the Peace Pagoda and they will be rewarded with a towering, white bell-like structure surrounded by gold-painted statues. Sets of steps also lead to a walkway encircling the shrine which offers a 360-degree view of the jungle and bay.
- Geoffrey Bawa Estates – Lunu Ganga
Situated 2km from the Bentota coast, the Geoffrey Bawa Estates of Lunugama, are the alluring and zealous work of art, of the acclaimed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, that transpired over the course of fifty years (since acquisition in the 1950’s). This estate which was used as a cinnamon estate then as a rubber plantation during the Dutch era and British rule respectively, then became the country home of the legendary Mr. Bawa and a work-in-progress conversion to a tropical version of a European renaissance garden.
For any architect enthusiasts, and general admirers of alluring architectural marvels and landscapes, the estate has been preserved as left by Mr. Bawa after his demise and is open for public tours and as a country house boutique hotel.
- Kudawella Blow Hole – Dickwella
The only blowhole in Sri Lanka, the “Hummanaya” blowhole is also the second largest blowhole in the world, generating a gush of water that sometimes reaches almost 100 feet in height!
While we are all at home, this is a good time to plan for your future travels and if you are thinking of visiting Sri Lanka for your getaway during December to April, a visit to the South Coast is an absolute must, not only because of its enchanting beauty but also because you will be able to tick off many items off your bucket list! And now, access to the South Coast of Sri Lanka is not only limited to travel by road, which can take several hours from Colombo (and longer from Kandy), but the option of air travel is also available. Cinnamon Air offers daily scheduled and charter flights to four destinations (Hambantota, Dickwella, Koggala, and Bentota) in the South Coast allowing you to get to the region at a fraction of the travel time by land, while enjoying marvelous bird’s-eye views of the country.