Matara is situated on the mouth of the Nilwala River on the south coast of Sri Lanka.
The name means Great Ford and derives from its location as the river crossing.
Portuguese occupied the city in the 17th century and the Dutch in the 18th. Under both countries, it was an important trading centre, and the Dutch fortifications can still be seen.
Matara is now the commercial centre of a productive agricultural region. The city is connected by rail with Colombo to the North and also Eastwards towards Kataragama and is a road junction.
Matara is an active city that is thriving with commercial activities. Located 160 kilometres from the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.
The high-rise buildings that house some of the major multinational companies may not seem like an attractive tourist landmark in Matara. However, that does not mean that Matara has negligible tourist value. The Nilwala River flows through the city of Matara, forming a beautiful sight along its way. The river falls at Totamuna into the Indian Ocean.
The beach front is similar to Galle Face in Colombo and has many nice restaurants, paints very beautiful scenes along the coast of the city. Eating egg hoppers on the sea front is a great past time.
Notable attractions in Matara, Sri Lanka
Fort of Matara
Matara Fort was built in 1560 by the Portuguese and largely rebuilt by the Dutch in 1640, after the conquest of Galle. The fort, which consists of a large stone wall, is located on the promontory that separates the Niwala Ganga lagoon and the ocean.
infinity surf camp
One of the best beginner surf spots in Matara, the Infinity Surfcamp Sri Lanka has safe waters, stunning scenery and unspoiled nature. This surf camp is not only suitable for beginners, it is also ideal for surfers of all experience levels.
The wind, the tropical climate, the equipment in good condition, the sufficient security measures and good coaches make this surfing experience the best surfing experience of your life. So if you’re looking for adventurous things to do in Matara, check out this surf camp.
Polhena and Madiha beach areas offer the opportunity to snorkel around the coral reef that protects the sandy beaches and explore some shipwrecks and coral fish homes. You may also see nesting sea turtles crawling ashore at night to lay their eggs.
The name implies the way the monument is built. This was built by the Dutch to prevent an attack from external enemies, as it was the height of colonialism. The fortress has a point in all directions and therefore has 6 points, each point guarded by two large cannons.
There is a well in the centre of the fortress, which supplied the territories with water. Other than that, there are 2 prisons in the fort, making it one of the best places to visit in Matara, Sri Lanka. Once this place was occupied by the English, they transformed it to do administrative work. This place will surely remind you of the heyday of the colonial times.
Polhena Beach is one of the safest beaches in Sri Lanka with medium waters and coral reefs. Swimming here is like swimming in a pool, but with extraordinary aquatic life, such as an abundance of giant green turtles and fish, that make your dive even more memorable. The beach is well maintained and the white sand and crystal clear waters make it a perfect vacation spot.
The water is shallow for a long time because the waves break far away, so it is also ideal for non-swimmers. This beach is a local gathering place, small and perfect for a traveller who wants to see the local life. There are swimming areas and changing rooms where you can change into beach clothes. There are also some shops on the beach where you can buy beautiful shells and have a bite to eat at one of the nearby restaurants.
Next is a temple built in the eastern part of the city of Matara. The temple consists of man-made caves, like most other caves in Sri Lanka, this again shows the life and achievement of Lord Buddha. There is a 25 meter tall Buddha statue. The path that leads to this place is so colourful that it feels like a different experience in itself.
The temple has strict rules for photography, even though it is a picturesque place. Every year, in the second half of November or early December, a festival is held here. You’ll see trained dancers and some elephants performing during the festival, reason enough to make it one of the best places to visit in Matara.
Dickwella Beach is a quiet, peaceful and large golden beach in the town of Dickwella in Sri Lanka. Dickwella’s main beach is two kilometres long. Rocks and reefs protect it from wind and high waves, making this one of the ideal “bathing” beaches in Sri Lanka.
Dickwella Beach offers crystal clear blue ocean waters, countless coconut trees where you can set up a hammock, watch the sunset and the fishermen fishing. It is also a famous beach in Sri Lanka for surfing and swimming. Dickwella Beach in Sri Lanka offers a perfect beach experience for families and large groups, as it is protected by sandbanks and reefs, making it ideal for swimming.
Dondra Head Lighthouse is a lighthouse on Dondra Head, Dondra, the southernmost point of Sri Lanka and is the tallest lighthouse in Sri Lanka, and also one of the tallest in Southeast Asia. Dondra Head Lighthouse is operated and maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
The lighthouse is near the village of Dondra, about 6 km southeast of Matara. The name Dondra is a synonym of “Devi-Nuwara” in the local Sinhalese language, “Devi” meaning “Gods” and “Nuwara” meaning “City”. Therefore, Dondra is derived from the meaning of “City of the Gods”.
Church of Matará
If you are looking for a beautiful and peaceful place to take your prayers to the Almighty, Matara Church – Our Lady of Matara is a church to visit. A Roman Catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this church is located in the beautiful coastal city of Matara, Sri Lanka, and is just off the coast.
A great place to learn or dedicate yourself to the service of God, this church houses a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus overlooking the Indian Ocean. This church is open from morning to night and is open to all for community services and mass prayer and learning groups.