Tangalle & South Coast | Regions of Sri Lanka | Red Dot Tours

South Coast

Sri Lanka’s jagged south coast, which Red Dot defines as a long stretch from Weligama to Tangalle, consists of delightful coral-protected bays and headlands and offers a greater diversity of beaches than the west coast. Stunning tropical sandy beaches, rural fishing villages, untouched wilderness and a vibrant cultural heritage makes the southern coastal belt an ideal holiday experience for those wishing to escape the larger tourist centres.
Don’t Miss
Surfing in Mirissa
Scuba diving in Dickwella
Sailing and deep sea fishing at Mirissa Water Sports Centre
Weligama’s stilt fisherman
Whale & Dolphin-watching from December to April
Turtle night safari in Rekuwa
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Getting There
The south coast towns of Ahangama, Weligama, Mirissa, Matara, Dickwella, Tangalle and Kahandamodara can be easily reached travelling from across the island. Those travelling from the hill country head directly south past Uda Walawe game park. From Colombo the southern coast can be reached via the Southern highway up to Galle and thereafter along the Galle road which hugs the coastline. The southern railway can take you from Colombo to Matara (second-class seats only). When operational, the Air Taxis provide air transfers from Colombo to Dickwella.

Useful drive times include: Airport to Tangalle (4 hours); Colombo to Tangalle (3 hours); Galle to Mirissa (45 minutes); Galle to Tangalle (2 hours); Tangalle to Yala (2.5 hours); Dickoya to Tangalle (4.5 hours).

Historical Background
The south coast is part of the ancient Ruhuna kingdom and is blessed with secluded cove-like beaches and shimmering turquoise seas. This region has fascinated travelers for centuries. During the 17C, Galle and Matara was occupied by the Portuguese who built garrisons in both towns which were later developed into forts by the Dutch. Today these coastal areas are a rich blend of the modern and traditional lifestyles. Stilt fisherman, cinnamon peelers and Beeralu lace weavers continue with their age-old traditions passed down generations whilst alongside them an exclusive selection of villas and boutique hotels caters for the upmarket tourist trade. Matara and Hambantota in the deep south are gradually becoming important commercial hubs.

At Ahangama, Midigama and Weligama, surfers prowl the shores in search of some of the best waves in Sri Lanka. No beach is more magnificent than Mirissa, a crescent-shaped strip of beach flanked by green vegetation. Mirissa is popular for surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, sailing and sea-kayaking. Matara is a bustling town possessing two Dutch forts and a decent Resthouse. Three miles further on, Dondra Head, with its octagonal lighthouse, marks Sri Lanka's most southerly tip. Close-by to Matara you can enjoy the beaches of Polhena and especially Talalla, a gorgeous beach that remains relatively unknown. Dickwella is famous for its beaches and scuba diving. Tangalle offers a glorious, uninterrupted stretch of beach. Closer to Tangalle, seek-out the small and often deserted cove of Seenimodera (Sugar Bay). Further to the west is Kahandamodara a remote area close to the Kalametiya bird sanctuary and Rekuwa where the endangered marine turtles come ashore to nest. The southern coast also serves as an ideal base to explore the south’s wildlife parks including Yala and Uda Walawe National Parks and Bundala and Kalametiya bird sanctuaries. Experience the ancient southern heritage with a visit to the Mulgirigala rock temple in Tangalle, Tissamaharama or the jungle shrine of Katragama.

From friendly guesthouses to swanky boutique hotels, the south coast offers a wide variety of accommodation. Speak to your Red Dot consultant about the best choice for you. Our favourites guesthouses and eco-retreats include Lagoon Paradise in Mirissa - a cabana-style guesthouse perched on a headland overlooking the bay; and Mangrove Garden over looking the turquoise seas in Tangalle. Coco Tangalle and Buckingham Place are increasingly popular mid-range beach property. For those wanting something up-market, Amanwella and the Last House in Tangalle are both highly recommended. There is a wide selection of good beach villas: Redcliffs, Taprobane Island, Pointe Sud, Talaramba Reef Villas, Aaloka Villa, Mawella and Lansiya. For those interested in holistic wellness, we recommend the Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort in Weligama.

Food & Drink
As you'd expect, fresh seafood is a highlight on the south coast. Beach bars serve simple grilled fish and shellfish heavily laden with garlic, lime and chilli. The Ceylon Hotels Corporation Resthouse in Weligama serves up good Sri Lankan cuisine with fiery red curries including seer fish - a firm white-fleshed fish, and prawns. The best restaurant in Tangalle is at Amanwella (expensive) for Western-style cuisine. Those staying in Mirissa have few choices aside from beach bars and may want to consider. The Fortress in Koggala (good pizzas, variety of fusion dishes, wide selection of wine although expensive) as a change - or indeed Unawatuna and Galle Fort if you are up for the drive.

Wayside stalls and village fairs offer a range of home grown vegetables, fruit and freshly-caught seafood.  The towns of Matara and Tangalle are relatively well-developed coastal towns bustling with activity.  Banks and ATM machines, shops and grocery stores (the popular Food City has an outlet in Matara) are all situated within easy reach.

The south coast's peak holiday season runs from late November to April. During this period the weather is generally at its best and this means blue seas. This is also the best season for diving and snorkelling. December and April are also the best months for seeing whales and dolphins (see activity section below).
Dutch Rampart and the Star Fort in Matara
Dating back to the 17th century, the Matara Fort was originally a garrison built by the Portuguese. And was later developed by the Dutch. Unlike Galle Fort, many of the old colonial buildings within it have given way to newer developments. The few buildings that remain now house government administrative buildings and the Dutch Reform Church. There is also a second smaller fort nearby named the Star Fort, also built by the Dutch, which now also houses a small museum.
Matara’s Ruhuna University
Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka most influential architect, was responsible for linking the ancient architecture of this island with that of the modern world. The Ruhuna University in Matara is an inspiring creation by Bawa for the younger generation of Sri Lanka. This project enabled him to explore his style of integrating working spaces into a natural landscape. Built between two hills, this university campus consists of pavilions and courtyards with breathtaking ocean views.
Dickwella’s Beeralu Lace Craft Village
Introduced by the Portuguese in the 17th century, hand woven Beeralu lace (pillow lace) is a recognised national craft and a vital source of income for rural women of the south coast. Passed down to generations this intricate and complex form of hand made, pillow lace is woven into exquisite table cloths, doilies, and clothing accessories. Beeralu lace can be purchased from the Dickwella Women’s Craft Centre located near the Dickwella Resort & Spa or the Sewa Lanka Lace Showroom in Dickwella.
The government’s Department of Archeology maintains museums in the archeological sites of Matara (Star Fort Ancient Paintings Museum), Yatala (Tissamaharama) and Kataragama. Antiquities displayed in these archeological museums include stone, metal, timber and terracotta findings including pottery and statues. The Star Fort Museum located within the Fort in Matara displays ancient paintings. These museums are open daily from 8.30am to 5.00pm except on Tuesdays.
Mulgirigala Rock Temple
Situated 30 minutes inland from Tangalle, the ancient Mulgirigala temple is perched on an enormous boulder more than 200m high. According to ancient inscriptions carved on the rock, Mulgirigala dates back almost 2,000 years when it was a site of a Buddhist monastery. The serene white Dagoba stands at the peak of the rock with magnificent coastal views. The temple complex consists of ancient murals, a recumbent Buddha statue, devalayas, and several cave temples all of which are found at different levels while ascending the peak of the rock. This is a living temple which is visited by many devotees.
Water sports in Mirissa
Mirissa Water Sports offers exciting watersports activities such as sailing, fishing, coastal cruises, river trips, sea kayaking, snorkelling and boating activities. Red Dot can arrange any bookings in advance and this is recommended to avoid disappointment. Mirissa Water Sports is a charitable organisation helping to generate employment for the youth from the tsunami affected coastal areas.
Scuba Diving in Dickwella
Dickwella has some of the island’s best dive spots. A PADI-approved diving centre offers diving from beginners to advanced. Spotting bright corals and exotic is easy and there is the opportunity to explore the wrecks of a steam ship and cargo ship. These two wrecks are old enough and substantial enough to be now habitats in their own right. Sadly, no rumours of hidden treasure though.
Spa & Ayurveda
Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort in Weligama is a holistic wellness retreat where the balance of mind and body is achieved through the ancient philosophies of Ayurveda, Yoga and meditation. Barberyn takes in only Ayurveda clientele and has an excellent health centre that provides relaxing, preventive and curative treatments for a range of conditions including stress relief, weight loss, reducing of diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and a range of other medical problems. The Tallala Retreat near Tangalle is also ideal for those wanting to relax and rejuvenate with yoga and Ayurveda by the seaside. Talalla welcomes those interested in Yoga, Tai Chi, martial arts, dance and detox to use their facilities for group retreats and intense workshops.
Personal Yoga instruction
There are a growing number of guesthouses, hotels and retreats offering Yoga now in Sri Lanka. However, some of our clients prefer private tuition and Red Dot is happy to organise this. Our ability to do this depends on the availability of teachers. The easiest area to do this is around Galle but private yoga teachers can also be employed in Tangalle.
Cinnamon Plantations of the south
For many centuries, Cinnamon has been a great attraction for traders visiting this island. Even today, Sri Lanka continues to be one of the world’s leading producers of Cinnamon with 80% of the crop grown in the west and south coast of the island. Visit a village or a factory where cinnamon is processed to learn of this most invaluable crop.
Kalamatiya Bird Sanctuary
Located east of Tangalle off the main road to Hambantota, the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest bird sanctuaries and is home to many species of resident as well as migratory shorebirds. From kingfishers to flamingoes inhabit this extensive wetland area of mangrove swamps and lagoons. Best time to visit is from November to April.
Turtle watch in Rekuwa
Globally, all seven species of marine turtles in the world are endangered. Out of these seven, five species of sea turtles come ashore to nest in Sri Lanka. The process of marine turtles nesting, hatchlings being born and swimming back to sea is a remarkable ritual that is fascinating to observe. Located 10 km east of Tangalle, in a coastal village called Rekuwa, there is a Turtle Conservation Project that conducts a `turtle watch’ programme which is an ideal way to learn and observe this endangered species without interfering with its natural breeding habits.
Whale & Dolphin spotting in Mirissa
During the migration season in December and April, large pods of Dolphins and Blue Whales can be seen just a few miles offshore from Mirissa. Mirissa Water Sports, based in the Mirissa Harbour offers boat excursions which can take upto three hours. Mirissa Water Sports is a charitable organisation helping to generate employment for the youth from the tsunami affected coastal areas.
Yala National Park
Yala’s scrub plains, lagoons and rocky mounds make it one of the best places to see a wide variety of Sri Lankan wildlife. The park boasts the world's densest leopard population. Be grateful if you do see one, though, as they are shy animals. Other frequently sighted animals include elephants, sloth bears, sambar deer, spotted deer, wild boar, crocodiles, monkeys and buffalos. Transport around the park is provided by jeep complete with driver and expert guide/tracker.
Bundala National Park
Bundala is an important Wetland Sanctuary that combines 20km of beach, lagoons and scrub hosting more than 150 bird species. These wetlands are home to winter migratory birds and large flocks of flamingoes. The lagoons also prove popular with crocodiles whilst on dry land herds of up to 60 elephants can be seen. From October to January the park also receives visits from the endangered marine turtles that lay their eggs on the shore.

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