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Arugam Bay

Snapshot
Arugam Bay on Sri Lanka’s South East Coast is famously known as one of ten top surf spots in the world. This is Sri Lanka at its most escapist. The relatively isolated beaches here and a simple, laid-back lifestyle away from the main tourist haunts,have many devotees. Dedicated surfers usually arrive at Colombo’s international airport and head straight across the island to Arugam Bay which takes up to eight hours. The best time for surfing in Arugam Bay is from about mid-May to August when the swells are high and the wave breaks are thrilling. It is not all about the sun and surf on the South East Coast. The Arugam Bay community is a particularly chilled-out and welcoming one where travellers and locals mingle contentedly. Visit ancient ruins and rock sculptures dating back centuries, and explore untouched wilderness where elephants roam free.
Don’t Miss
Surfing in the laid-back beach settlement of Arugam Bay in July and August
Eating spicy Roti and fresh seafood at one of Arugam Bay’s beachside restaurants
Catching the sunrise over the shimmering ocean
Saturday nights at Mambo’s overlooking Surf Point
Wild elephants in Lahugala National Park
Pottuvil lagoon where crocodiles bask in the sun and waterbirds search for their prey
Jungle trek to the ancient ruins of Kudimbigala
Ruins of Magul Maha Vihara in Pottuvil
Sri Lanka Map
Photo Gallery
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Getting There
Arugam Bay can be reached via the East Coast travelling south from Pasikudah and Batticaloa; from the southern highlands (Badulla, Ella, Haputale); and the South Coast via Buttala and Wellawaya. Arugam Bay is 320 kms from Colombo and the direct journey on the A4 route is a long and tiring which takes about 8 hours. This journey is best done with a stop in Haputale or for those wanting to avoid the more winding parts towards Beragala on the A4, it is recommended to cut across Uda Walawe and Tanamalwilla. On this route and overnight stay at Uda Walawe is recommended for those who enjoy wildlife and nature.

Historical Background
The history of the south east dates back to the ancient Ruhunu Kingdom of the 3rd century B.C. ruled by King Kavantissa who was the father of King Dutugemunu. Excavated ruins including ancient temples, rock inscriptions and caves in Deegawapi, Ampara are now protected by the Department of Archeology. The Deegawapi Archeological museum exhibits ancient stone, metal, terracotta findings within this area. This beautiful region has undergone much hardship in the past as a result of the 26-years of terrorism waged by the LTTE as well as the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. Terrorism was eradicated from the North and the East of Sri Lanka in May 2009. Recovery in these areas is well underway with renewed efforts at rebuilding lives and regaining the glory of this beautiful region making it once again an appealing holiday destination.

Sights
Arugam Bay offers high-class surfing (the best on the island), deserted beaches, ancient ruins and an astonishing range of fauna and flora in the jungles of Lahugala National Park and Yala East National Park.

Accommodation
Arugam Bay has several guesthouses with accommodation in individual chalets and rooms. The Stardust Hotel, situated at the beginning of the main strip, offers accommodation in standard rooms with sea views and a separate villa with two apartments. Kudakalliya is an eco-retreat located on an isolated bay just south of Arugam Bay close to Crocodile Rock. Edged on one side by a winding river and mangroves where wild elephants and monkeys can be spotted, Kudakalliya is well suited for nature lovers. Kottukal Beach House located in Pottuvil which is about 4 kms north of Arugam Bay is a four-bedroom boutique villa that fronts a secluded stretch of beach. Towards the centre of Arugam Bay, there is Hideaway, a laid-back holiday retreat with individual chalets set amidst a flowering garden; and the Danish Villa which has comfortable a/c bedrooms that can be booked by the room.

Food & Drink
Walk along Arugam Bay’s main strip and there are several small eateries serving excellent spicy Rotis. For snacks and desserts try Café del Mar or Geckos (has delicious home made ice creams, breads, and cookies). Hideaway has one of the best restaurants in town serving delicious Sri Lankan dishes and fusion cuisine with Asian and Mediterranean influences prepared with organic vegetables and fresh seafood; Siam View Hotel serves authentic Thai cuisine and western dishes; and the Stardust Hotel serves excellent western cuisine amidst an atmospheric setting overlooking the sea. Mambos who also owns a beachside restaurant and nightclub in Hikkaduwa, is located nearby the Surf Point and serves light meals and drinks. Mambos come alive on Saturdays nights with music and dancing.

Shopping
Arugam Bay’s main strip has several internet cafes, surf shops where surf boards can be hired (some even provide surfing lessons), few wayside clothing shops selling beach shorts to batik t-shirts (similar to Hikkaduwa), few grocery shops and a Food City where you can buy toiletries, soft drinks, bottled water; two banks, pharmacy, and post office. Fresh seafood can be purchased directly from the fishing boats in the mornings as they come ashore after a night of fishing.

Events
Surfing in Arugam Bay: Listed as one of 10 best surf spots in the world, Arugam Bay comes alive each July and August which is the surfing season. The UK Pro-Surfing Association’s Sri Lanka Surf Championships are held each year in Arugam Bay in July and is promoted by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Tourism and Sri Lankan Airlines. Over 45 local and foreign contestants from the UK, South Africa, Australia, and Japan participate at this much anticipated event.
Activities
Surfing in Arugam Bay
Listed as one of ten top surf spots in the world, Arugam Bay is a popular haunt for surfers especially during the surfing season. There are several popular point breaks including Ullah Point, Pottuvil Point, Surf Point, Peanut Farm Point, Surf Point, and Crocodile Rock. `Surf Point’ that breaks at the headland in front of Arugam Bay is suitable for body surfing and beginners; Pottuvil Point situated on a deserted beach north of Arugam Bay is more suitable for experienced surfers; and Crocodile Rock another challenging surf point is located south of Arugam Bay. Waves of up to 5-6ft and up to a 400 metre 'ride', the relatively isolated beaches and simple, laid-back lifestyle, away from the main tourist haunts, are a major attraction to surfers.
Lahugala National Park
Bordering the main A4 route from Wellawaya to Arugam Bay, the Lahugala National Park covers over 1,554 hectare of wilderness. This National Park was a favorite with elephants that used to converge in their hundred to Lahugala tank (lake) and the adjoining Kitulana tank. An elephant’s delicacy – a species of grass known as `Beru’ which only grows in these two tanks, was the main attraction for these wild elephants. Unfortunately, unchecked logging has reduced the forest cover here and the elephants inhabiting the park have reduced. Still small herds of elephants can be spotted here and if you’re lucky you may even see them from the main road. Lahugala is also home to monitor lizards, water buffalo and a variety of birds.
Kumana National Park
Kumana, also known as Yala East National Park covers an area of about 18,000 hectares. The villus (swamp lakes) of Kumana is nesting sites for water birds. During the nesting season which begins towards June, large colonies of pelican, spoonbills, herons, painted storks, and egrets can be spotted here. The jungles of Kumana are also home to wild elephants, buffalo and deer. Kumana is edged by the Indian Ocean. Often the endangered marine turtles come ashore to nest here on the secluded beaches. The main entrance to Kumana is located in Okanda which is south of Arugam Bay. Best time to visit is at dawn and late afternoon when the animals are easily spotted. A guide can be hired at the entrance gates.
Kudimbigala Forest Hermitage
Located south of Arugam Bay, the ancient Kudimbigala Forest Hermitage is spread over about 4,700 hectares of wilderness and dates back to the 1st century BC. Trek uphill over huge rock boulders, thick forest cover, past ancient meditation caves and temple ruins. Once you reach the peak, there is a white stupa and temple where pilgrims worship and bring in alms daily for the priests that live in this jungle. Take in the breathtaking views across the Eastern shore from here. The flora and fauna in Kudimbigala is fascinating with tall shady trees and knotted wines that drape on the rock boulders. Bird watching is also rewarding here with plenty of exotic birds that can be spotted along the way.
Magul Maha Vihara in Potuvil
Situated east of Lahugala National Park, the ancient ruins of the Magul Maha Vihara dates back to the 3rd century B.C. The ruins of an image house, dagoba, guard stones and moonstones can be seen.
Okanda Hindu Kovil
This is an ancient Hindu shrine located on top of the Okanda Mali rocky outcrop associated with ancient legends. This is an important resting place for Hindu pilgrims traveling on the 'Pada Yatra' (pilgrimage on foot) to Katragama. Pilgrims cleanse themselves here in the sacred natural pools on the rock.
Maligawila Buddha statues
Situated south of Monaragala en route to Pottuvil, the Maligavila Buddha statue dates back to the 7th century BC and is the largest freestanding image of Lord Buddha in Sri Lanka, reaching a height of about 14 metres. Carved out of a single piece block of limestone, this statue was discovered in fragments. In 1980 the statue was restored and raised back into its original upright position. This huge pinkish white Maligavila Buddha statue glistens in the tropical sun. A second statue depicting Bodhisattva in princely attire is located a short walk away. Much time can be spent here taking in the beautiful statues and the peaceful wilderness setting filled with birds and plenty of monkeys.
Buduruwagala’s rock sculptures
The ancient rock sculptures at Buduruwagala are fascinating and are carved into a 70ft granite cliff. The sculptures are said to date back to the 8th century and consists of seven gigantic Buddhist figures from the Mahayana Buddhist doctrine. A grouping of six sculptures are situated on either side of a colossal image of Lord Buddha spanning a height of about 50ft. A short walk passed the Buduruwagala temple takes you to this awe inspiring, ancient rock sculptures set amidst the tranquil wilderness.
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