When it comes to dreamy stretches of surf-swept sand, you’d be hard pressed to find any prettier than the south coast of Sri Lanka. Crowned as Lonely Planet’s number one destination to visit in 2019, the country’s charms are certainly no secret – but despite the burgeoning number of visitors, the southern coast of the country remains an idyllic escape for beach-lovers. Here you’ll find not only palm-fringed stretches of shoreline but charming colonial towns, timeless temples steeped in Buddist spirit and wonderful wildlife, all topped with a selection of seriously stylish villas and hotels in which to stay, alongside unparalleled local hospitality. Almost 10 years after the end of its civil war, here are seven reasons to visit Sri Lanka’s south coast.
1. Stay in a Sri Lankan Luxury Villa
Sri Lanka’s south coast may have a selection of snazzy hotels, but for a true taste of Sri Lankan living, you can’t beat holing-up in one of the private villas dotted along the coast. Set in their own grounds, you’ll be free to explore the nearby beaches and bars, before retreating to your palm-shaded pool to while away the afternoon. Most villas here comes complete with a local cook, who will whip up a traditional breakfast spread of egg hoppers and traditional Sri Lankan curries for dinner. Better yet, the level of luxury you can get for your money here far exceeds anything you might be able to get at a hotel, and often at a much better price – particularly if you are travelling in a group. For the best selection, try Eden Villas in Sri Lanka – our favourite is Walatta House. (www.evinsl.com).
Take a step back in Sri Lanka’s past with a stroll through the fortified old quarter of Galle. This exotic old fort town is full of history – vestiges of colonial occupations but the English, Portuguese and Dutch. Nowadays, the fortressed streets and rambling ramparts play host to stylish cafes, quirky restaurants and bohemian boutiques – home to a hip, artistic set. Take refuge from the buzz of the city in one of the carefully restored luxury hotels, before enjoying the fresh catch at the elegant 18th-century mansion, The Fort Printers. Here’s our guide on where you can grab Brunch.
3. Whale Watching
Mirissa, a beach town on Sri Lanka’s south coast – also happens to be one of the best places in the world to see Blue Whales. Tours don’t run in the Monsoon season and can still be choppy at other times of the year, so we’d recommend a trip between November – April for the calmest conditions. While Sri Lanka may be a fantastic location for whale watching, as it is cheaper to do it here than elsewhere you will find it is a popular activity, so worth spending a little more for a less crowded experience with a company like Whale Watching Club Mirissa, which has the best reviews.
4. Yala National Park
Where the wilderness meets the ocean, Yala national park is home to the highest population density of leopards in the world, as well as the chance to see Asian Elephants. The best place to stay to experience a safari in this ecological wonderland? Undoubtedly, Wild Coast Tented Lodge – 28 dome-shaped tents formed by woven bamboo and designed by Sri Lanka based Nomadic resorts, these eco-conscious safari tents evoke all the nostalgia of old-world safari, with luxe interiors by Amsterdam-based BoReudler, with free-standing copper bathtubs, some with individual pools alongside spectacular food and drink, which is all included in the rates, as well as a safari.
Famous for its surf breaks, Sri Lanka’s south coast offers swells to cater to all abilities. For beginners, Weligama beach break is the ideal spot, while those wanting to escape the crowds can head to Soul and Surf in Ahangama, which offers both surfing and yoga lessons. For intermediate and advanced surfers, Midigama just north of Weligama and Mirissa Bay with its crescent-shaped beach offer more of a challenge. Surf South Sri Lanka is a great resource for up to date information on seasonal swells.
Less developed than the west coast, the beaches on Sri Lanka’s southern coast are surely some of the most beautiful. The south coast is scattered with sweeps of silver sand, from the insta-famous palm tree swing at Dalawella to Dickwella’s low key local atmosphere. Further down the coast, you’ll find Tangalle’s golden sandy beaches like Mawella not to be missed, while those staying in a villa like Walatta House, often have private access to their own stretch of sandy shoreline, and there’s often a local beach hut where you can find a cocktail to see the sunset away.
With a fusion of both Buddhist and Hindu heritage, Sri Lanka is dotted with temples devoted to different deities, and in the south, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Just 10 minutes from Galle, the serene Monastery at Yatagala Raja Maha Viharaya is a 2,000-year-old rock temple surrounded by rice paddies with mural-covered walls. On the hillside west of Unawatuna with beautiful views over Galle Bay and the ocean, Rumassala Temple is the subject of many local legends, with a peace pagoda built by Japanese Buddhist monks, as part of their scheme to build peace temples in conflict zones. Whatever temple you choose to visit, remember to dress conservatively, keep talking to a minimum during ceremonies and always remove your shoes before entry.