Places to visit in Matara
Located on the southern coastline of Sri Lanka, Matara is a beautiful tourist destination. With a plethora of places to visit in Matara, including historical landmarks, beautiful beaches, and cultural heritage, the city is perfect for a laid-back holiday. Matara is approximately 160 kilometres away from Colombo, making it easily accessible by road. Visitors can experience the city’s rich cultural heritage by exploring the Matara Fort, an old Dutch fort built in the 17th century. Another popular tourist attraction in Matara is the Weherahena Buddhist Temple, which features a large statue of Buddha, beautiful paintings, and intricate carvings. The city is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka, such as Polhena Beach and Matara Beach. In addition to these attractions, Matara is also home to several historic temples, such as the Matara Bodhiya and the Devinuwara Temple. Visitors can learn about the rich history and culture of Sri Lanka by visiting these ancient temples. Matara is a destination that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. It is a perfect destination for those seeking a relaxing holiday away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
1. Matara Fort
Matara Fort is one of the top places to visit in Matara, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich history and cultural heritage. As you enter Matara Fort, you will be greeted by an impressive entrance gate that still bears the insignia of the Dutch East India Company. The fort’s walls are made of solid coral and limestone, and visitors can see the scars of battle etched into them. Once inside the fort, visitors can explore the various buildings and structures that are still standing, including the Dutch Reformed Church, which dates back to 1706. One of the most interesting things to see in Matara Fort is the well-preserved Dutch rampart. Visitors can walk along the rampart and enjoy stunning views of the Indian Ocean and the surrounding area. Another fascinating feature of Matara Fort is the old British Garrison Cemetery. Here, visitors can see the graves of British soldiers who served in Sri Lanka during the colonial era. The cemetery’s serene atmosphere provides a stark contrast to the fort’s military past. Visitors can also learn about the fort’s history by visiting the small museum located inside the fort. The museum displays artefacts and exhibits related to the fort’s history and offers insights into the lives of the people who lived and worked within its walls.
2. Weherahena Buddhist Temple
The Weherahena Buddhist Temple is one of the top places to visit in Matara, with its stunning architecture, serene atmosphere, and impressive statue of Lord Buddha. As you enter the temple, you’ll be greeted by a magnificent archway decorated with intricate carvings and paintings. The archway leads to a staircase that takes you up to the temple’s main prayer hall. The prayer hall is a sight to behold, with its beautiful paintings and carvings that depict Buddhist teachings and stories. One of the most impressive features of the Weherahena Buddhist Temple is its 39-meter-tall statue of Lord Buddha. The statue is made of concrete, making it a truly breathtaking sight to behold. Visitors can climb up to the statue’s platform for a closer look and to take in the stunning views of the surrounding area. Another interesting feature of the temple is its underground tunnel. The tunnel is decorated with intricate murals that depict scenes from Lord Buddha’s life and teachings, and visitors can walk through it to reach the main temple area. The Weherahena Buddhist Temple is not just a place of worship; it’s also a cultural and historical landmark that showcases Sri Lanka’s rich heritage.
3. Polhena Beach
Polhena Beach is one of the most popular places to visit in Matara, offering stunning views, crystal-clear waters, and a range of water sports and activities. One of the unique features of Polhena Beach is its shallow waters, which make it an ideal spot for swimming and snorkelling. The beach is also home to a variety of colourful fish and other marine life. In addition to swimming and snorkelling, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy at Polhena Beach. Visitors can take a stroll along the beach, relax under the shade of a palm tree, or enjoy a delicious meal or drink at one of the many beachside restaurants and cafes. Polhena Beach is also a popular spot for watching the sunset, and visitors can often catch a stunning view of the sun sinking below the horizon in a spectacular display of colours. Another unique aspect of Polhena Beach is the large rock formation located just off the shore. This rock provides an excellent spot for cliff jumping and is a popular destination for thrill-seekers. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful spot to relax and soak up the sun or an exciting adventure on the water, Polhena Beach has something for everyone.
4. Devinuwara Temple
The Devinuwara Temple, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most important temples, was constructed in the 7th century AD during the rule of King Dappula IV. The temple’s architectural style is a testament to the blending of traditional Sinhalese and South Indian styles, which adds to its unique beauty. The intricate carvings and ancient Buddhist artefacts, including statues and shrines, that adorn the temple, provide a glimpse into the rich cultural history of Sri Lanka. One of the most striking features of the temple is the sacred Bodhi tree that stands in its midst. The tree’s serene presence and the peaceful atmosphere of the temple make it a perfect spot for meditation and introspection. Visiting the Devinuwara Temple during the annual Devinuwara Esala Perahera is an experience that cannot be missed. This vibrant Buddhist festival, held during July or August, attracts thousands of visitors, who come to witness the colourful parades and traditional performances that take place in the vicinity of the temple. If you’re planning a trip to the southern coast of Sri Lanka, don’t miss the chance to explore the fascinating Devinuwara Temple, which is one of the most popular places to visit in Matara and a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage.
5. Matara Beach
Matara Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Sri Lanka, offering a breathtaking natural setting and a range of fun activities for tourists, making it one of the top places to visit in Matara. This stunning beach is a perfect getaway for those who love the sun, sea, and sand. With its soft golden sand and clear blue water, Matara Beach is a true paradise for beach lovers. This beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and simply enjoying the tranquil atmosphere. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life or an exciting adventure in the water, Matara Beach is the perfect destination for you. One of the highlights of Matara Beach is its stunning sunsets. As the sun slowly dips below the horizon, the sky is painted in beautiful shades of orange, pink, and purple, making it a popular spot for photographers. There are also many food stalls and restaurants located along the beach, offering a range of delicious local cuisines such as fresh seafood, spicy curries, and tropical fruit juices. Whether you’re looking to relax or have some fun in the sun, Matara Beach is the perfect place to spend a day during your visit to Sri Lanka.
6. Star Fort
The Star Fort Matara is one of the most prominent places to visit in Matara, offering a glimpse into the rich colonial history of Sri Lanka and featuring a unique star-shaped design that will leave visitors in awe. The Star Fort Matara, also known as the Dutch Fort, is a historic fortification located in the heart of the town of Matara. Built by the Dutch in the late 17th century, during their period of colonial rule in Sri Lanka, the fort is considered a valuable testament to the country’s colonial history. The fort’s walls are made of coral and granite and are several meters thick, attesting to the Dutch’s ingenuity and expertise in fort building. Today, the Star Fort is a popular tourist attraction, and visitors can explore its well-preserved ramparts and walls, and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the town and coastline from the top of the fort. The fort also houses a small museum that displays a range of artefacts and exhibits related to the fort’s history and the Dutch colonial era in Sri Lanka. If you’re looking to explore Sri Lanka’s colonial history, then a visit to the Star Fort Matara is a must.
7. Old Dutch Trade Center
Old Dutch Trade Center is a fascinating attraction and one of the top places to visit in Matara, offering visitors the chance to explore its rich history and architecture, as well as enjoy a unique shopping experience. Built by the Dutch in the 18th century, the building served as a centre for trade and commerce during the Dutch colonial period in Sri Lanka. The open-sided market building was constructed in a ‘T’ shape and was originally used to house the Nupe market, which was an important hub for trade and commerce in the area. One of the most striking features of the Old Dutch Trade Center is its pitched roof, which is tiled in red Sinhala Kandyan period clay tiles, also known as peti-ulu. These tiles were traditionally used in Sri Lankan architecture, and are renowned for their durability and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. The roof is supported by large white stone pillars, which are a testament to the building’s strength and durability. These pillars also add to the building’s grandeur and give it a regal look. The building has been carefully restored to its original state, and now houses a range of shops and boutiques selling traditional Sri Lankan handicrafts, textiles, and other souvenirs.
8. Dondra Head Lighthouse
Located in the southernmost point of Sri Lanka, the Dondra Head Lighthouse is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Matara, offering visitors a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s maritime heritage and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. Built in 1890, the lighthouse stands tall at height of 49 meters and is one of the tallest lighthouses in South Asia. Its bright light serves as a crucial navigational aid for ships passing through the Indian Ocean. Visitors to the lighthouse can climb to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The climb is well worth the effort, as the view from the top is simply stunning. The lighthouse is situated on a rocky outcrop, and the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean below only add to the beauty and drama of the scenery. The lighthouse is not only a testament to Sri Lanka’s impressive maritime heritage but also to its commitment to preserving its historical and cultural landmarks. The structure was recently renovated and restored to its former glory, complete with a new lantern and state-of-the-art navigational equipment. A visit to the Dondra Head Lighthouse is a unique and unforgettable experience.
9. Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church is not only a religious landmark but also a historical and cultural attraction among the places to visit in Matara. Built-in the mid-18th century by the Dutch East India Company, the church has served as a place of worship for the local Dutch community for over two centuries. The church’s impressive architecture reflects the Dutch colonial style, with a striking white exterior and a high, imposing bell tower. Although it is smaller in size than its counterpart in Galle fort, the building is still sufficient to hold 200 seats. Visitors to the Dutch Reformed Church can explore the beautiful interior, admire the ornate decorations, and learn about the church’s fascinating history. The door and window panels of the Dutch Reformed Church are made of heavy wood, adding to the building’s sense of grandeur and history. Aside from its historical and architectural significance, the Dutch Reformed Church also plays an important role in the local community. It hosts regular services and events and is a popular venue for weddings and other ceremonies. If you’re planning a trip to Matara, make sure to include the Dutch Reformed Church in your itinerary!
10. Matara Paravi Duwa Temple
Matara Paravi Duwa Temple is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring places to visit in Matara, offering a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. The temple, surrounded by the Indian Ocean, is connected to the mainland by a sturdy steel bridge, making it easily accessible to tourists and devotees alike. Paravi Duwa Temple is a Buddhist temple that has become a popular tourist spot due to its serene beauty and religious significance. The temple’s breathtaking location on the island, surrounded by crystal clear waters, creates a sense of tranquillity that is hard to find elsewhere. The temple is dedicated to the worship of Lord Buddha, and the interior of the temple is adorned with beautiful paintings and statues of Buddha. The peaceful and calm atmosphere inside the temple provides a perfect setting for meditation and reflection. Paravi Duwa Temple is a place of great significance for the Buddhist community in Sri Lanka, and it is a beautiful place to visit for those interested in learning about the country’s rich cultural heritage.