Matara (originally Mahathota) is a major city in Sri Lanka and is located in the southern coast of Southern Province, 160 km from Colombo.

Matara (originally Mahathota) is a major city in Sri Lanka and is located in the southern coast of Southern Province, 160 km from Colombo. It is a significant hub in the country, and is the administrative capital of Matara District. It was gravely damaged by the Asian tsunami in December 2004.

Matara historically belonged to the area that is called Ruhuna, which was one of the three kingdoms in Sri Lanka known in Sinhala as “Thun Sinhalaya”. The temple in the middle of the town is also built by ancient kings, which has now become a very popular sacred place among the Buddhists in the area. In the 16th and 18th centuries, Matara was ruled by the Portuguese and the Dutch respectively. Their culture and architecture can still be seen in the area. The popular light house in Point Dondra was built by the Dutch, and is considered as one of the most beautiful and oldest light houses in Sri Lanka. There are two fortresses that were built by the Portuguese and the Dutch which can be found inside the city.

Tourists Attractions in Matara

  • Beaches

Polhena is the closest beach to Matara city being only 2 km away from town. Polhena Beach is very popular with local Sri Lankan tourists. In the weekends and on Poya days, whole busloads with Sri Lankans from Colombo and other cities embark on the beach. This makes Polhena Beach a special place. The local tourists are, amongst others, attracted by the 4 km long coral reef which lines the beach. In the midst of this coral reef swim colourful tropical fish and big sea turtles.

You can do a guided Snorkeling tour, or go diving. When diving, one can see big shoals of fish or even a mantaray or sea snake. Departing from the beach are boat trips on the Nilwala Ganga River. In this river live many crocodiles and you can see beautiful birds during this two hour boat trip. 500 m to the right of the beach is Polhena Surfing point which is for experienced surfers. In front of the beach in the water lies a little island, called Galgodiyana Island. You can go there by boat. On the island is a tiny and desolated beach. There is also an old stupa to be seen.

  • Dutch Fort

It is believed that the Matara Fort was built by the Portuguese. Though it is accepted that the fort was built by them at Matara with the assistance of King Don Juan Dharmapala in 1595 AD, the fort which exists now in the triangular piece of land of the estuary of Nilwala River between the lagoon and the sea was built by the Dutch in 1645 AD. The date inscribed on the entrance is 1789 AD. Therefore, it could be the date the fort was repaired and not the date it was built. The fort that the Dutch built was taken possession by the Sinhala army in 1761 AD at the time of the invasion from the hill country known as the Matara Rebellion. Again in 1762, the Dutch managed to take possession of the fort. The Matara Fort is built with granite and limestone and its gateway at the entrance and the ramparts are very well preserved.

Matara on map

Sri Lanka Tourism Activities around Matara