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.