At Dondra Head, the southern most tip of the island an octagonal lighthouse brings home that there is nothing between you and Antarctica! The indigo sea is a swirl of coral, rock and foam. At Maha Vishnu devale – a 7th century shrine once pillaged by the Portuguese of its gilded Copper roof, a week long Dondra Festival and a full scale Pera Hera venerates God Vishnu with fire-walking and devil-dancing at midnight. Talalla Beach is a mile of picture-postcard crescent around a cove of glassy calm when most beaches have strong winds. An Oz-run restaurant yards from the beach does excellent fusion sea food.
After Dickwella where brackish lagoons yield harvests of delicious prawns, the beaches don’t even have names but picking-your-own here means having a whole piece of heaven to yourself! Nilwala Cove this side of Tangalle is enchanting with a reef which provides surf further out and safe swimming within. At Kudawilla, the ferociously noisy Hoom-mane Blowhole spurts a spectacular 60 foot high fountain of water for its Cabaret in June. Villages say when the sea is rough it reaches a height of “three coconut trees”. North of Tangalle is Mulkirigala, a black rock temple thrusting 300 feet into the sky with beautifully preserved murals. In 1826, erstwhile government Agent of Ratnapura, George Turnour discovered ola leaf scripts which unlocked 23 centuries of Lanka’s missing history. On your way back try to visit a citronella distillery.
Bundala Bird Sanctuary (also elephants/crocodile/monkeys) is 75 minutes east of Tangalle but as you approach Hambantota in a white fog of un-mechanised salt pans there is much birdlife; finally holy Kataragama, a pilgrim destination where Muslims, Hindu, Buddhist gather in July after walking the length of the island from Jaffna to venerate Lord Skanda by boldly strolling on burning coals.
Inland from the coast in Tangalle, the huge Mulgirigala Rock, houses many cave temples, some of which date back over 2000 years. In 1826 a British administrator found important palm-leaf manuscripts here that helped in the translation of the Mahawamsa, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lankan history.
An Insider's Perspective
Tim Jacobson visited Sri Lanka from Hong Kong for several years. Then serendipity worked effortlessly to turn a cancelled holiday to southern India into an opportunity to buy land near Tangalle and later design The Last House with Geoffrey Bawa. Since then he has developed two additional properties - The Kandy House and Coco Tangalle. After twenty years of various connections with the island, Tim is now happy to be based in the country.
What is your favourite part of the area?
What is your favourite activity?
Waking up at dawn to go fishing in The Last House's boat, returning with a catch for dinner.
What is your favourite restaurant?
Palm Paradise at Goyambokka - relaxed contrast on the beach, simple but delicious crab curries or other seafood.
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Miguel Cunat is a Partner of Sri Lanka In Style founded in 2005 to provide visitors with insightful, engaging experiences in his adopted homeland. Recognized by Conde Nast Traveler as Sri Lanka’s Top Travel Specialist, and recently featured on Wendy Perrin’s WOW List.