Matara Things to Do

  • Fort area, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    Fort area, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    by planxty
  • Fort area, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    Fort area, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    by planxty
  • Fort area, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    Fort area, Matara, Sri Lanka.
    by planxty

Best Rated Things to Do in Matara

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    Lest we forget.

    by planxty Written Mar 10, 2014

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    I have made no secret here on Virtual Tourist that I was in the armed forces and that I have an interest in military history and war memorials and commemorations. I have also mentioned in my other Sri Lankan pages that this country was, until about five years before time of writing (March 2014) in the grip of a bloody and brutal civil war which claimed far, far too many lives. Having been brought up in Northern Ireland at the back end of the last century, it is something that resonates deeply with me. I make no comment on the rights and wrongs of that conflict as I simply do not know enough about and refuse to pass judgement on something I don't know about. Would that all contributors to the internet adopted the same policy.

    I am fully aware that this tip will only be of interest to a very small minority of readers but I feel it is worth doing as it commemorates the ultimate sacrifice made by many men in defence of their country. I think that is worthy of a minute or two of your time if you are passing.

    The war memorial in Matara follows the typical Sri Lankan pattern of a soldier in a fairly aggressive martial pose standing atop the plinth with the names of the dead and the dates of their deaths. It is the sheer number of these that move me. Presumably, they are all local lads and Matara is not that big a place yet the list seems to be almost endless. If you have served, it will get to you, it did me. If you have not served, I think it is worth a moment to remember the men who bought you the freedom to roam this wonderful travellers destination in safety.

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  • planxty's Profile Photo

    Another historical mystery.

    by planxty Updated Mar 25, 2014

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    Undoubtedly one of the major attractions of Matara is the old Fort area, which I find rather atmospheric, and was undoubtedly built by the Dutch during their colonial period in Sri Lanka. Standing a proud 12 metres high above it and visible from just about anywhere in town is the gleaming white clocktower and it is this that provides the mystery. I always like to research my tips as I like them to be accurate as possible and it was whilst so doing that the mystery mentioned in the title of this tip surfaced.

    Various websites, including what appears to be a semi-official Matara one, state that the tower was built by the Dutch. My guidebook, however, states that it was built by the British and this seems to be supported by the (English language) inscription on it which supports the guidebook theory. It is certainly true that colonial Britons appear to have had something of an obsession with time-keeping so I think I shall credit (if that is the right word) my countrymen with it's construction.

    You can't go inside which is a shame as the views must be impressive from the top but it is worth a quick look before going on to explore the rest of the Fort.

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    Dondra and Dondra Head

    by Maxus Written Feb 2, 2008

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    Dondra Head is the southernmost point in Sri Lanka so for anyone doing a four-points tour it would be important place to visit (the northernmost point might be a little more lively just now) but otherwise they isn’t a great deal to draw you here and if you simply want a ‘worlds-end’ type experience I would try the remote and ghostly Kirinda instead.

    Geography apart, the other ‘attraction’ at Dondra is the lighthouse, what can I say? It’s a lighthouse and no doubt appealing to fans of lighthouses. You have to give it to the Brits, for all their faults they did do good light houses but again Kirinda beats Dondra hands down. The lighthouse at Kirinda is two miles out at sea and when you see the waves crashing around it you wonder how it got there.

    yes, it's definately a lighthouse.
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  • Polhena Coastal Belt

    by iroshank Written Nov 21, 2011

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    If there is a Calm and Quite Coastal Belt with awesome beaches in Southern Sri Lanka, Its Polhena... The softest tranquil groups of small beaches along the village.. Its Surfer Friendly but the waves are not too high, But the water and the sea life and the reef is one of the greatest in Asia.. The Ravana's Ridge which relates to Ramayanaya the Great indian Legacy is going through this Sea Belt. A Must Visit place after Mirissa and Hikkaduwa. Polhena is Located in Matara. its a Small Fishery village with nice and friendly people.

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    Fascinating island temple.

    by planxty Written Mar 10, 2014

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    I came upon this place purely through reading my guidebook as I had no clue about the town and had gone there on a daytrip from Galle although I was subsequently to revisit the place and stay for quite a few days, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    It was on this subsequent trip that I actually found out about this island temple. The idea of an island temple is not at all unique in the Buddhist belief system but I did find out that this place was very much dedicated to those that had died in the appalling war that raged in this country for many years until 2009. There is a further history to it which the reader can look up for themselves although it is of minimal religious significance. Apparently it's proper name is Parey Duwa if you care to look it up.

    For me, the best thing about what was a fairly uninteresting site was the interaction with the two young novice monks (aged nine and 13 they told me) which led to an impromptu "VT flag party", as you can see. The temple here is still a work in progress and they were actively humping wheelbarrows full of building materials around the site. It was so much fun.

    Certainly this is not an ancient site if great significance but it is worth a look round. Regrettably, due to it's location and the steps involved, this place would not be suitable for the mobility impaired treaveller.

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    Explore the Fort.

    by planxty Written Apr 14, 2014

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    The history of Matara Fort closely mirrors that of Galle Fort some miles to the North although it is nowhere near as large or grand and nor is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site like it's cousin. Indeed, these days it is in need of some repair. The matter appears to be in hand with a joint project between the Sri Lankan authorities and the Netherlands Cultural Cooperation Programme which seems to be pumping quite a bit of money into the preservation of it's heritage here.

    Like Galle, the Fort really outlines the history of the colonial period in Sri Lanka. Originally constructed as a wooden fortification by the Portuguese, it was upgraded to the stone structure you see today by the Dutch who supplanted them in the 1640's. It was not all plain sailing for the Dutch, however, as the powerful Kandyan kingdon, who had resisted the Europeans, was able to take and hold Matara Fort for a year in the 1760's. They held it for about a year until the Dutch were able to re-take it. The Fort was then handed over without bloodshed to the British in 1796 when they took over the island. It remained under British administration until independence in 1948.

    the thing the traveller will initially notice about the Fort area is how quiet it is, especially towards the Northern end (i.e. away from the gate). In a country where hustle and bustle is the default position for just about any street, it really is delightfully peaceful here. You can wander down the middle of the road quite happily with little worry about being knocked down.

    If you go right to the North end, you will come to a small harbour which is quite pleasant and on the Northeast corner is the local prison which is somewhat less pleasant to look at. There are a couple of temples and the old Dutch Church (see separate tip) and although there is not much to actually do, it is well worth a wander round.

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    Plain but pleasant enough.

    by planxty Written Apr 14, 2014

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    In the same way as the Fort in Matara is smaller and not as grand as nearby Galle, so it is with the Dutch Reformed Church.

    There is some debate as to when the Church was actually founded. 1706 is the generally accepted date although there may have been another structure there previously. This is suggested by some old headstones present in the current building. It is very Dutch in architectural appearance and is very plainly furnished inside. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, this appears to be the Dutch Reformed Church style and secondly much of the old furniture was destroyed in the awful tsunami of 2004. Fortunately, the building itself suffered little and was pressed into service as a food distribution centre for displaced persons.

    In another parallel with other places of Dutch heritage in Sri Lanka the Church was restored with financial assistance from the Netherlands, in this case the Wolvendaal Foundation.

    The major problem the traveller will have is actually gaining access to the Church. Apart from Sunday worship, I only ever saw it unlocked once when the caretaker was inside cleaning. He and what I took to be his wife and child greeted me cheerfully and although there was no English spoken indicated that I was welcome to look round and take photos.

    Dutch Reformed Church, Matara, Sri Lanka. Dutch Reformed Church, Matara, Sri Lanka.
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Matara Things to Do

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