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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Joanna James Joanna James
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Hidden Treasures in Matara – Take Time to Discover Ancient Relics

Matara is an ancient town along the popular southern coast. The place has a gorgeous beach, rolling surf and bevy of sunny locales to enjoy. Even more alluring are the town's hidden gems.


Elephant and Spice Trade of Matara

In the days of yore ancient kings of Sri Lanka established Matara as centre for trading in elephants and spices. With the invasion of the island by colonists the town was ransacked and raised to the ground; especially by the Portuguese. However a 16th century king rebuilt Matara to the splendour it once was with added fortifications; in time attracting the colonists that shaped and influenced the history of Matara.


Ancient Forts of Matara

Matara being rebuilt and fortified from the 16th century onwards proved to be quite attractive to the invading Dutch colonist who sought to get a piece of the elephant and spice trade that was centre fold in the town. The deep and well sheltered estuary of the beautiful Nilwala River was most attractive to the Dutch who built 2 forts around the area and set about re-establishing the elephant and cinnamon trade in Matara. Today you can visit the remnants of these forts just 2kms from Amaloh by Jetwing. Small sections of the ramparts remain with the entrance being through an archway that dates back to 1780. The clock tower established by the British in 1883 still remains. Inside are colonial style bungalows and a church home to an ancient pipe organ.


The Dutch Reformed Church

Of all impressive colonial buildings in the Matara Fort is the old Dutch Reformed Church. The gabled building is quite a fascinating precinct to explore; holding within its quarter's ancient Dutch furniture as well as grave stones that date back to 1686. In fact many Matara hotels take pride in offering Dutch décor and settings, for a traditional feel in the sleepy Dutch influenced town.


The Star Fort

Continuing on the journey of exploring Dutch history in Matara one must not miss the Star Fort. Built along the western banks of the beautiful Nilwala River by then Dutch Governor Van Eck; the place was a shelter for safe river crossings from the bank to the main fort around 1763. Mind you this was necessary as the Dutch kept crocodiles in the dividing moat! The fort consisted of several rooms and one is in use today as a mini museum. There were also two prison cells and a central courtyard complete with a well at the time. The fort was handed over to the British in 1796 after the surrender of Colombo by the Dutch.


The Nupe Market

Straight from the times of British rule the Nupe Market is located on the outer rim of Matara Town; it is a T-shaped open structure sporting an old fashioned pitch roof and three colonial style towers. There's a gabled entrance to the once popular market which although not in use and badly in need of repair is quite an interesting browse.

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