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Updated by Joanna James on Sep 13, 2018
Headline for Tourist Attractions in Matara, Sri Lanka – The fun begins where the railway ends
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Joanna James Joanna James
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Tourist Attractions in Matara, Sri Lanka – The fun begins where the railway ends

The charming town of Matara is Sri Lanka's southern most major town & the terminus of the country's coastal railway track. Here's a list of the town's must-see historic sites and natural attractions!

1

Polhena Beach

Polhena beach is the best and most famous beach in Matara; the scenic, sandy cove that makes up the beach is sheltered by an offshore reef, which provides great snorkelling filled with ample opportunity to spot turtles! Many a Matara hotel and beach restaurant, such as Amaloh by Jetwing, is located adjacent to Polhena Beach, taking advantage of its picturesque views.

2

Matara Fort

The historic Matara Fort was first constructed by the Portuguese in 1560 and later rebuilt by the Dutch in 1640. The Fort was the heart of the district during the colonial reign and its remnants still border the coastline. The architecturally stimulating area is littered with dilapidated colonial mansions and buildings that make fantastic backdrops for photographs! Nilwala River runs to the west of the fort and if you're lucky you might be able to spot a crocodile or two floating underneath the serene river surface or basking on the riverbanks!

3

Star Fort

To the east of Nilwala River is the Star Fort, built by the Dutch in 1765. The Fort was constructed by the Dutch to better protect the Matara Fort which they believed to be vulnerable to attacks from land. The fort is built in the shape of a six-pointed star with enough space to hold 12 cannons thus covering attacks from all directions. The fort has been restored and now holds a riveting museum depicting the history of Matara.

4

Old Dutch Trade Centre

Another delight for architecture and history buffs! The old trade centre is a beautiful, T-shaped building that was once the town's marketplace. Supported by gigantic wooden beams, the building is open on all sides and has a steep roof, three conical towers and a magnificent, gabled entrance.

5

Weherahena Temple

Weherahena temple is a grand, colourful temple located around 1km inland of the main road, to the east of Matara. The temple features a 23m tall Buddha statue and a man-made cave decorated with around 200 paintings depicting the life of the Buddha. During the full moon in late November or early December, the temple hosts a grand 'perahera', a Buddhist procession that features fire dancers and elephants!

6

Dutch Rampart

Bordering the ancient Matara Fort is a small Rampart constructed by the Dutch where cannons were mounted to protect the town. The Rampart located on high land between the sea and Nilwala River was built in the 18th century in order to protect the administrative office of the Dutch East India Company in Sri Lanka.

7

The Rock in Water

Parey Dewa which translates to 'Rock in Water' is a small island off Matara that can be accessed via a small, modern bridge. The Island is home to a small, picturesque Buddhist temple which stands in a gorgeous garden, overlooking the sea and houses a great many Buddha statues. A visit to the island is a fantastic way to interact with the local peoples and observe the local culture. There are many vendors at the end of the bridge selling offerings to take into the temple, as well as, snacks, including drinks and ice cream, which can only enhance your enjoyment of the fantastic view of the sea the bridge provides.

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