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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Top 10 things to do in Matara - A checklist for exploring lesser-known coastal cities
Joanna James Joanna James
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Top 10 things to do in Matara - A checklist for exploring lesser-known coastal cities

Matara is a coastal town located in the Southern belt of Sri Lanka. Although not as popular as its neighbour Galle, Matara still has a lot of things to offer to its visitors.


Visit the Star Fort

Although minuscule in scale compared to the likes of the Dutch Fort in Galle, the Star Fort has a significant history to it as well. It was built in order to make up for the deficiencies of the nearby rampart and was able to house only a handful of people. The date of construction - 1765 - is embossed over the entrance to the Fort, along with the VoC insignia. You can visit the Museum located inside which has a detailed history of the structure and Matara in general.


Enjoy a meal at the Dutchman's Street

Dutchman's Street is not a street but a newly established cafe that serves a blend of international and local cuisine. They are well known for their saucy fried chicken wings, and battered fried prawns - made the Sri Lankan way.


Explore the Old Dutch Trade Centre

Once the trade centre that functioned as the beating heart of Matara, this architectural wonder used to be the town's market. It is a T-shaped building with steep roofs, and conical towers - a true feast for the architecture buff.


Compare the Forts

Matara, too, has a Dutch Fort of its own, located adjacent to the Star Fort. Unfortunately, it has been weathered down to an almost unidentifiable rubble of remnants, unlike the neighbouring Galle Fort that stands in all its glory. It is still worth a visit, though, as parts of old mansions and colonial structures still stand amidst the rubble.


Pay your respects at the Weherahena temple

Weherahena temple is unlike many other Buddhist temples. While most of the temples in Sri Lanka are historical structures, using natural crevices to fashion shrines, this temple houses an artificial cave that is decorated with over 200 murals depicting scenes from Buddha's life.


Enjoy an Ayurveda treatment

Many an Ayurveda Resort in Sri Lanka are found in the coastal belt, Matara being no exception. Make your way to one of the exclusive Ayurveda resorts if you can, like Surya Lanka Ayurveda Beach Resort, to have an authentic Ayurveda experience while the waves make background music.


Walk the ramparts

The Dutch ramparts of Matara are a small structure that separates the Nilwala River from the sea. It was built in the 18th century and still, stands strong enough for you to take a sunset walk on them.


Dip in the sea at Polhena beach

Complete with a sandy cove and sheltered by a reef, the Polhena beach is the place to go for a quick dip in the sea. It can be quite crowded though, with locals and foreigners alike coming here to snorkel and spend the day.


Walk across Parey Dewa

Parey Dewa, meaning Rock in Water, is a tiny island that is nothing more than a temple ground. However, the bridge that leads to the island is a modern work of architecture that stands in contrast to the rustic nature of the temple.


Snack at the Grand Oriental

While a number of restaurants and hotels have opened up in Matara, one place you must stop at is the Grand Oriental Bakery. It is an old, rickety place with many little dining rooms. With a wooden interior and ample character, the Grand Oriental is more of a dining experience than a place for outstanding food.

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