Matara, located 160km from Colombo in its southern part, attracts many tourists for its natural scenic beauty and most attractive sandy & sunny beach in coastal area. In Matara hinterland, one can stroll through lush paddy fields, aromatic tea estates and fragrant spice plantations.
In past Matara was called "Mahathota" which translates as "Great Ferry". Weerabamapanam made Matara is capital and named it "Mapatuna" from time to time Matara has been ruled by foreign rulers. The Portuguese administered Matara from 1790 to 1795 while the British ruled it from 1796 to 1948. The Dutch were also dominant force in Matara for some time.
Matara is the centre place in the southern province of Sri Lanka.
One can take train or buses for travelling from Colombo to Matara. Although number of trains is limited, buses are available at frequent intervals. Via the Southern Expressway it is only 1 n half hours away from Colombo. The railway lines to south end in Matara. Bus stand is located about 500 m from railway station. For travelling within the city economical mode of tourist transport are Three Wheelers, popularly known as Tuk-Tuk. Traditional mode of local transport was carts in the past.
Matara Fort: The Dutch fortified a Portuguese garrison around 1640, now known as Matara Fort. The Fort consists several structures of colonial times, oldest is the Dutch Church. Matara fort was built to support the Main Fort across the stream.
Weligama: Resort town of Weligama is 18km off Matara. Weligama is known for its beaches. Weligama Rest House is among the oldest in whole country. For guiding the ships, a 40m high lighthouse was built in 1890.
Mirissa: Most famous and with rough currents for surfing beach in Matara. Many leisure boats leave Mirissa for Whale Watching, where you find blue whales in abundance.
Dondra/Devinuwara: The shrine devoted to Hindu god Vishnu at Dondra/Devinuwara is popular among the locals and most famous light house of the south coast. A popular event in the temple is held in July / August every year. Locals gather here in big numbers to celebrate the occasion.
Tangalle: Located 48km off Matara, Tangalla is a nice place for a beach holiday. The hamlet straddles a freshwater lagoon. Tangalla is also a fishing harbor. Known for long stretches of white sand, the coast has several small sandy coves.
River Nilawala: Matara is located on the banks of River Nilwala, the third longest river in Sri Lanka. It joins the Indian Ocean at Thotamuna. Main crops along this river are tea, rubber and paddy. And it is famous for Crocodiles with much folklore associated with crocs.
Sinharaja rain forest: Sinharaja Rain Forest, declared a natural world heritage site and a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, is an undisturbed and distinct lowland rain forest in Sri Lanka. Covering the area of about 11187 hectares, the humid evergreen forest is located in the southwest zone of the country. Sinharaja has got the average annual temperature of 23.6%. It receives rainfall from both the monsoon, in the months of May to July and October to December. The rain forest has become a popular tourist destination for its eco value, bird watching, research and for curiosity.
Paradise for Eco Lovers: Sinharaja Forest has always been a paradise for eco lovers. It is the last remaining portion of the rain forest in the country. Its diversity of flora and fauna has attracted eco scientists. The forest is a treasure trove of endemic species, including trees, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and insects. Purple-faced Languor is the commonest larger animal found here. Deer species likes ambhur, monk deer and barking deer are also found. Leopards are rarely sighted. Dense vegetation doesn’t suit bigger animals like elephants, though a loner is sighted.
Endemic Flora and Fauna Rare endemic birds found in Sinharaja are the Red-faced Malkoha, the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, the Ashy-headed Barbbler, and the White – headed Starling and the Green billed Coucal. Approximate 60% of the trees are endemic, most of them rare. The forest is known for its endemic population of birds. Several species of butterflies live in the forest. Logging, game hunting and gem mining still pose threat to Sinharaja Forest.