7 HIDDEN SECRETS OF SOUTHERN SRI LANKA
When enjoying the pleasures and beauty of Talalla Retreat and the beach, it may be hard to leave. But when you have had a day or two to relax and fully enjoy the spa, restaurant and pool, a bit of time out exploring the south coast is a great idea. There are loads of interesting sights and things to do, but here is my list of the seven best:
1. Mulgirigala Cave Temples
Sri Lanka is a devoutly Buddhist country and has a rich spiritual tradition. The biggest and most well known ancient cave temple is in Dambulla, north of Kandy. However, I prefer the caves at Mulgirigala as they are nestled in a pretty forest and not so busy or touristy. The first caves were carved with massive reclining Buddha in the 600s AD, so are quite old. Look out for the painted wall murals denoting what can happen to a sinner who goes astray. It is about an hour from Talalla, but it’s a good day out and a chance to see the countryside. You can get a local guide there for about 1000 rupees, but that is optional. Remember to wear long pants for men and women are asked to cover their shoulders and dress respectfully.
2. Hirikitiya Beach
About 20 minutes east of Talalla is Hirikitiya Beach near the town of Nilwela. Hirikitiya must be one of the most beautiful natural tropical coves in the world. It’s a perfect place to go for a day trip, have a swim, or surf, as it is very protected and a gentle swell. Surfboards can be hired from the locals for (500 rupees per hour) if you want to have a paddle.
If you have time, go further up to the eastern headland, and visit Jasper House. This is the sister hotel to Talalla Retreat. Then, if you can make your way further east, you come out at the Nilwela harbour where you see a really pretty sight as many colourful fishing boats are moored there.
3. Toprabane Island
This remarkable private guesthouse in Weligama is on its own private 2.5 acre island just off the beach. Built in the 1920’s it has hosted many celebrity holidays and weddings over the decades as it looks like a fantasy Wedding Cake Island. It is not open to the public unless you book accommodation, but well worth checking out from the beach and taking a few pics.
4. The Blowhole
Not far from Talalla, at Dikwella, is the blowhole. Best to go in the right conditions, which is a fine day with some swell close to July (other months are fine, but not as impressive). The locals have turned it into a bit of a cash cow for themselves by charging 250 lkr for admission. A few shops have sprung up to service the traffic as well. If it is working a fountain of seawater shoots through the opening in the rock creating a natural fountain.
5. The Geoffrey Bawa South Coast tour
Geoffrey Bawa is Sri Lanka’s most famous architect. He is called the Frank Lloyd Wright of Asia, and is responsible for what many people know as “tropical modern” style. Claughton House is not far from Talalla Retreat and is magnificent. It is only three luxury villas and a pavilion style restaurant, looking over spacious gardens and a pool, and then on to surf crashing on the coastline. Further along is The Last House in Tangalle.
Both hotels are not officially open to the public unless you are a guest, so it is best to say you are scouting for a future holiday location. If it is booked out they will not let you in anyway.
6. Coconut Tree Hill, Mirissa
Mirissa is a lively beach town just before Weligama, when coming from Talalla. There are some interesting shops and restaurants. My pick for the view is ‘Coconut Tree Hill’ and is a favourite four Instagrammers. It is a small cape dotted with picturesque palm trees. Come here late afternoon for a breathtaking sunset. Tip: Get there early to grab the perfect spot before the other tourists arrive.
7. Dondra Temple
Dondra Temple displays a unique combination of Hindu and Buddhist culture, but is primarily a shrine to the Hindu god Vishnu. Remember to dress appropriately here and photos inside the temple are forbidden.
Unfortunately, Dondra Temple is the home to a distressed temple elephant. If you do go, politely make your concerns heard. Perhaps one day they will release the elephant to his natural habitat.
Talalla Retreat is booking up for the peak season, so make sure you book early to experience all of these adventures and more. Book now
This was a guest blog written by Michael Murray from Best of Sri Lanka Tours.
Best of Sri Lanka operates two fully escorted tours each year – March and June. It can also curate a personal tour for the desired number of days and the budget for a small party. They will organise and suggest your itinerary, book hotels and provide an experienced & qualified driver.
Michael Murray: [email protected]
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