Things to do in Negombo:

* Visit the morning fish market auction on the beach

* Visit a fisherman's village

* Dutch Fort

* Hamilton Canal

* St. Mary's Church

* Boat excursion

A bustling fishing town, Negombo is the closest city of consequence to Sri Lanka's main international airport, and is usually either the first stop of choice to commence your travels in Sri Lanka or the last in winding down your holiday. The town has for centuries been an important trading port, with its natural lagoon first attracting Arab merchants and traders here as far back as the 7th Century, in search of the prized spice cinnamon which grew profusely in the area. Later, in the 1500s it became a coveted possession of Portuguese colonists who cemented their arrival by building a fort on the coast to protect their interests. Their influence on the area is still evident today as their introduction of Catholicism led to the building of countless churches, which has given the town the moniker "Little Rome". The Dutch ousted the Portuguese from Negombo in 1646, and further improved and expanded the existing fort, but with the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom in 1851 it was ceded to the British.

A little north of the town proper, along a stretch of well maintained beach, Negombo's famed Golden Mile is the heart of the city's tourist area and is packed with hotels and accommodation to suit a range of budgets. At the top end of the spectrum Jetwing Beach and Jetwing Lagoon are front runners. Jetwing Lagoon is a creation of the Geoffrey Bawa, hailed as the father of modern Asian architecture and is truly an enchanting experience. Goldi Sands, Jetwing Blue and Jetwing Sea offer excellent facilities and good service, and value for money options include Camelot Beach Hotel, Catamaran Beach Hotel and Paradise Beach Hotel. For the budget conscious, a plethora of guest houses are readily available which provide true Sri Lankan hospitality.

Dining out presents no problem as Negombo offers a wide range of restaurants and pubs catering to a variety of palates, with most of them conveniently located along the main tourist strip. Lords Restaurant is one of the most eyecatching and serves a range of international and fusion cuisine. Being a beach resort, as is expected seafood dining options are aplenty, with popular venues being Coco Beach, The Poseidon and Spargo Beach Restaurant. For dedicated international fare, Prego is the top choice for Italian and Bijou serves up fantastic traditional Swiss dishes. If its excellent pub grub you are after, then the Rodeo Pub and the Tusker Restaurant would be good options.

Other than the sun and sand, Negombo offers plenty to do and see. At the top of the list would be the Dutch Fort by the sea. Although only a part of the original structure remains, it lies as a physical reminder of the importance colonial powers placed on Negombo. Nearby, the main fish market makes for an interesting dose of culture if you can deal with associated aromas. The Hamilton Canal, built by the Dutch to connect Colombo to the south and Puttalam to the north, runs through the town of Negombo and although it was constructed to facilitate the transport of cinnamon, it is now used by the fishing community to launch their daily expeditions. The Angurukaramulla Temple on the outskirts of the town, make for an interesting visit to see its ornate buildings and an 18-foot image of the Buddha. Although packed with churches at every turn, St. Mary's Church in the centre of town is one of the most imposing and aesthetic, displaying distinct Potuguese architecture and magnificent frescoes covering its vaulted ceiling. Souvenir shops line the main tourist thoroughfare selling a wide variety of curious and local handicrafts, perfect for taking memories back home.

For the more actively inclined, nature lovers will be thrilled with a boat excursion through the Muthurajawela marsh. This vast, protected extent of mangrove swampland is a biodiversity hotspot and travelling along its many waterways is both peaceful and exhilarating at the same time. Thanks to its long maritime history, the coast off Negombo is littered with numerous wrecks offering excellent dives which can be facilitated by diving outfits found around the tourist strip.

Negombo's location also makes it a fine base from which to launch one day excursions, which take less than two hours travel one way. The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a very popular attraction where scores of elephants can be seen in a controlled environment. Feeding time is the best time to visit and takes place twice a day in the morning and afternoon, followed by the herd being taken in convoy to the adjoining river for bathing. An hour north, off Chilaw, the Munneswaram temple is a revered Shiva temple held in great veneration by Hindus and Buddhists alike. It is also an important site on the Ramayana trail, with the temple marking the place where King Rama of India prayed for forgiveness from Lord Shiva after a battle with King Ravana. Half an hour further north, the Anawilundawa Wetlands offer bird watchers and nature lovers a pristine environment of ancient man made lakes teeming with an extraordinary amount of water fowl, waders and raptors.


Best time to visit Negombo is from December to May

Distance and travel times from Negombo to some key cities; 

Distance from Negombo to Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is about 10 km and travel time is 15 Minutes.

Distance from Negombo to Colombo is about 36 km and travel time is 0.5 to 1 hours.

Distance from Negombo to Kandy is about 108 km and travel time is 2.5 to 3 hours

Distance from Negombo to Galle is about 162 km and travel time is 2 to 2.5 hours

Distance from Negombo to Sigiria is about 155 km and travel time is 3.0 to 3 hours

For any other location you can use the distance calculator on the side bar.

Written by Jonathan Roelofsz for

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