From elephant trading centre to tourist paradise.

After Galle and Kosgoda we headed to Matara where holiday-makers don’t tend to linger for long. Those who find the time to do any tourist crap may be surprised to find out how much Matara actually has to offer. Let’s get things straight, most tourists don’t go to Matara, they head straight to Weligama, where tourist facilities bloom.

Men playing cricket on Matara beach.

Interesting coincidence. More than a decade ago a major tsunami struck Sri Lanka and sweeping away hundreds of thousands of coastal households from west to east. A few years later reconstruction began, paving the way for new tourist developments. So Walgama is essentially one of the places that used to have only local households and villages, but is now full of resorts and hotels. Natural disaster is convenient for some it would seem.

In the time of the Sri Lankan kings Matara was a centre for trading elephants and spices and Walgama didn’t exist. Portuguese invaders tore Matara to pieces, but its fortifications were later rebuilt. Like Galle fort, it is situated in centre of the town and is the area’s main visitor hub.

Facade of Weragampita Rajamaha Viharaya Temple in Walpola, Matara. This temple seems rarely visited, in fact when when we visited there was no one was there to open the door. After some roaming around a man from a nearby house came out with his child and unlocked the door. He took nothing for admission, a rare gem.
Man walking along Walgama beach in the morning.
Monk in orange robes showing us around Weherahena Temple in Matara. It is the most popular temple among the buddhist pilgrims to the area. Although it does not carry any historical significance, the story of the temple is quite interesting, it's said to have the largest temple tunnel system in the world.
Historically, Weherahena was built as an underground temple, but later emerged as one of the most important local examples of modernity. Funded by patrons, the temple's enormous, pink-faced Buddha was donated by a wealthy Japanese benefactor. People from across the world also offered financial assistance to build the temple and their names are inscribed on the boards that the orange robed monk is bragging about.
Sri Lanka is famous for its stilt fishermen, a method which involves fishermen sitting on a cross bar tied to a vertical pole which is inserted into the sand a few meters off the shore. From this position, the fishermen swing their rods, and wait for a fish to be caught. The tradition is believed to have been practised since WWII, however about a decade ago it started to disappear when the fishermen figured that tourism was more profitable. This is one of those fishermen, next to his beach house.
Stilts in the distance, near Koggala village. They are used only upon tourist request and payment.