What to see in the south of Sri Lanka? Where are the best beaches in the south of Sri Lanka? Where to stay in this part of Sri Lanka?
The south of Sri Lanka is full of incredible beaches. From the azure waters of the Indian Ocean to the lush greenery of the interior, the south of Sri Lanka offers a diverse range of experiences that promise to create unforgettable memories.
Highlights in the South of Sri Lanka:
- South Sri Lanka is a surf paradise, with places like Weligama
- Hang out at Mirissa, the most hipster place in the South
- Visit Galle for its colonial heritage
- Check out the stilt fishermen in Koggala
- Visit the Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery
- Go Whales watching
- Relax at Tangalle Beach
- Go on a safari in Udawalawe National Park
- And so much more, which you can discover in this post
Here is a teaser of what to expect during your trip to the south of Sri Lanka:
Best things to see in South Sri Lanka?
1. Visit Galle for its beautiful colonial heritage
With its colonial style and its ramparts topped with bastions and a lighthouse, Galle contrasts with all the other cities of Sri Lanka: it was actually built by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English succeeding one another. Since 1988, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
We absolutely loved our visit of Galle, full of contrasts, mixing European colonial style with Sri Lankan culture. Most of the main things to see in Galle, are located inside the Galle Fort, which is a part of the city surrounded by ramparts.
Location of Galle Fort: here
>> READ: 15 INCREDIBLE THINGS TO SEE IN GALLE
2. Check out the stilt fishermen at Koggala one of the best things to see in South Sri Lanka
Head to Koggala to see something unique to Sri Lanka and the Galle Region: The stilt fishermen.
This is one of the best things to see in the south of Sri Lanka. At dawn or dusk, the fishermen, installed on large wooden poles, are catching fish above the water.
As the waves are quite strong in this area, the fishermen came up with a different way of fishing for many years.
3. Take one of the most Instagramable shots at the Swing
This place was made famous thanks to Instagram. Here you can take a beautiful shot at sunset on a swing hanging from a coconut tree.
The palm tree rope swing is located on Dalawella Beach. Today, it is one of the best things to see when traveling to Sri Lanka. This place is right in front of the Pearly’s Dream cabana a chill place for a drink and food with a super friendly owner.
4. Visit the Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery in South Sri Lanka
In Koggala we recommend a short visit of the Sea Turtle Farm & Hatchery. Here you can learn about the different kind of turtles with a very informative guide.
They also take care of different species of injured turtles and help the baby turtles survive. It’s a fantastic initiative and worth a stop if you are in the south of Sri Lanka.
5. Surf at Weligama in South Sri Lanka
Weligama is a well-known beach for beginners and intermediate surfers. This beach break is actually beautiful and a great place to learn surfing. There are many surf camps around Weligama.
Weligama is not only for known for surfing, but also because there are many cafes around, great restaurants, and co-working spaces such as the Outpost.
>> READ: 10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN WELIGAMA
6. Visit a tea plantation at Handunugoda Tea Estate
At Handunugoda Tea Estate wander around tea plantations, visit the tea factory, and drink tea serve with nice cake. All this is free of charge with a great English-speaking guide.
We highly recommend this activity, as it is one of the best things to see in the south of Sri Lanka.
7. Check out Coconut Hill in Mirissa
Coconut Tree Hill, like the Swing in Dalawella Beach, is one of the prettiest, very Instagram-worthy spots in the south. It is situated at the end of Mirissa Beach. It is a hill completely covered with coconut trees overlooking the ocean.
Head there early morning if you want to skip the crowd.
>> READ: BEST THINGS TO SEE IN MIRISSA
8. Discover the Secret Beach!
Our favorite beach in Mirissa is Secret Beach. At this hidden gem, you will have a stunning beach almost to yourself. There is a small bar/restaurant serving simple food as well so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own lunch.
Although the beach is named “Secret Beach”, it is actually not so secret anymore. There are many signs showing the direction of the beach. There is even a Google map pin here.
9. Go Whales watching in Mirissa
Beyond its great beach and hipster vibe, Mirissa is above all one of the few places where you can observe blue whales.
There are many companies offering whale-watching tour all around Mirissa. You can also book your tour online here. The guides are usually very good and provide lots of explanations about the whales. In his approach, there is a real desire to educate the public and get them to understand whales a bit better.
10. Join a yoga retreat
Yoga and meditation are part of everyday life in Sri Lanka.
Many people come to Sri Lanka to join a yoga retreat. There are many options. We always recommend Lapoint, as they are present in many places around the world and usually offer great service. Although more for surfing, they also offer yoga classes. Check it out here.
We also joined other classes near Mirissa such as Rukshan Yoga (see here).
Getting a massage in Mirissa?
There are many places which offer massage in the south of Sri Lanka. We tried a few, but we highly recommend Secret Root Spa & The Secret Guesthouse. They offer one of the most amazing spa experiences in the south of Sri Lanka. Check it out here.
11. Head to Polhena Beach to swim with turtles
Polhena is one of our favorite areas in the south of Sri Lanka. It’s peaceful with lush vegetation and beautiful turquoise water. The sea is shallow with coral reefs to protect the bay. It is the ideal spot for a relaxed swim and the observation of underwater fauna such as turtles.
We joined Oska, a passionate guide about turtles. We snorkeled together to watch turtles, stingrays, corals, and many other fishes.
12. Party at Doctor’s House
Not far from Polhena Beach, enjoy a fun evening at Doctor’s House. Go there on a Wednesday night or Saturday night for the best atmosphere in the south of Sri Lanka.
This place used to be a 200-year-old former Dutch Ayurvedic hospital transformed into a bar and restaurant. It’s absolutely unique and rather huge!
Order a pizza and some Margaritas to enjoy a fun evening with live bands, DJ and so much more. Ask anyone for the best place to have a good time in the south of Sri Lanka, and most likely Doctor’s House will be their first answer!
13. Visit the stunning Dondra Lighthouse
Continue your visit to the South of Sri Lanka with a beautiful colonial lighthouse at Dondra. It is actually the tallest lighthouse in Sri Lanka at 161 ft.
The lighthouse is located in the Southernmost point of Sri Lanka (Dondra Head). It is not possible to visit the interior of the lighthouse, but the surrounding with a beautiful beach and palm trees all around is very scenic and worth a visit during your trip to the south of Sri Lanka.
14. Relax at Tangalle Beach
Tangalle is famous for its gorgeous beaches and relaxed atmosphere compared to the bustling Weligama or Mirissa.
Silent Beach and Fisherman’s Bay, are pretty spots for walking, sunbathing, and swimming. Both places are really great.
Paraiwella Beach Park is another great spot to visit in Tangalle. Not as beautiful as the 2 previous beaches, but a great place to swim nonetheless. Local families appreciate this place. So it’s a great place to meet Sri Lankans.
15. Visit Mulkirigala Rock Temple
Near Tangalle (about 40 minutes by tuk-tuk) you can visit the Buddhist temple of Mulkirigala. This temple is one the best things to see in the south of Sri Lanka.
This temple is not as visited as other places in Sri Lanka, so you may well be the only tourist during your visit. Which is great, as it means you can interact with buddhist monks and locals.
16. Enjoy the surf vibes at Hiriketiya
On your way to Tangalle, you can stop at Hiriketya famous for its surf culture and chill vibe! It is actually one of our favorite spots for surfing in Sri Lanka. The Bay forms great waves, perfect for the intermediate level.
There you will find many bars and restaurants along the beach and surfboard rentals. This beach is absolutely stunning. If you are up for surfing, this is another great place in Sri Lanka!
17. Explore the Mangrove at Madu River
Want to have a change of scenery after seeing so many beaches? Head to Madu River for a boat trip on the Mangrove.
The landscape at Madu Ganga River with its huge mangrove is absolutely stunning. With the boat, you will engulf yourself deep within the Jungle where you can observe over 300 species of plants. You will also be able to observe monkeys, huge lizards, crocodile,s and many birds.
Madu Ganga River is the second-largest wetland in Sri Lanka. The tour usually lasts for 2 hours.
You can book your river safari here leaving from Galle.
18. Go on a safari in Udawalawe
Away from the beach, enjoy an amazing Safari at Udawalawe to watch elephants in the wild! This is one of the best things to see in the south of Sri Lanka. For us, this is one of the most memorable moments of our trip.
The Udawalawe National Park covers 310 km2. This is one of the most visited safaris in Sri Lanka. Here you are guaranteed to see Elephants as there are more than 500 inside the park!
Besides elephants, you can also see buffaloes, deer, monkeys, eagles, crocodiles, and with a a lot of luck, leopards…
>> READ: FULL GUIDE FOR VISITING UDAWALAWE
19. Watch Leopards in Yala National Park
We recommend choosing either Udawalawe or Yala National Park during your trip to Sri Lanka. Although it seems more people prefer Udawalawe, Yala is famous for its leopards. It is there that you will have the best chance to see them.
Besides Leopards (if you are lucky enough to see them), you may spot peacocks, elephants, crocodiles, sloth bears, spotted dear, jackals, sambars, and other exotic birds.
Book your safari to Yala National Park here.
20. Visit Kataragama Temple
Karagama is a city of pilgrimage in Sri Lanka for both Buddhists and Hindus. Indeed, in the same place are the two temples! The temple is located near Yala National Park. You can easily combine your visit to Yala with Karagama.
Kataragama Temple is surrounded by lovely sceneries from where you take beautiful photos and take time for contemplation. If you are there in July, then make sure you join the Perahera Esala celebrations. This is a huge parade, which is absolutely stunning! It celebrates the god of war Skanda Kumara.
Where to stay in South Sri Lanka?
The South of Sri Lanka is quite wide, so we recommend staying at 2 or 3 different places to cover it all.
Best hotels in Galle
Galle Fort Hotel
For the ultimate experience stay at Galle Fort Hotel. This stunning colonial building has been fully restored in a stunning hotel. The hotel has an outdoor pool and terrace as well as a great restaurant. Check it out here.
The Bartizan Galle Fort
Bartizan is another beautiful hotel in Galle. This place was originally built in the 17th century during the Dutch colonial period. The hotel was fully restored to its former glory. This place is perfectly located in the Galle Fort. Book here.
Best hotels in Weligama
Weligama Bay Resort
We absolutely love the Weligama Bay Resort. It is perfectly located by the beach in Weligama. One of the best value for money in the area. There are many restaurants nearby and the beach is at your footstep. Don’t hesitate, book here.
Weligama Bay Marriott Resort & Spa
Best places to stay in Mirissa
Surf & Yoga Mirissa – Surf camp and Yoga retreat
If you want to improve your surf skills and join a yoga retreat, this is one of the best places in the south of Sri Lanka. For more info, check it out here.
Best places to stay in Tangalle
Lankavatara Ocean Retreat & Spa
At Lankavatara Ocean Retreat, expect a luxury experience right by the beach. This is one of our favorite places in the south of Sri Lanka. Wanna get pampered during your stay in Sri Lanka? Then this place is for you. Book here.
Best time to visit the South of Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate with two monsoon seasons at different times and parts of the country. This allows travelers to always benefit from a good season, on one side or the other of the country.
For the northeast part, the period from May to September is the most favorable.
Regarding the western and southern region as well as the mountains, the months of December to March are the best with less chances of rain. April – June can get quite a lot of rain with the Monsoon season in the south.
Regarding temperatures, there is an overall average of 27° both in the air and in the water. The climate is therefore hot throughout the whole country. However, in the mountains, such as in Ella, it can get quite cool in the evening. So prepare a light jacket as well.
How to get around the South of Sri Lanka?
We are being asked this question a lot!
By public transportation
Know that it is quite possible to travel almost everywhere by local transport in Sri Lanka. You can therefore travel without a driver. For long-distance train is by far the best way to travel around Sri Lanka. It’s cheap and it allows you to admire the countryside of Sri Lanka from the window.
Buses are another decent option, but if you travel with big luggage and kids, we would not recommend it. Buses are quite old, so don’t expect any A/C inside, and often overcrowded. For short distances,s however, taking the bus could be a good option.
By Tuk Tuk
Taking a Tuk Tuk is normally the best option to travel through the south of Sri Lanka. You can either hire your Tuk Tuk driver to go from A to B, or for a day trip. Just agree with the driver about where you want to stop and he will drive you the whole day. You only have to pay at the end of the journey.
By Taxi or private driver
If you are more than 2 people, then taking a taxi or private guide could be a great option! Of course, this is more expensive, but your driver can take you anywhere and suggest great places to visit along the way.
Rent your own motorbike
It is also possible to rent a small motorbike during your stay in Sri Lanka. We rented a scooter for a few days. We always feel more freedom when we get anywhere by scooter.
In conclusion about the best things to see in South Sri Lanka
For beach lovers (like us), the South of Sri Lanka is a stunning part of the country. We love that there are so many beautiful beaches, and great sea life with turtles, corals, and even whales. It’s also an awesome place for surfing, with a great surf culture vibe around Weligama and Mirissa.
We were actually quite surprised with the number of digital nomads in Weligama. It offers great co-working spaces and amazing healthy vegan cafes. So for the digital nomads out there, make sure to add Sri Lanka in your itinerary.
Overall, visiting the south of Sri Lanka is absolutely worth it. Especially if you travel intensively throughout Sri Lanka, it’s nice to take a break and relax by the beach for a few days.
We hope that you found this post useful. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, by leaving a comment below.
Enjoy your trip to this wonderful country!