Matara Travel Guide

Plan your perfect trip to Matara, Sri Lanka with our extensive guide. Discover the best places to visit, things to do, where to stay, and more.

A Comprehensive Guide to Matara, Sri Lanka

Located in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, Matara is a beautiful coastal city that offers a unique blend of culture, natural beauty and adventure. In this comprehensive guide, we will take a tour of Matara, exploring the best places to visit, things to do, where to stay, and much more.

Introduction to Matara

Matara is a city in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, located approximately 160km from the capital city of Colombo. This coastal city is known for its beautiful beaches, rich cultural heritage, and natural attractions. Matara is a popular tourist destination, and rightly so, because it has something for everyone.

List of Places to Visit in Matara

Matara is full of exciting places to visit that will satisfy any traveler’s wanderlust. Here is a list of the top attractions to see in Matara.

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Matara Fort: Built by the Dutch in the 17th century, Matara Fort is one of the most famous historical landmarks in the city.
  • Weherahena Temple: This unique temple is located inside a cave and features stunning murals and Buddha statues.
  • Dondra Head Lighthouse: Built in 1889, this lighthouse is one of the most significant landmarks in Matara, and its history dates back to the early 1800s.

Natural Attractions of Matara: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Mirissa Beach: One of the most popular beaches in Sri Lanka, Mirissa has beautiful crystal clear waters and is known for whale watching.
  • Parevi Duwa Island: A beautiful offshore island that is perfect for exploring, water sports, and relaxation.
  • Polhena Beach: A beautiful natural lagoon that is suitable for swimming, snorkeling and other watersports activities.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Matara

Matara is a great location for hiking and biking enthusiasts. Here are some popular routes to consider:

  • The Sinharaja Rainforest: One of the most significant rainforests in Sri Lanka, Sinharaja is approximately 90km from Matara and has several hiking trails.
  • The Devil’s Staircase: A challenging yet rewarding hike that is approximately 30km from Matara.
  • Kanneliya Forest Reserve: Located approximately 50km from Matara, Kanneliya Forest Reserve is another beautiful location to go hiking.

Best Things to Do in Matara: Activities and Tours

Matara is packed with interesting activities and tours that offer a unique experience for visitors. Here are some of the top things to do in Matara:

  • Whale Watching Tour: Witness beautiful sea creatures in their natural habitat on a whale watching tour.
  • Surfing and Water Sports: Enjoy adrenaline-pumping activities like surfing, jet skiing and banana boat rides at some of the best beaches in Matara.
  • Boat Safari: Take a relaxing boat safari along the lush green banks of the Nilwala River.

Week-Long Itinerary for Matara

To help you plan your Matara trip, here is a suggested itinerary for spending a week in this beautiful city:

Day Activity
Day 1 Visit Matara Fort, Weherahena Temple and Dondra Head Lighthouse
Day 2 Spend your day at Mirissa Beach
Day 3 Go on a whale watching tour and try some water sports
Day 4 Explore Parevi Duwa Island
Day 5 Go trekking in the Sinharaja Rainforest
Day 6 Visit Polhena Beach and relax
Day 7 Take a boat safari along the Nilwala River

Food and Drink Scene of Matara

No trip is complete without trying some local cuisine. Matara is famous for its delicious food scene, traditional dishes and local beverages. Here are some must-try dishes and drinks during your visit:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Kottu: A popular street food dish made with shredded roti, vegetables, and meat (usually chicken or beef).
  • Fish Ambulthiyal: A traditional fish dish that is cooked with spices and served with rice.
  • Pol Sambol: A Sri Lankan-style coconut relish that is often eaten with bread or rice.

Local Beverages

  • Thambili: A refreshing drink made from coconut water.
  • Ceylon Tea: Sri Lanka is famous for producing some of the best tea in the world, so be sure to try it while in Matara.

Where to Stay in Matara: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Matara has a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Here are some of the best places to stay:

  • Amaloh by Jetwing: A luxury beachfront resort that offers stunning views of the Indian Ocean.
  • The Doctor’s House: A boutique guesthouse located in a restored colonial mansion.
  • The Spice House: A budget-friendly hostel that has shared and private rooms available.

What to Buy in Matara: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

If you love shopping, Matara has plenty of options for you. Here are some of the best souvenirs and local products that you can take home:

  • Handicrafts: Sri Lanka is famous for its handicrafts, including items such as wooden carvings, batiks, and pottery.
  • Tea: Sri Lanka is renowned for producing the best tea globally, and you can take home some delicious varieties of Ceylon tea from Matara.

Local Culture and Customs of Matara

Matara is a traditional city, and visitors are expected to respect its customs and culture. Here are some of the things to keep in mind:

  • Cover up: In keeping with traditional Sri Lankan customs, it is advised to dress modestly.
  • Remove footwear: When entering a home or temple, it is customary to remove your shoes.

Best Time to Visit Matara

The best time to visit Matara is between December and March, which is the dry season. However, the city can be visited any time of year.

Do’s and Don’ts of Matara

Here are some essential do’s and don’ts to follow when in Matara:


  • Respect local customs: As mentioned earlier, Matara has many traditional customs that you should respect.
  • Learn some Sinhalese or Tamil: Being able to communicate with locals can enhance your experience.


  • Disrespect Buddhism: Buddhism is the primary religion in Sri Lanka, and it’s essential to show respect to the religion.

Safety and Health

As with any trip, it’s essential to consider your safety and health. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Safety in Matara

  • Avoid traveling after dark: It is best to avoid traveling at night
  • Watch out for scams: Be alert for any scams

Health in Matara

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water
  • Use insect repellent: Sri Lanka is known for having insects, so using insect repellent is a good idea

Getting to Matara: Transportation Options and Logistics

Matara can be reached by multiple modes of transportation. Here are some options:

Airports Near Matara

  • Bandaranaike International Airport: Located in Colombo, SL’s main airport, and is approximately 150km away from Matara.

Bus Stations Near Matara

  • Matara Main Bus Station: Serviced by Sri Lanka’s public transportation.
  • Long-Distance Bus Terminal: An intercity bus transport hub, nearby Matara city centre.

Other Options

  • Taxis and Rideshare Services: A convenient option if you have a late-night or early morning flight.
  • Car Rentals: An excellent option if you plan on driving around the city during your stay

How to Get Around in Matara

Matara is a fairly small city, and you can navigate its streets on foot, but for longer distances, the following modes of transportation are available:

  • Tuk-tuks: Affordable and convenient for short distances
  • Buses: Sri Lankan buses are cheap and easy to use

Where to Go Next from Matara: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Matara is a great jumping-off point for exploring other nearby destinations. Here are some ideas:

  • Galle: A UNESCO listed city known for its Dutch colonial buildings and magnificent fortress.
  • Udawalawe National Park: A wildlife sanctuary and home to several animals, including leopards and elephants.
  • Yala National Park: A popular national park that is famous for its wildlife, particularly its large numbers of leopards.


Matara is an excellent destination to experience Sri Lanka’s beauty, culture, and adventure. It’s a city that truly has something for everyone, from historical sites to natural attractions and outdoor adventures. Plan your trip to Matara as soon as possible and explore an unforgettable experience.