EXPLORE THE SOUTH COAST of Sri Lanka IN A DAY
Grab your sunglasses, sun hat and swimwear as you get ready to explore the stunning, sunny, southern coast of Sri Lanka. An amalgamation of history, culture, cuisine, wildlife and best of all; long stretches of honey-hued beaches await intrepid travellers and curious wanderers.
From surf towns to beach parties, it’s fairly easy to move between the neighbouring beaches that line the island’s southern coast. Here’s a guide to exploring Sri Lanka’s south coast in a single day.
Begin your journey in the city of Galle, that is known for the rustic charm of its old town, and the historic Galle Fort. It’s easy to lose yourself exploring the cobbled streets of the world’s oldest living fort (one of them at least!), wandering through the unique boutique stores, remnants from the past, aromatic restaurants and more. The architecture is a harmonious blend of past and present, and there are several landmarks you can easily spend a day exploring – if you weren’t planning to travel through the rest of Sri Lanka’s major southern towns, that is.
The Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of many sites to cross off your bucket list while in Sri Lanka), and was originally built by the Portuguese in the 16th century before being fortified by the Dutch and the British in the 17th and 18th century, respectively. It is the largest fortress to have been built by European occupiers in Asia.
Make a quick stop over at the Galle Lighthouse, Meeran Mosque, the Groote Kerk and the Dutch Hospital. Pop into the National Maritime Museum for a dose of history too. Try and spend an hour or two soaking up the history and culture that is practically seeping out of the cracks of the fort…in fact, spend most of the morning here before packing up to head to your next destination.
If you’ve fallen in love with Galle and want to spend one whole day here, read our guide on how you can do exactly that.
Next stop: Unawatuna! Located about a 15-minute drive away from Galle, this small town is the first stop in a chain of beach visits – think of it this adventure as a pub crawl, but with beaches instead of bars!
The waters at Unawatuna Beach are great for a quick dip – essential after an exhausting walk around the Galle Fort. Grab a sun bed, order lunch from one of the many beach-front restaurants and sip a cold beer while you relax. There a plenty of beach-front restaurants to choose from here, generally featuring a menu of freshly caught seafood!
At the western end of this banana-shaped stretch of sand, you’ll find a little pagoda with a statue of Buddha that overlooks the bay. Visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda once you’ve regained your strength and your belly’s full!
Head back on the road for ten more minutes to reach Wijaya Beach, located less than two kilometres away. Try and get here by sunset, because here you’ll find that Instagram-famous beach swing that has been making the rounds on social media. Hop on for a quick photo before continuing on to your final destination. The beach here is incredibly safe for swimming, as the reef acts as a natural barrier against large waves, creating a shallow natural pool. It’s perfect for someone who’s not a strong swimmer too!
Whether you’re travelling by bus, tuk or private vehicle, settle in for a longer ride to Mirissa. Roughly 40 minutes away from Wijaya Beach, the fishing town of Mirissa offers a handful of historic attractions, great spots for surfing and a pristine beach with azure waves. Several beach restaurants and cafes line up the coast, where you can head to for a cold brew or a thambili. After the sun goes down, these little restaurants deck the shore with tables and lanterns on the beach, and get ready to serve their diners a plethora of seafood to indulge in.
After a good night’s rest, the fun doesn’t have to end. Mirissa is known as one of Sri Lanka’s best dolphin and whale-watching locations. Wake up early the next morning (boats leave the dock at 6am), and get ready to set sail!
Pro-tip: The best time of year to visit the south coast beaches is between the months of December and March. Whale watching season in Mirissa peaks during this period too. Follow our guide to everything you need to know about whale watching.