Negombo is not really a popular tourist destination any more, since it’s beach is too dirty and, due to underwater currents, even more dangerous than those to the south of Colombo. However, Negombo is close to the Colombo International Airport and this is why it’s chosen as a starting point by many travellers arriving in Sri Lanka. The main attractions of Negombo are the Muthurajawela wetlands and the plenty of Roman Catholic Churches and the fish markets. The Negombo fishing harbour is a destination that should definitely be a part of any travel to the city.
The economy of Negombo is mainly based on tourism and its fishing industry, though it also produces ceramics and brass ware and cinnamon. The Fisheries Sector contributes about one percent to the Gross Domestic Product of Sri Lanka. Fisheries sector contribution to the total export earnings of the country is around 2.5%.. Besides Chilaw and Puttalam, Negombo is one of the three most important fishing harbours of the west coast. It has still managed to maintain its traditional fishing heritage. Negombo harbour is a perfect place to meet fishermen to study their long established fishing practices. The harbour is used mainly by motorboats. But traditional “catamarans” can also be hired for a tour on the lagoon. Catamaran tours to the open see are more exciting, they start at the beach further north, close to the hotels.
Also the busy main Fish Market near Negombo Fort is a must-see for Negombo visitors. It is only closed on Sunday. But you have to go there during the early morning hours. In the afternoon most fish sellers have closed their stalls, and the market area smells really bad. You can see large tunas in the morning. Even larger are the sharks on a separate market at the other side of the fishing harbour. The fish market is called “Lellama”. Fish auctions are interesting to watch, too.
It was during the Portuguese colonial rule that the Karawa, a fishing caste presumably of Indian origin, embraced Catholicism, which always has been more attractive for lower-caste people in India and its vicinity. Though not a diocesan town, Negombo is sometimes called the “Little Rome” of Sri Lanka. The city and neighbouring villages are said to comprise 365 churches, one for each day of the year.
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