Negombo at Sri Lanka's west cost is located close to Colombo International Airport. This is why many Sri Lanka travellers spend their first or last night at Negombo beach. To be honest, Negombo is not an attractive town. But there are some places in Negombo town and it's vicinity well worth a visit. Here is a list of Negombo's top 10 attractions:
Muthurajawela wetlands, the largest marsh land area in the west of the island, is situated at the southern edge of the Negombo lagoon, in about 20 km distance from Negombo town. It usually takes 30 minutes to reach it by car or tuktuk. Government organized boat tours start at a part of the Dutch Canal and cross the mangrove swamp, huge monitor lizards can be seen in this area, sometimes even crocodiles. Muthurajawela is a paradise for birdwatchers in particular. Morning or late afternoon hours are the best times to enjoy a boat trip in the Muthurajawela wetlands.
Negombo is home to Sri Lanka's second-largest fish market. It is situated at the southern end of the long Negombo beach and to the north of the Dutch Fort of Negombo. The thriving fish market is also called the "Lellama". This quite rough and smelling fish market offers a perfect chance to meet local fishermen, study local customes and buy fresh fish or even to organize fishing trips. A guide or local fisherman can explain the processes of preparing fish and drying it in the sun. Another fish market is the shark market further south, where huge fish is traded only before sunrise. The shark market is located just at the southern end of the bridge crossing the mouth of the Negombo lagoon.
Negombo’s Fishery harbour is one of the three largest of the island, besides Chilaw and Puttalam, which are west coast harbours, too. The Fishing harbour is situated at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon. It is an amphibic town crowded with motor boats. You can take part in a boat trip to see it and to enjoy the calm lagoon, too. The fishing boats are made in two distinct forms. Sailing canoes are called “oruvas”, whereas “paruvas” are man-powered catamarans fitted with kurlon dividers, they are believed to have originated at the African coast and to be brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese.
You can have another small boat trip crossing Negombo along the Dutch Canal, also called Cinnamon Canal, as this canal was once an important link for cinnamon transportation under the Dutch colonial administration, that managed to grow cinnamon in the the western lowlands of the “Cinnamon Island” Ceylon. Nevertheless, throughout the eighteenth century the demand for cinnamon from Ceylon outstripped the supply. The Dutch canal runs for altogether more than 100 kilometres from Colombo to Puttalams. The part crosing the Negombo area was restored and cleaned during recent years.
The mouth of the Maha Oya is part of the Kochchikade municipality, but not far away from the hotel area of Negombo in Etthukale. Indeed, it’s only in 3 km distance, much nearer than the Muthurajela wetlands. The Club Hotel Dolphin is located further north at the other side of the river mouth. The Maha Oya is a river in a quite natural setting. Its river mouth forms a small lagoon, which is quite picturesque and offers a tranquil beach, too. You can also rent a local boat for a round trip on the Maha Oya and the ajoining part of the Dutch Canal, connecting the Maha Oya with some more small lagoons further north.
Negombo is sometimes called the “Little Rome of Sri Lanka”, as it is the focal point of the island’s Roman Catholic minority, though not a bishop’s see. Including the surrounding villages, there are said to be 360 churches in the Negombo area. The biggest one is the St. Mary’s Church, which is located halfway between the city centre and the fish market. The church has a painted ceiling and is decorated with alabaster statues of various saints. The original church was from the Portuguese colonial period, but today’s larger church was started in 1874 and completed 1922. Negombo’s St. Mary’s Church is also known as Mahaweediya Palliya in Sinhala language.
Most hotels and guest houses of Negombo are situated to the north of the city centre at the street called “Lewis Place” and on the way to Kochchikade, namely in the neighbourhoods of Kudapaduwa, Etthukala and Daluwakotuwa. The beach is long and straight. There is a small strip protected by a small promontory at Etthukale. This part of the beach is frequented by locals particularly in the weekends. Then it can be a quite busy area with some food stalls.
Though 90% of Negombo’s population is Roman Catholic, Hindu and Muslim and Buddhist minorities are also present in some of Negombo’s neighbourhoods. Buddhists live mainly further inland, at the other side of the Colombo-Puttalam mainroad A3, in a quarter called Angurukaramulla. There is Buddhist temple (Pansala) of the same name in this area. Many tourists visit it on a Negombo city tour. Indeed, it’s a modern building with gaudy groups of statues, but interesting as a typical example of a village temple. However, you should be aware of the tricks of the staff: They will not issue an entry fee but ask for a donation. An entry fee usually would cost about 200 Rupies. But they will show you a list of donators, each of whom gave thousands of Rupies. Don’t be fooled and cheated! Such dishonarable greedy practices should not be rewarded. Better you write down “200 Rupies” in the same list in order to avoid to exert pressure on subsequent visitors.
A typical legacy of the colonial is the Dutch Fort, constructed in 1672, at the site of an eralier Portuguese fort. It is situated close to the seafront, near the mouth of the lagoon. To be honest, there is not much to be seen, only some ruins of the gateway, which has an inscription dated 1678. Part of the former Negombo Fort is now used as a prison. A picturesque part of the fishery harbour, an esplanade for cricket matches and the Ellala fish market mentioned above are close-by.
There are two typical local markets right in the city centre of Negombo namely a cloth market and a food market. The cloth market is amidst a shopping complex next to the clock tower near the railway station. The food marked is 200 metres further north. The connecting streets have small local restaurants, book shops and lots of jewellery shops run by Tamils or Muslims. This is the untouristy area of Negombo well worth a visit though really not of ecxeptional beauty.
Negombo near Colombo's International Airport,
is situated between the Negombo Lagoon and the Maha Oya River Mouth,
both of them belonging to Negombo's top tourist attractions.
The mouth of the Negombo Lagoon is the town's famous fishery harbour,
with interesting local fish markets nearby.
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