Travel Guide to Matara

The complete tour guide to Matara, find information about the city's famous attractions, a list of things to do and much more. Book hotels at the best price and reserve your table at the top restaurants.

Matara Overview

Images of Matara

About Matara

The modest coastal town of Matara was initially known as Mahathota and Maturai and means 'great ferry' or 'fortress'. Located approximately 160 km away from Colombo Matara is home to a few but significant attractions. This little town lies by the side of the winding River Nilwala which snakes its way through the town. River Nilwala plays a vital part in fuelling the town's life sources such as their paddy fields and tea estates. Matara is also blessed with a budding fishing industry due to its rich and diverse coastal line.

According to historical records the city has produced famous writers and patriotic leaders such as Anagarika Dharmapala, Kumawanathunga Munidasa and Gajaman Nona who are still held in honour for their service to the country.


Getting into Matara

Matara is accessible by train, bus, or a private hire. You can board the bus to Matara at the Pettah Bus stand or you can board the train to Matara at the Colombo Fort Station. Both these spots are beside each other. Check for the schedule.

If you are going to Matara directly from the airport then it's easier to hire a taxi from the airport itself. Check for more information on rates.


Getting around Matara

Most Sri Lankans travel around cities and towns by tuk tuk aka three wheelers. Note that it's a rule of thumb to fix the price before getting into a tuk tuk to avoid paying more than required unless of course the tuk has a meter. It will also help if you can ask locals how much it’s to get to your destination just to be sure you are paying the right amount. Having said that you can also travel by bus which is the most affordable way and you can ask locals to help you. The bus conductors will also be able to help you in any way that they can. Make sure you have small change in the form of coins and notes when going by bus instead of large notes. For example Rs.50, 20, 10 and a few coins.


Where to go and things to do in Matara

Matara has had a diverse group of rulers, from Sri Lankan kings to the Portuguese and the Dutch. This has left a trail of different cultural and religious attractions such as the Dutch Start Fort and Mulgirigala Rock temple. The town is also located close to Mirissa one of the places in Sri Lanka where you can see dolphins and whales. So don't be fooled by the small size of the town for packed within its boundaries is a sprinkle of interesting places to see. Scroll above and click on our 'What to see' section to discover and explore more of Matara.