Negombo, Sri Lanka’s fifth largest city is situated on the West coast of the island, less than 10km from the country’s international airport. This fascinating city is blessed with numerous churches and cathedrals that proudly stand at nearly every street. Architecture of the old places of worship has been greatly influenced by the Portuguese and Dutch Gothic style. The colonial influence has resulted in a majority of the residents being of Catholic faith. A bustling town, Negombo is famous for its fishing and beachside restaurants renowned for serving scrumptiously fresh seafood. Its close proximity to the airport makes it a convenient stopover for tourists with a large number of fine hotels to choose from, both near the sea, and the lagoon.
Places/Activities in Negombo
Negombo has beautiful sandy beaches perfect for soaking in the sun. The beaches maintained by the hotels are pristine, though they do not offer the same shallow calm seas as the beaches in the East coast. Negombo sea is not very safe to swim but you can enjoy the beach. Look out for places where there aren’t many fishing boats and equipment because these are generally not the best area to visit due to pollution and beach boys are likely to lurk.
Make your way to the fish market early morning to witness the buzzing fish market. You will see the lives of everyday fishermen struggling to make a living from the mighty ocean and of course those who visit to buy the best of sea food that was caught the same day!
Despite its name this 120km canal was actually built by the Portuguese in the 17th century and subsequently taken over by the Dutch to use as a supply route to their settlements and to transport spices during their rule to the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka. To this day, the canal is in good use providing a convenient means of transport specially to the fisher folk. Take a boat ride or rent a bicycle and view the many churches and fishing villages surrounding it.
This famous fort was rebuilt over the ruins of a Portuguese Fort by the Dutch who shattered the Portuguese one with the use of their mighty cannons. Only a massive gateway remains today displaying the date 1678 as the rest of it was destroyed by the British later in the 19th century, when they converted it to a prison which has managed to remain intact to this day. Unfortunately, this of course means that the interior architecture of this colonial inheritance can only be enjoyed by its prisoners.
Negombo has plenty of churches each with its unique story. The old Roman Catholic churches were constructed by Portuguese in their quest to convert masses to Catholicism and the fact that the majority of Negombo’s population is Catholic, indicates that they have been quite successful in accomplishing their goal. A few must visit churches are St. Marys church, Grand Street Church and Katuwapitiya Church popular for their ceilings which are adorned with beautifully ornate frescoes.
Muthurajawela is a large marshland along the shallow river, close to where the river meets the sea. This makes it a suitable environment for reptiles, birds and is most definitely an adventurous trip whether you love wildlife or not. Accessible only via boat, among its mangroves and muddy islands crawl numerous lizards (you might spot a crocodile too!), the trees are home to various species of bird, and wild monkeys swing from branch to branch. However, due to increasing human development around the area it is said to have negatively affected this marshlands.
Muthurajawela Visitor Center provides a two hour tour and a guide on request. The best viewing times are between 7.30a.m. to 10.30a.m. and 3.00p.m. to 5.30p.m.
Negombo is one of the many cities in Sri Lanka that has a different Sinhalese name pronounced as “Meegamuwaa” – simply meaning the “village of honey”. Apparently this name is derived from ancient times when a boat was found in this port full of bees’ honey. However, the name is misleading as Negombo was predominantly known for its spices, a trade which the Arabs initiated centuries ago. Thereafter, the Portuguese and the Dutch fought to rule this city, exhausting its precious resources. By the time the British took over, the spice trade had deteriorated and fishing was becoming the major industry. Today along with fishing, the beautiful beaches nestled comfortably alongside the splendid legacy of colonialism; have turned Negombo into a main tourist destination in the country.
Travel Tips and Planning Information
Temperature averages between 24-30C0 and humidity levels are high during the period from January to April.