A couple of kilometres beyond Weligama, the village of MIRISSA is one of the most appealing places to spend a few days next to the sea in southern Sri Lanka. The beach here is one of the nicest along this stretch of coast, with a fine swathe of sand tucked away into a pretty little bay, backed by a dense thicket of coconut palms – particularly lovely at night, when the lights go on and the sands transform into a magical tangle of fairy lights. It’s not exactly unspoilt, but development remains refreshingly low-key for the moment, confined to a string of fairly rustic little restaurants and modest guest-houses, with a merciful absence of big resorts and a lively but pleasantly low-key atmosphere, attracting a youngish crowd of mainly independent travellers.

Mirissa has also developed into Sri Lanka’s leading whale-watching centre, with excellent chances of seeing blue and sperm whales close to shore. There’s reasonable swimming, though conditions vary considerably along different parts of the beach, so it’s worth asking at your guesthouse about where’s safe to swim before venturing into the water. You can also snorkel here, though you won’t see much apart from the occasional pretty fish. Snorkelling “safaris” and numerous other watersports, including sport fishing and sea kayaking, as well as cruises around the bay and beyond, can be arranged with Mirissa Water Sports.

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