Strung out along one of the South's most stunning stretches of coastline, TANGALLE (or Tangalla) is among the region’s more developed beach destinations, with a string of simple guesthouses – and a handful of upmarket hotels and villas – dotted along the coves and beaches which line the oceanfront here. Tourism has never taken off quite as much as the entrepreneurial locals would like, however, and Tangalle remains resolutely low-key compared to the resorts further west. What gives Tangalle added appeal, however, is the number of rewarding attractions in the surrounding countryside, including the Hoo-maniya blowhole, the giant Buddha and gaudy shrines of Wewurukannala, and the magnificent rock temples of Mulkirigala, all of which can be combined into a rewarding half-day excursion. In addition, the nearby beach at Rekawa is Sri Lanka’s premier site for turtle-watching, while dedicated ornithologists might also fancy a trip to the little-visited Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary, which can be combined with a visit to the mysterious plateau at Ussangoda.
Tangalle caters to all travellers with a range of accommodations from budget to luxury hotels. It also is a hot spot more diverse and eco-friendly needs such as the Turtle Observation Camps where you can stay and volunteer with the various turtle projects.
Surfing is somewhat of a speciality in Tangalle. Ideal for beginners, many surf camps have set up in the area due to the beach break that creates gentle waves. Tangalle is well situated between rocks and a hill, meaning the waves are hardly affected by onshore winds that might usually dampen the mood.
Mulkirigala Rock Temple makes a nice day excursion just 16km North-West of Tangalle. Built upon a 673ft (205m) rock, the monastery is made up of seven cave temples in 5 separate descending terraces. The Lower Terrace (Patha Maluwa), Bo Tree Terrace (Bodhi Maluwa). Great King’s Temple Terrace (Raja Maha Vihara Maluwa), Upper Bo Tree Terrace (Uda Bodhi Maluwa) and Chetiya Terrace (Chaitya Maluwa). All five terraces and their temples are easily accessed via granite paths and steps - although be prepared to work a little to make it to the top.
Wewurukannala is the home place of the largest Buddha figure in Sri Lanka. A golden statue that stands 50m high. To reach the figure you must first pass through a hall of creepy statues of demons and sinners suffering their ill fate however this only makes the Buddha seem more like a prize and is a welcome relief at the end of the journey.
Kalametiya was first declared a protected area in 1938 and has been a haven for wildlife since. Its diverse mix of habitats, such as coastal lagoons, mangrove swamps and open grasslands make it a perfect home for both marine life and bird life. The sanctuary makes a peaceful and laid-back trip for those who wish to birdwatch and more active trip for those who love to trek through jungle paths. The area is recognised as being home to four nationally threatened bird species and 38 species of reptiles, both nationally and internationally threatened meaning its preservation is even more so important.
Despite its rather amusing name, the blowhole can be either spectacular or extremely dull depending on your luck. The best time to see the natural water firework is during the South-West Monsoon in June however it is never guaranteed that you will witness the high seas shooting water 23m into the air through an impressive rock formation.
A rewarding half-day trip from Tangalla combines the Hoo-maniya blowhole, the Wewurukannala temple with its enormous Buddha statue and the absorbing rock temples of Mulkirigala. All local guesthouses should be able to arrange a combined round-trip by tuktuk to these three places; the current going rate is around Rs.2500 for two people. Other interesting local excursions include evening trips to spot turtles coming ashore at Rekawa, while Tangalla can also be used as a base for trips to the little-visited wetlands of the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary en route to Hambantota.
Tangalla’s beaches stretch for several kilometres either side of Tangalla town, a busy but unremarkable provincial centre with a dusty selection of shops and cafés plus the obligatory clocktower and anarchic bus station. The most developed section of coast, though still very somnolent, is to the east of town, along Medaketiya and Medilla beaches, a long, straight stretch of golden sand lined with a string of guesthouses opened in anticipation of a flood of tourists who have yet to arrive. Beyond Medilla, around 4km northeast of Tangalla town, the coastline tapers to little more than a sandspit at idyllic Kapuhenwala beach in Marakolliya, backed by the mangrove-fringed Rekawa lagoon.
Though just as sleepy, the coast immediately west of town, known as Pallikaduwa, is quite different in character, made up of a sequence of pretty rocky coves – much more scenic than Medaketiya and Medilla, but with little sand. The rocky shoreline here has prevented building directly on the beach, so most of Pallikaduwa’s accommodation is set back behind the main road.
The most striking section of Tangalla coastline can be found a couple of kilometres further west at the village of Goyambokka, with a superb rocky promontory flanked by two gorgeous beaches – to the west of the headland, Godellawela Beach (or “Silent Beach”, as it’s popularly known) is an absolute picture, though you’ll have to share it with guests from the superb Amanwella hotel.
Swimming in Tangalla can be hazardous: Kapuhenwala, Medaketiya and Medilla beaches shelve steeply into the sea and there are dangerous currents in places, although the coves south of town at Pallikaduwa and Goyambokka are pleasantly sheltered. Always check at your guesthouse before venturing into the water: conditions vary considerably even within a few hundred metres. Diving can be arranged through the PADI dive school at the Ibis guesthouse.
Featured Image, Tangalle © Fyletto / iStock