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Hambantota

Located deep in the south of Sri Lanka, around 6 hours away from Colombo, lies the coastal city of Hambantota, a city quickly becoming a potential tourist hub of the country with its close proximity to iconic national parks and amazing stays. Once a part of the ancient Kingdom of Ruhuna under the rule of King Mahanaga, during the 3rd Century BC, the city of Hambantota is dotted with historical ruins, making it a perfect example of how Sri Lanka is quickly adapting to the demands of the 21st Century, while maintaining its unique cultural heritage.

Top Reason to Visit

Being located in the southern coastal belt of the country, boasting of serene views of the Indian Ocean, along with being shrouded in a treasure trove of historical monuments and now, a centre for tourism due to the rapid development of the city and harbour, Hambantota is a kaleidoscopic wonder of a city. Coupled with its close proximity to iconic national parks of the country, it really is quite difficult to distinguish between the top reason and an average reason. A closer look into the history, monuments and the developments of the city, however, would make anyone claim that the top reason to visit Hambantota is due to the eclectic mixes of the mentioned features, making it one of the more unique places to visit in Sri Lanka.

While You’re There

One of the unknown ancients:

The city was founded by King Mahanaga in the 3rd Century BC as the Kingdom of Ruhuna. The reason for the establishment of such a kingdom was due to the dispute of ruling rights of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, which was eventually won by his brother, King Devanmpiyatissa. Ever since its foundation, the city of Hambantota was known by many names, such as ‘Mahagama’ and ‘Dolos Dahas Rata’. Moreover, it is known to be one of the first cities in Sri Lanka that heavily contributed to the spread of Buddhism in the country and can be seen in the form of the ancient hermitages of the Yahangala and Bandagiri, now designate as protected archaeological sites of the area. Further accentuating its historical significance is the Tomb of Andare Adikaram, who is believed to have been the court jester for King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe in the 18th Century. A stroll around the tomb makes for a curious one, as his tomb explains his, rather, interesting death. Couple that with a visit to the healing waters of the Madunagala hot wells, starkly resembling the Kanniya Hot Wells in Trincomalee and rejuvenate yourself; go ahead and try the warm waters.

Remnants of a colonial master:

Hambantota’s prominence in the country’s salt production has never ceased since ancient times, making the town an important economic contributor to the country. Even the colonial masters, namely the Dutch and the British, realized that Hambantota had one of the finest salt pans in Sri Lanka, thus the reason as to why remnants of a colonial fortification to protect the salt pans is still visible today, in the form of the Martello Tower. The distinctive design of the Martello Tower is believed to be the only type of fortification existing in Asia, which now functions as a fisheries museum. Further along the way is the Hambantota Lighthouse that was vital to many British naval ships passing by the area. One of the, arguably, more sinister reminders of colonialism is the Gallows Tree that is located close to the lighthouse. Being constructed for the sole purpose of executing the rebels that caused the Uva Wellassa Rebellion of 1818, the tree is a reminder of the strict rule that was imposed by the colonial masters of the Old World. Walking about these remnants of the colonial rulers, showcases that Hambantota is not that sleepy fishing town many say it is to be, but a major one that holds a significant part of Sri Lankan history.

A potential economic and energy powerhouse:

In addition to harbouring one of the more important salt pans of Sri Lanka, Hambantota has now become a major actor in contributing to a more sustainable Sri Lanka, with its wind farms that harvest sustainable energy for the country. With the increase in influx of investments and development projects in the area, Hambantota is now host to a state of the art harbour, an international airport, an international stadium and even an international conference hall. Therefore, now possessing the potential of being a major economic and energy powerhouse of the country.

The Hollywood of Sri Lanka:

Well although not able to hold a candle to the movie sets of blockbuster Hollywood or Bollywood films, the Ranminithenna Tele-Cinema Village is still quite something that has greatly benefitted the television industry of Sri Lanka. With many of the sets resembling that of old colonial Bombay, the tele - cinema village shoots some of the more popular dramas of the country. Don’t let the facades fool you as you stroll along the sets though.

Horticultural bliss:

In the days of old, Hambantota was noted for being a sleepy fishing town that really did not have much to offer in terms of beauty. However, due to development efforts, Hambantota is going through a major phase of beautification. One such project was the creation of the Mirijjawila Botanical Garden in 2013, just 1 of the 5 botanical gardens in Sri Lanka. With an array of rare an endemic floral species scattered throughout the 300 acres of lush green carpet grass, revel at the very site of exotic flowers and towering trees to your heart’s content.

Base camp for adventure:

Due to the recent influx of many development projects taking place, many extravagant hotels and resorts have set up, offering the best in Sri Lankan hospitality and adventure. With the serene waters of the Indian Ocean and the city’s close proximity to the iconic national parks of Sri Lanka, namely the Yala National Park, Kumana National Park, Bundala National Park and Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary, Hambantota is prime for the nature lover and the adventure seeker. Therefore, making Hambantota a luxurious base camp, allowing you to witness the best of Sri Lanka’s natural splendour in the form of the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

Insider Advice

Travel: Since Hambantota in itself does not boast of a great many attractions, when compared to its neighbouring Tissamaharama, getting about the place is quite easy as there are quite a few buses that can be taken. You could request your accommodation provider to arrange a vehicle or even hire a tuk-tuk, however, make sure you research the distance of your destination before you hop in one, since the drivers could overcharge.

Weather: Hambantota generally experiences quite a stable climate all throughout the year, however, the months from May to August have proven to be the ideal months in which temperatures average around 28°C with a relatively bearable humidity level.

Money: Although credit and debit cards are accepted at the supermarkets and some other shops, it is still best to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s. Thus making transactions all the more easier.

Clothing: It is best to be clad in light, comfortable clothing in order to traverse through the town with ease.

Safety: Hambantota is very tourist friendly, however, it is best to avoid travelling in the night and make sure you are mindful of your belongings.

Meals and refreshments: There are quite a few eateries established and scattered across in the area, since it is undergoing rapid development. However, if you wish to have a wider spread, then the hotels and resorts are the best option.

In conclusion, Hambantota is a ‘one of a kind’ place that has one foot set firmly in its past and has the other firmly in the 21st century, making it a treat for many a traveller looking for what makes the Paradise island of Sri Lanka stand out from the rest.

Title image by: Jehan Gamalathge
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