A little over 4 hours North East of Colombo, nestled at the foot of the lush green hill country famous for its spice plantations and rustic charm lies the ancient city of Matale. In addition to being an agricultural city, Matale is encompassed with many intriguing historical anecdotes, from the ancient period until the British colonial period. Matale is a beautiful concoction of unhindered nature, and intriguing history.

Top Reason to Visit

The vast spice plantations, the fertile greenery, along with the religious monuments and colonial history, Matale makes for the perfect destination for the traveler yearning for that much needed nature retreat.

While You're There

Marvel at the rustic charm:

Located at the foot of the hill country, Matale really is a little slice of heaven on earth being home to many nature trails, and wildlife reserves. Trekking along Riverston just 30 KM away from the town allows you to marvel at the breathtaking views of the Knuckles Mountain Range, along with the many mountains of the central highlands. Similarly, a stroll along the majestic Sembuwatta Lake, or better yet, a safari in the Wasgamuwa National Park are just some of the few nature havens to reflect on the beauty of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

Lost knowledge once again revived:

Matale proved to be a major centre for great literary knowledge in the country. The Aluvihara Rock Temple is believed to be the temple in which the first Pali canon was written, the ‘Tripitaka’ (Philosophical doctrines of the Buddha). Although the priceless pieces of literature was totally destroyed during the Matale rebellion in 1848 by the British, the monks have painstakingly restored some of the destroyed pieces of literature after more than 100 years. Moreover, the Buddha statues, along with the rock inscriptions talk of a society that was well intertwined with the teachings of the Buddha.

A colonial past:

The society of Matale was a defiant one in that it resisted the British colonials, and has become a central part of Sri Lankan history, as one of the first rebellions which sprang into action. The Matale Rebellion of 1848 placed the British garrison at Fort MacDowall under siege that required the British to relieve it from the rebels. Weera Puran Appu and Gongalegoda Banda, who were the master minds of the rebellion, have memorials erected in honour of their service to achieving Sri Lanka’s independence. The actual fortress no longer sports its original grandeur, since the gates and a portion of the ramparts are visible currently. However, the monuments of the rebellion tell an interesting story of the stronghold.

An island melting pot:

In addition to the Aluvihara Rock Temple, the Hindu Sri Muthumariamman Temple is an example of the unity of the people in the area, being a place of worship for both Buddhists and Hindus. The fusion of the two religions can be further seen through the Nalanda Gedige, located 20 KM outside the town area, where Hindu sculptural tradition meets Buddhist art. Christ Church certainly adds into the melting pot of culture bringing in the coexistence of Christians alongside other major religions living in the area.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about in Matale is not all that difficult as there is ample bus transportation to the major sites. Should you choose to hire a tuk-tuk, just make sure you research on the distance beforehand, since some of them who do not have meters might over charge.

Weather: The weather in Matale is quite mild during the months of January to March, making it the ideal time to travel about the place.

Money: It is important to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, LKR 50s and LKR 100s, since many of the shops, apart from the supermarkets, do not accept credit and debit cards.

Clothing: Apart from outdoor excursions, like treks and safaris, or visiting religious places, casual / light wear is permissible.

Safety: Matale is generally very safe and quite urbanized, however, certain places can get quite crowded which can result in losing your belongings, so always be mindful of your belongings.

Meals and refreshments: The town area has quite a number of local style eateries that serve up some delicious local cuisine.

In conclusion, Matale is at the crossroads of being the perfect nature retreat with all its rustic grandeur, and a history geek’s haven with the abundance of religious and colonial monuments. All this certainly makes for an interesting and unforgettable experience.

Title image by: Dunya Ellepola
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