Known for long shady beaches and a centuries old fishing industry, Negombo is often the first city that fresh travelers come to stay for a day or two. Located just less than an hour away from Colombo when taking the E3, the traditional fishing town in Sri Lanka is famous for its historical and economic significance, sun kissed beaches and relatively mellow vibes, giving that all important first impression of the country.

Top Reason to Visit

Negombo has multiple reasons for anyone to visit. Home to the historic Hamilton Canal, the Dutch Fort, along with the iconic Negombo Lagoon and beach where fishermen practice centuries old fishing methods to stock up the lively fish markets. The best reason to visit the fishing hamlet, however, is because of its intriguing beaches and lagoon that showcase an interesting landscape, both socially and physically.

While You're There

Colonial monuments that tell an interesting story:

During the colonial era, Negombo was a major port city, especially when the Dutch colonial masters conquered the country. Using the canal as an important water way to transport spices and many other resources to the port, the canal still serves as a major waterway for the local fishermen to transport their cargo of fish. Similarly, the Dutch Fortress is another monument that shows the historical significance of the fishing village, further exemplifying the importance of the town to the colonials. However, exploring the entire fortress is no longer possible unless you commit a serious crime, as the premises now are used to house the deviants of Sri Lankan society.

A society bonded by fishing and religion:

Negombo is famously known as ‘Little Rome’ due to the unique Catholic society that dwells within the city. This can be attributed to the successful conversion of the traditional fishing clan of the area to Catholicism by the Portuguese in the 1500s. Moreover, the coexistence of many other minority religious ethnic groups in the area, such as the Muslims, the Buddhists and the Hindus to name but three, exemplifies the unique bond of the local society that engage in, more or less, the same fishing practices. Visiting the churches, mosques, temples and kovils dotted around the city is a must for anyone to experience the unique bond.

Amazing eats await:

Delve into some exquisite local and international cuisine, as Negombo plays host to a variety of amazing eateries. Gorge into some delicious cheese kotthu (a famous street food of finely chopped fried roti with some delicious cheese slathered on for good measure). Not in the mood for local street food? Then choose from a range of fine dining options serving the very best of international cuisine. Since most of the hotels and restaurants are located on the main road itself, the opportunities are endless here.

Sun, sand, and endless horizon:

It is often the sun kissed beaches of Sri Lanka that many tourist are attracted to. Negombo, most often being the first city many tourists visit after a long flight, never disappoints that notion with its lively beaches and lagoon. A gentle stroll along the beaches during the evening hours and witnessing a majestic sunset along the horizon is just one attraction of the fishing hamlet. Keep in mind though, that swimming in the beach is not advisable since it can get quite choppy.

A slippery and smelly affair:

Experiencing the fishing culture in this part of the country is something that always intrigues foreigners and locals alike. Watching the ‘Oruvas’ (Outrigger canoes) come in, in the wee hours of the morning with their catch being auctioned off at the fish markets is always a spectacle, showcasing the daily lives of the people dwelling within the city. Try your hand in bidding on some of the more famous catches of the lagoon area like lobsters, crab and prawns.That is if you can stagger out of bed at around six in the morning.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about in Negombo is relatively easy since there are ample amount of busses and tuk-tuks. Should you choose to hire a tuk-tuk, make sure they possess meters so they cannot overcharge the usual rate of LKR 50 for the first kilometre and LKR 40 thereafter.

Weather: The city generally experiences rainfall between May and August, however, experiences a pleasant climate during the months from December to April, making it the ideal time to visit the city.

Money: Due to its status as a major tourist city, credit and debit cards are widely accepted, however, it is still important to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, LKR 50s and LKR 100s to make small transactions just that much easier.

Clothing: Due to the humidity of the city even during the rainy season, casual light wear is the best option of clothing when travelling around the city.

Safety: Negombo can get quite crowded, especially during the tourist season, which can lead to loss of your belongings if careless. Therefore, it is imperative to always keep your belongings close to you at all times.

Meals and refreshments: This would not be much of a problem, as the main road is dotted with a range of eateries ranging from street food to exquisite fine dining.

All in all, Negombo often makes for a great first impression for any traveler yearning to get a little glimpse of what the Pearl of the Indian Ocean has to offer.

Title image by: Roshi Kahandawela
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