Hamilton Canal

Regarded by Sri Lankans as one of the most important waterways in Sri Lanka, the Hamilton canal (sometimes referred to as the ‘Dutch canal’) has quickly become one of the major tourist attractions in Negombo due to its scenic beauty, along with a rustic backdrop and friendly fisher folk that have a unique way of life that has not changed much since the colonial days.

Best Known For

Nature and Outdoors, Culture and Heritage:

  • The one and a half hour boat rides have become a mainstay at the canal, as it passes through ever changing and exquisite sceneries.
  • More recently, bicycle rides have also become a popular activity along the canal, as the cobblestone paved roads are ideal for cycling enthusiasts to enjoy an adventurous ride.
  • Being closely associated with the fishing village of Negombo, the Sri Lankan fishers’ life can be seen in full swing with the abundance of fishing boats and fish markets on either side of the canal lighting up the atmosphere of the area.

Interesting Facts

  • The significance of the Hamilton canal dates back to the 15th century, where King Veera Parakramabahu VIII of Kotte constructed a series of canals connecting the local villages around the Negombo area for the purpose of transporting produce such as arecanut, cloves, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon and many other spices to the main seaport of Negombo.
  • The canal was further developed and expanded in the 18th century during Dutch colonization not only for the transportation of pearls and spices, but also to effectively drain out the salt water from the marshy lands of Muthurajawela, to cultivate paddy.
  • The British colonization in the 19th century meant further expansion by Gavin Hamilton (hence the name ‘Hamilton canal) who served as the Government Agent for Revenue and Commerce in order to supply various other important goods to boost trade in the island.
  • Until recently, the canal was left in decay due to negligence of the people, further adversely affecting the surrounding ecosystem.
  • However, in 2012 the government took the initiative and transformed the entire region enabling a thriving ecosystem with a sustainable livelihood for the surrounding fishing villages.
  • The canal has become a major spot for ecotourism ever-since.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The best season to visit are the months between December to April when the weather is ideal to witness the diverse flora and fauna of the surrounding wetlands.
  • It is a treat to visit the canal during the mornings and evenings as it shows its true nature of being a location of vibrant atmosphere.
  • Boat rides and bicycle rides vary in terms of their cost as many establishments compete for more in flow of customers. Just consult them before hand and ask for a breakdown of the cost so you know what you are really paying for.
  • There are strict rules in place for keeping the canal and its surrounding areas clean.

In conclusion, the Hamilton canal has quickly transformed into a centre for ecotourism with its splendid natural setting, friendly fisher folk and many activities to clear your mind of the rumblings of urban life.

Title image by: KNOWSL

Location info



December - April

Guided Tour

Green Holiday Centre


Social and Relaxation

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