Hambantota, Sri Lanka (Sinhala: හම්බන්තොට, Tamil: அம்பாந்தோட்டை) town is often considered the heart of the “Deep South” of Sri Lanka. Located nearly 170 km south of Colombo, Hambantota is the district’s main town by the same name in the Southern Province. It’s a coastal town that has seen rapid development in recent years and has been promoted as a second commercial hub of the country after Colombo.
Hambantota holds immense significance as the heart of the Deep South region in Sri Lanka. With its strategic location and growing commercial importance, Hambantota is emerging as a thriving hub in the Southern Province. This article delves into the historical background, modern development, and the unique attractions that make Hambantota a must-visit destination.
Ancient Trade Routes
Hambantota has played a vital role as a stopover for ancient trade routes connecting various parts of the world. Sailors and traders from China, Siam, and Indonesia frequented this port town, leaving behind a rich cultural exchange and historical heritage.
The Southern Kingdom of Ruhuna
King Mahanaga established the Southern Kingdom of Ruhuna in Hambantota during ancient times. The kingdom thrived on agriculture and boasted sophisticated irrigation systems, contributing to the region’s prosperity.
Cultural Preservation and Buddhism
Hambantota has been a guardian of Sinhala culture and Buddhism. The town is home to pilgrimage sites like Kataragama and Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya, which hold great historical and religious significance.
Hambantota also witnessed the impact of colonial powers. It held administrative importance during the Dutch and British colonial periods. The remnants of Dutch and British architecture still grace the town, and Leonard Woolf’s renowned novel, “The Village in the Jungle,” sheds light on the colonial era’s influence.
Infrastructure and Facilities
Hambantota boasts impressive infrastructure and facilities that contribute to its growing prominence. The Magampura Mahinda Rajapakse Sea Port is an important international port, facilitating trade and commerce. The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, the country’s newest airport, also connects Hambantota with the world. The town is also home to the country’s first dry-zone botanical garden.
Sports and Entertainment
The Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium in Hambantota served as a venue for the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The town also hosted the 2017 Asian Youth Games, enhancing its reputation as a sports and entertainment destination.
Salt Pans and Natural Beauty
Hambantota is renowned for being the best source of salt in Sri Lanka. The salt pans contribute to the local economy and offer breathtaking natural beauty. The sight of these salt pans attracts numerous bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. Hambantota’s coastal location also provides easy access to sandy beaches and nearby national parks, adding to its allure.
Hambantota, the heart of the Deep South region in Sri Lanka, is a treasure trove of attractions for travellers. The town offers diverse exploring places, from natural wonders to cultural landmarks. Here are ten must-visit places in and around Hambantota:
Dry Zone Botanic Gardens – Mirijjawila, Hambantota
Located in Mirijjawila, Hambantota, the Dry Zone Botanic Gardens showcases the region’s unique flora. Spread over 300 acres, this botanical garden is a haven for plant enthusiasts and nature lovers. Visitors can explore various themed gardens, including a medicinal garden and a butterfly garden, and learn about the rich biodiversity of the dry zone. More Details and Map
Birds Park and Research Centre – Hambantota
The Birds Park and Research Centre in Hambantota is a paradise for birdwatchers. This park is home to numerous bird species, both endemic and migratory. Visitors can observe these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat and learn about their behaviour and conservation efforts through informative exhibits and guided tours. More Details and Map
Ussangoda is a unique coastal plateau located near Hambantota. The site is famous for its red soil and intriguing geological features. Legend has it that this area was devastated by a meteorite impact, giving rise to its distinctive landscape. Ussangoda offers breathtaking panoramic coastline views and is believed to have healing properties. More Details And Map
Ridiyagama Safari Park – Hambantota
The Ridiyagama Safari Park in Hambantota is a must-visit destination for wildlife enthusiasts. This park has over 500 acres of animals, including elephants, deer, zebras, and lions. Visitors can embark on thrilling jeep safaris and get close to these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. More Details and Map
Kataragama is a sacred pilgrimage site located near Hambantota. It is a significant religious destination for Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. The Kataragama Temple complex is dedicated to Lord Skanda (Murugan) and attracts devotees nationwide. The annual Kataragama Esala Perahera, a grand procession, is a significant highlight of the temple’s festivities. More Details and Map
Bundala National Park
Nature lovers should enjoy visiting Bundala National Park near Hambantota. This internationally recognized Ramsar wetland is a haven for bird species, including migratory birds such as flamingos and pelicans. From birdwatching, visitors can spot crocodiles, elephants, and other wildlife while exploring the park’s diverse ecosystems. More Details and Map
Ramba Temple, located in Ramba village near Hambantota, is a serene Buddhist temple nestled amidst lush greenery. The temple is known for its tranquil atmosphere and beautiful architecture. Visitors can immerse themselves in meditation or enjoy the serenity of the surroundings while exploring the temple grounds.
Mulkirigala Rock Monastery
Mulkirigala Rock Monastery is an ancient Buddhist temple complex on a rocky outcrop near Hambantota. The monastery features a series of caves adorned with magnificent murals and sculptures depicting Buddhist legends and teachings. Climbing the rock offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. More Details and Map
Kirinda Temple is a historic Buddhist temple on a rocky headland overlooking the Indian Ocean. According to legend, this is where Princess Viharamaha Devi, the mother of King Dutugemunu, landed in Sri Lanka. The temple’s serene ambience, ancient statues, and panoramic views make it a worthwhile visit. More Details and Map
Hambantota Fish Market
A visit to the Hambantota Fish Market is a must to experience the vibrant local culture and witness the fishing industry in action. This bustling market offers a glimpse into the lives of local fishermen and the diverse array of fresh seafood available in the region. Visitors can witness the auctioning of fish and immerse themselves in the market’s lively atmosphere.
Salt Production in Hambantota
Hambantota has a long history of salt production, dating back centuries. The town’s location along the coast and its arid climate make it ideal for salt production. Salt production involves evaporating seawater in shallow pools, leaving crystallized salt behind.
The salt pans of Hambantota are renowned as the best source of salt in Sri Lanka. The salt produced here is known for its purity and high mineral content. It is widely used in various industries, including food processing, chemical production, and traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
Best Time to Visit Hambantota
Hambantota, located in southern Sri Lanka, experiences a tropical climate influenced by monsoon seasons. To make the most of your visit and enjoy the attractions that Hambantota has to offer, it’s essential to consider the weather and the best time to visit. Here’s a guide to help you plan your trip:
Dry Season (December to April): The dry season is considered the best time to visit Hambantota. During this period, the weather is generally sunny, with minimal rainfall. The temperature remains warm and pleasant, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the natural attractions in and around Hambantota. It’s a great time to visit national parks like Bundala National Park and enjoy birdwatching, wildlife safaris, and other outdoor adventures.
Intermonsoonal Season (October and November): October and November fall between the two major monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka. During this period, there may be occasional rainfall and cloudy days. However, the weather is generally favourable for travel and exploration. The landscapes are lush and vibrant due to the recent rains, creating a picturesque setting for sightseeing. It’s an excellent time to visit if you prefer fewer crowds and want to experience a greener and more serene Hambantota.
Monsoon Season (May to September): Hambantota experiences its monsoon season from May to September, with the highest rainfall between May and July. During this time, the region receives heavy showers and strong winds. The monsoon season may limit outdoor activities and hinder certain attractions, such as beach visits and wildlife spotting. However, if you are okay with the rain and are more interested in cultural and historical sites, you can still explore Hambantota’s temples and other indoor attractions.
It’s important to note that weather patterns can vary, and it’s always a good idea to check the local weather forecast before planning your visit. Additionally, booking accommodations and tours in advance, especially during the peak tourist season, is recommended to ensure availability.
Regardless of the time of year, Hambantota offers unique cultural, historical, and natural attractions that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient temples, witnessing wildlife, or immersing yourself in the local culture, Hambantota has something to offer every season.
Places to Stay in Hambantota
Hambantota, located in the southern region of Sri Lanka, offers a range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets. Whether looking for luxurious resorts, comfortable hotels, or cozy guesthouses, Hambantota has something for everyone.
How to Reach Hambantota
Hambantota, located in the southern part of Sri Lanka, is well-connected and accessible by various modes of transportation. Whether you’re arriving from Colombo or other parts of the country, here are the common ways to reach Hambantota:
1. By Air: The closest airport to Hambantota is the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI), located approximately 43 kilometres northeast of the town. This airport serves both domestic and international flights. You can hire a taxi from the airport or use public transportation to reach Hambantota.
2. By Road: Hambantota is connected to major cities and towns in Sri Lanka through a network of well-maintained roads. If you’re travelling from Colombo, you can take the Southern Expressway (E01) and then connect to the E01 or A2 Highway, heading south towards Hambantota. The journey from Colombo to Hambantota usually takes 3-4 hours, depending on the traffic conditions.
3. By Train: Although Hambantota has no direct railway connection, you can reach the town via the nearby city of Matara. From Colombo, you can take a train to Matara, a central railway hub in the southern region. You can then take a taxi or bus from Matara to Hambantota, approximately 90 kilometres east of Matara.
4. By Bus: Public buses are a standard and affordable mode of transportation in Sri Lanka. Hambantota is well-served by intercity and local bus services. Regular bus routes connect Hambantota to Colombo, Matara, Galle, and other nearby towns. You can check the schedules and board buses from the respective bus terminals or bus stops in your departure city.
5. By Private Transportation: If you prefer more flexibility and convenience, you can hire a private car or taxi to reach Hambantota. Several car rental services are available in Sri Lanka, and many hotels and travel agencies can assist you in arranging private transportation.
Hambantota, the heart of the Deep South, combines a rich historical heritage with rapid modern development. From its ancient trade routes and cultural preservation to its modern infrastructure and natural attractions, Hambantota offers visitors a unique and diverse experience. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or sports, Hambantota has something to captivate every traveller.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is the population of Hambantota? A: As of the latest estimates, the population of Hambantota is approximately 676,000 ( 2021 ).
Q: Is Hambantota a tourist-friendly destination? A: Yes, Hambantota is a tourist-friendly destination with many attractions, including historical sites, natural beauty, and modern facilities.
Q: What is the primary language spoken in Hambantota? A: Sinhala and Tamil are the main languages spoken in Hambantota, reflecting the region’s cultural diversity.
Q: Are there any traditional festivals celebrated in Hambantota? A: Yes, Hambantota celebrates traditional festivals such as Sinhala and Tamil New Year, Vesak, and other cultural events throughout the year.
Q: What is the main economic activity in Hambantota? A: Hambantota’s economy is primarily driven by industries such as agriculture, fishing, tourism, and trade facilitated by the port and airport infrastructure.
Q: Are there any shopping opportunities in Hambantota? A: Yes, Hambantota has several shopping centres, markets, and souvenir shops where visitors can find local handicrafts, spices, clothing, and more.
Q: Are there accommodations available for tourists in Hambantota? A: Yes, Hambantota offers a range of accommodations, including luxury hotels, resorts, guesthouses, and budget-friendly options to cater to different preferences and budgets.
Q: What are the nearby attractions from Hambantota? A: Nearby attractions from Hambantota include Bundala National Park, Kataragama pilgrimage site, Ruhuna National Park, and the beautiful southern beaches.
Q: Is Hambantota a safe place for tourists? A: Hambantota is generally considered a safe place for tourists. However, taking necessary precautions, practising common sense, and following local guidelines for a safe and enjoyable stay is always recommended.
Q: What is the best time to visit Hambantota? A: The best time to visit Hambantota is during the dry season, typically from December to April. The weather is pleasant during this time, and outdoor activities can be enjoyed thoroughly.