Sri Lanka's south coast is lined with some stunning bays and beaches. The sweeps of sand are punctuated here and there with picturesque fishing villages, making this a perfect beach holiday destination. The area is generally more attractive to travellers on tailor-made itineraries than the package crowd, and there are myriad options to choose from or to combine.
Surfers head for Mirissa, or Ahangama and Midigama, where the breaks are uncrowded. In Weligama, fishermen employ the stilt-fishing technique, beautiful to watch. Rekawa beach is home to one of the most important sea turtle nesting sites in Sri Lanka, and whale and dolphin watching is another draw along the scenic south coast.
The laid-back beach lifestyle is complemented perfectly by city life in Matara and Galle. Matara, the southernmost major town in Sri Lanka is surrounded by white sandy beaches, emerald paddy fields and fragrant spice and tea plantations. The town itself is busy, but has a rich history, most tangible in the attractive old town with atmospheric narrow streets and colonial buildings, including two Dutch forts.
For historic ambience however, a visit to Galle is a must. The old town - perfectly preserved within the walls of Galle Fort - is a World Heritage Site and full of character. European architecture and South Asian influences mingle to create an extraordinary living museum, where local people still live and engage in business and life amid historical buildings. Some of these have been converted into luxury boutique hotels, perfect bases from which to explore Sri Lanka's beguiling south coast.