Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, spices were like gold and the cinnamon that grew around Negombo made it a trading hotspot. To move the spices, the Dutch built a series of canals that add up to 120km in length. Unlike the interesting Dutch Fort in Negombo, these canals are still used today by fishermen when they’re not out at sea. Shrewd tourists can even contact locals for a private guided boat tour rather than opt for the more crowded boats operated by tour companies. Remember to take sweets for the children on the banks and bread for the monkeys, who jump right onto the boat to take it from you.
As long as you’re getting comfortable in the boats of Negombo, you shouldn’t miss the chance to tour the Muthurajawela Marsh, just across the Negombo Lagoon to the south. You wouldn’t expect to find such a lush natural area teaming with wildlife here. Good guides will bring you up close with a variety of wild birds, large lizards, monkeys, and even crocodiles if you are lucky. This trip can often be bundled into a canal tour but it may be wise to schedule it separately during the morning when the weather is coolest.
Negombo has a restaurant and bar scene that can rival Sri Lanka’s best. Quality food and refreshments are served in cafes on Negombo Beach and quaint little restaurants will give you great value seafood, while some of the bars will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Europe – aside from the weather of course.
If you get the chance, make your way to towns along the coastline north of Negombo. The area isn’t as popular as the southeast because the waves are better suited to surfing than swimming, but that leaves everything with an untouched feel. One of the highlights is the Munneswaram Temple, one of the most important Hindu shrines in all of Sri Lanka, located west of Chilaw about 40km from Negombo.
Forget about the obvious touristy sights in Sri Lanka, get to know a different side of this fascinating country in Negombo. Book a flight to Sri Lanka and some Negombo accommodation below and you won’t regret digging below the touristy surface.
Hotels in Negombo start at AU$20 per night. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.