Negombo is a fishing village. The actual fishing port is to the south, a bit away from the tourist area. It´s worth a visit, especially early in the morning when the boats return to sell fish at the market. Next to the harbor is a sheltered place where they auction the goods and each of the men are shouting their price in a seemingly organized manner. They spend the rest of the day on the boat, doing maintenance work or taking tourists on an excursions in the sea. The boats go out fishing at three in the morning to get back for the market at eight. If you're staying in a guest house you can buy fish and eat it that night for dinner.
Negombo beach, a fishing village located 30km north of the capital Colombo, is a great beach with an incredible number of resorts. Sri Lanka is a popular destination for British, German and Dutch tourists. Negombo is only 10km from the airport, so many choose to begin their stay here. The beach is not at all the best I've seen in Sri Lanka: it was rainy season and the sea was a nasty brown color. When you bathed, it's not very clean, there was no sand or water. Mainly the expensive hotels clean the beach in front of them, but you only find these north of the village. To the south, there's a fish market and the old fort. The sea is calmer here than on the south coast, but there are sometimes strong currents so be careful.
Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka, and this is where most travelers come to visit. It's a culture shock, everything moves quicky, it is loud, it is difficult to locate, the city is huge. The town is 30 kilometers from the airport, and there is a free bus to the central bus station. But then the natives see your face and they try to offer tourist buses, taxis, guide services, hotels , etc. The city has a nice colonial center, but with the new civil war, it was dubbed a "high security zone" and difficult to reach. Other than that, to have a quiet arrival, I recommend that you spend the 1st night on the beach of Negombo, 10 km from the airport. Colombo is used as a transit point for bus or train to the beaches of the South and Kandy. The city has nice neighborhoods that are to the east and are named cinnamon gardens.
I travelled from Colombo to Galle by train. It is good when the train leaves on time, because the journey by bus is not enjoyable. There is no first class option, but the second class is fine and there are fans, and long windows, and also comfortable leather armchairs. I do not remember how much the ticket cost, but I think it was something like 1.50 euros for four hours by train! There are 100 miles or so, but it takes less time than the bus does, the two modes of transport are equally slow. In Galle station there are many false guides ve try to take you in his tuk tuk to a hotel (where they charge commission). The train ride is very nice, because the tracks run alongside the sea. You can see the beaches of Lavinia, Kalutara, Ambalangoda, they are beautiful, between October and April. During summer, you should go to Mirissa to Matara, or Arugam Bay.
The photos are from low season, when tropical storms and a cloudy sky are what you see. But in high season, which is our winter, Mount Lavina is a fantastic village, near Colombo. It is south of the city, and it is where many visiors who work or volunteer in Colombo come to spend the weekend. While the big hotel that overlooks the beach is very posh, there are lots of small bungalows and pensions . The beach goes beyond the village, with coconut trees and golden sand. The city was the residence of the Governor of Ceylon, during the British colonial era. It's where they recorded some shots of the Bridge over the River Kwai. From Colombo, the train takes less than 1 hour, but it doesn´t come on time, it is best to take a bus or to travel with private transportation.
The Catholic Church has a dynamism that many European churches would envy. It was full of children because it was the holidays, probably attending summer classes. Since the beginning of European settlement, the town of Negombo has been mostly Catholic. Now, the number of Catholics is more than 90% of the population, a unique case in Sri Lanka. It is even called "Little Rome" by the fervor of the people. The oldest churches were constructed by the Portuguese and the Dutch, but the town now has a lot of modern churches in general.
The town of Negombo, north of Colombo, is one of the few town with a Catholic majority. The Church of San Sebastian is on the street of the same name, and it runs from the hotels to the colonial eart of town. San Sebastian is a fairly new church, which was constructed instead of a smaller, older one, and the Catholic community grew. Still, we went around 7 in the morning and the place was packed, with there were even people there to attend morning mass. Inside, the works of art are more modern and some are not so appreciated in Europe, which is normal.
The Negombo clock tower marks the entrance of the city's colonial Dutch fort. Now unfortunately it's a place that's worth little. There are a number of barriers to access, and strong ones too. The fort was destroyed by the British when they took the city in the year 1796, and little remains of the. The clock tower in each city was generally constructed with local stone, but it lost its mechanism with the invasion and is in an area that has not been reconstructed, while tourism happens more in the northern part of the city.
The Portuguese constructed the fort of Negombo in the year 1600. But in the year 1644 the Dutch invaded it and ensured optimal strong defense. At this time, they only had the port outside the walls. In the late 17th century the fort got to be its current size, with storage for weapons, and other things with which they did negotiations. In the year 1796, the British got rid of the Dutch. You can see the gate constructed by the Dutch with the inscription of the year 1678. A part of the walls are still the wineries, and there was a tree planted by King Valagamba, brought from Anuraghapura.
Actually, it was not the Dutch ve built the Dutch canal! This part of the city is split in two, with a perfectly straight line. The channel then heads south towards the capital city, Colombo. This city was around at the time of the Portuguese colonization, and it looks like perhaps it was around even before that, in ancient times and the rein of Parakrama Bahu, in the 15th Century, the Sinhalese had a channel as a means of communication and transportation of goods. But the Dutch continued and the path widened to Puttalam in the north of the country. Now that is no longer used for leisure and small fishing boats, which will protect you against tropical storms.
This dive center is in the center of Negombo, and it is run by a couple of Europeans. There is a boat to take you there which is little away from the coast in the coral reefs. But in August there is good visibility for that, and unless you're a beginner I suggest you go to dive on the east coast of the country where it is high season. The good season for Negombo is from October to April and many people come to Sri Lanka to get their first diving levels as it is cheaper than in Europe. For example, the PADI and then Advanced. They can also arrange accommodation and meals, but their prices are higher than if you manage to do it yourself. There is also a center of Batticoala which Is for the European summer. Very enjoyable time.
Negombo is a fishing village and its market is organized around the colonial part of the city, around Sea Street. When you are in the tourist area, you have to go down the coast towards the south and the fort. The market is very informal, there are several booths set up every day, and others that are installed on the floor, in the street. You can find good fish if you come early in the morning and also many varieties of exotic fruits. It's a good place to impregnate yourself in the atmosphere of the village and see the preparation of some dishes. In general, people buy them to take and eat it at home or at work, but some places have tables and chairs. Then there are a lot of objects, most of them are of poor quality and come from India or China, but some are nice and cheap souvenirs to buy and take home. I recommend taking the time and visiting this place for the atmosphere and the things that are on offer for you. You will enjoy your visit definitely. I did.
The Negombo bus station is quite important because it is near the capital and many routes lead to and from here before taking the main highway to Colombo. Some buses will only stop at the said Negombo Junction. It is not far from the station but it does not enter the village. The station has some Intercity buses, which are air-conditioned and more comfortable, heading north to Puttalam and Anuradhapura. To Puttalam it takes about three hours and costs approximately 2 Euros. For Colombo there are also air-conditioned buses available but they are not so frequent. You may have to take a local bus, which takes an hour and a half to Colombo, 30 kilometers away. At the airport, which is nearby, you can take a tuk-tuk at accost of 600 Rupees and takes half an hour.
The cricket ground is in the colonial part of the city, north of the fort. It is a prime location, it gives you an idea of the importance of the sport. The British brought cricket along with colonization in the nineteenth century. The Sinhalese began to play the sport and it is now more important than football! National teams are very good and often compete with the British. The rules of cricket are very complicated and the matches can last for days! But here people have been taking it very seriously since childhood. If you want to play, they will be delighted to have you, but being white, they assume you're from England and you can play! Which of course, is not necessarily the case! You might not be able to play!
The Seema Malaka Temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple whose location on Beira Lake makes it a true oasis of peace and tranquility in hectic Colombo. The temple is apparently a recreation of a previous temple which had sunk into the lake, and was built by Geoffrey Bawa, one of Sri Lanka's leading architects and the founder of the Topical Modernism school of design.
The temple is located a few minutes' walk from the famous Gangaramaya Temple and you can get a single ticket for both temples at the entrance to either one. What's lovely about the Seema Malaka Temple is it's location on three floating platforms on the lake connected by wooden walkways. The views of the lake and the skyscrapers of downtown Colombo are unbeatable and the fact that it's more of a local attraction that an international draw means that remains quiet and uncrowded most of the time.
The temple itself features a central building with a nice but austere altar and two lateral platforms with bodhi trees, larger sitting Buddhas, and small shrines to Hindu deities which are also revered among Sri Lanka's Buddhist community. The standout, though, are the dozens of bronze Buddha statues which line the edges of the platforms. Overall, it's a pleasant and quick visit and a very welcome chance to escape the humidity and chaos of downtown Colombo for a few minutes.
The Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque is the most important mosque in Colombo as well as one of its most recognizable buildings. Built in 1909 by the neighborhood Muslim community, the Jami Ul-Alfar stands out for its unique candy-stripe exterior and geometric tile-work that seems more North African than Sri Lankan.
The mosque is definitely not a tourist mosque like those you might find in Istanbul or parts of India. Rather, it's the go-to place of worship for the large Muslim trading community based in Colombo's bustling Pettah neighborhood. That being said, it is still generally open to the public but you should avoid going during prayer hours (it'll be closed to non-Muslims) and remember to dress modestly.
Visiting the Jami Ul-Alfar mosque is not an activity you should plan your entire day around, but if you find yourself exploring the sari tailors and fruit vendors of Pettah, it's worth a visit for the architecture alone.
The Gangaramaya Temple is by far Colombo's most famous Buddhist temple, at least among tourists, and is worth a visit for its sheer eccentricity. The temple was founded over a century ago as a institute to train young monks but has been run for decades by some of Sri Lanka's most politically and socially-connected monks, a fact evident in the temple-museum's collection of classic cars (Rolls Royce and Mercedes)and extravagant gifts like jewelry, gold, and an endless array of relics, statues, and icons.
When you enter the temple complex, you'll pass through an initial hall featuring a large seated Buddha flanked by two massive elephant tusk and ornate frescoes. This area is reminiscent of many other traditional Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, but as soon as you leave the chamber, all semblance with the traditional immediately evaporates. You make your way through a museum section with innumerable glass cases featuring every kind of temple offering imaginable (from vintage sunglasses to precious stones), a Chinese section featuring a near-endless line of small shrines, each filled with dozens of Buddha statues from around Asia, and finally a terraced outdoor area with bronze statues of sitting Buddhas and stupas reminiscent of those found in the famous Borobudur site in Indonesia.
The rest of the complex is kind of a mixed bag of conference centers, libraries, hidden shrines, and other areas that are sure to entertain the curious for hours. The temple also has an elephant (something of a controversy among visitors) but we didn't see it when we visited. Look...if you're looking for a deeply spiritual place, Gangaramaya is probably not it. There are tons of better monasteries and temples in Sri Lanka if you're looking for authentic, humble Sri Lankan Buddhism. However, if you think of it more as a museum than a temple, then it makes for one of the most interesting and eclectic places to visit in Colombo. A must-see!