Making the Most of 24 Hours in Negombo Sri Lanka
Negombo Sri Lanka, located on its Western Coast about 38 KM North of Colombo, offers a delightful blend of vibrant culture, stunning beaches, and historical sites. This charming erstwhile Dutch coastal town is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. From exploring ancient temples to enjoying water sports and indulging in fresh seafood, Negombo presents an array of experiences for travelers. Negombo in Sri Lanka is also popular because of its proximity to the Colombo International Airport (Bandaranayike International Airport).
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History of Negombo Sri Lanka
Located on the picturesque western coast of Sri Lanka, Negombo has served as a vibrant trading port, especially for spices, attracting Arab, Chinese, and European merchants. Throughout the colonial era, Negombo experienced the rule of various powers, including the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. Each influence left an indelible mark on the city’s cultural fabric. The Portuguese introduced Catholicism to Negombo, and remnants of their legacy can still be seen in the elegant churches that grace the city.
Over 500 years of Negombo’s history tells us the story of a city shaped by its interactions with different civilizations. Its past as a bustling trading center and its encounters with colonial powers have left an enduring impact on its heritage.
Today, Negombo, Sri Lanka, the friendly coastal city, is just a fishing village that stands as a testament to its vibrant history, showcasing a blend of cultural influences that have shaped the city’s identity over the years.
8 Places to visit and Things to do in Negombo in Sri Lanka.
This guide highlights eight best places to visit and things to do in Negombo, guaranteeing an unforgettable journey in this picturesque gem of Sri Lankan Tourism.
Embark on a boat tour of Negombo Lagoon (or a Kayak adventure, if you prefer)
Negombo Lagoon is close to the coast and is about 10 KM long North-South and about 4 KM at the widest point. The lagoon is fed by one canal, the famous Hamilton Canal, and several small rivers. The lagoon is connected to the open sea at the North via a small mouth.
Going on a boat ride or a kayaking adventure to admire the serene beauty of Negombo Lagoon is an experience that will captivate your senses and leave you in awe. We took a motorboat to explore the lagoon. Negombo Lagoon is a natural paradise boasting picturesque landscapes, swampy mangroves, tranquil waters, and matching biodiversity. It is also a birdwatcher’s paradise. If you are bird photographer, don’t forget your long lens!
As you glide through the calm lagoon, surrounded by lush mangroves and vibrant birdlife, you’ll feel a sense of peace and tranquility wash over you. The gentle lapping of the water against your vessel creates a soothing soundtrack, while the warm sun kisses your skin. The emerald-green waters reflect the clear blue sky above, creating a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of colors.
Whether you choose to explore the lagoon by boat or opt for a more adventurous kayaking expedition, this enchanting journey through Negombo Lagoon will leave an indelible impression.
It cost us less than 20 USD for a one-hour boat ride. The boat had a capacity for 6.
Metrics and Measurements of Negombo Lagoon
- Length North to South – about 12 KM
- Width – East-West – about 3.75 Km at the widest point
- Depth – from 50 CM to 2.6 M
- Area – More than 30 Square KM
- The South is connected to the beautiful Muthurajawela marsh, a popular bird watching destination, which has a similar spread.
Explore Hamilton Canal / Dutch Canal
The Hamilton Canal (Dutch Canal) is not only a window into the past but also a recreational haven. You may have heard of the saying “Where there are Dutch, there are canals!”… No… I just made it up! 😊. It is true, though!
As per Persian travelers, some form of waterways existed even in the 8th Century, which connected one lagoon to the other. When the Dutch came in, they saw the huge potential of building proper canals for cheap transportation of spices to the ports.
Now the Dutch Canal or Hamilton canal as it is also called, has two parts. North of Negombo lagoon is about 12 KM long and reaches the outskirts of Puttalam and the Southern part is up to Colombo. Negombo lagoon itself is more than 10 KM long along the coast.
One way to explore the canal is the boat ride (mentioned above) in Negombo lagoon, who will gladly take you into the canal. The Canal is narrow in a few places. As per the boatman, once upon a time, the canal was so narrow that you could touch the buildings on the sides with the oars.
One could also take a leisurely walk along the canal or rent a bike to enjoy the quaint surroundings.
Visit Negombo Fish Market Complex
Experience the vibrant charm of Negombo fishing village and immerse yourself in its bustling open-air fishing market. Discover a world where time seems to stand still as local fishermen bring in their daily catch, their colorful boats dotting the horizon.
Daily catch is segregated by type and size and then immersed in salt water before they are put out to dry on jute cloth sheets. There are sheets and sheets of drying fish which cover the entire beach! A separate partly covered area is earmarked for fresh catch.
In Negombo fish market, it is the early bird catches the fish! Auctioning of fish starts early in the morning, even before the day breaks, with the fishermen selling their catch from previous night’s outing. Some of the fishermen have been out at the seas for many days! They claim it is one of the biggest open air fish markets in the world! And anyone can bid!
Negombo’s fishing commerce is a crucial economic sector, driving employment, trade, and tourism in the region. The city’s natural resources, coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit of its residents, continue to fuel the growth and success of the fishing industry in Negombo.
Negombo Dutch Fort
The Negombo Dutch Fort is a historical landmark located in Negombo, Sri Lanka and is not to be missed, although much of the fort is in ruins. It is very near Negombo fish market.
This was originally a Portuguese fort but quite weak in structure. When the Dutch came in they rebuilt it during late the 17th century, to protect the regions thriving cinnamon trade and their people.
Eventually when the British came, they tore down much of it to build a prison using the stones of the fort.
Now most parts are in ruins and only the prison and the clock tower stand as a testament to the island’s heritage. The prison is still in good condition is still being used by Sri Lankan authorities, as a prison. Mind you, there is no guided tour of the prison. Hahaha. There is only one way to explore the insides!!!
It takes less than an hour to explore Negombo Dutch Fort and is free of charge.
Tour the Temples & Churches of Negombo
Sri Lanka is a multi-religious country with Buddhism as its major religion. Negombo has its share of places of worship of many faiths. Having said that, I found that there were more Christian Churches than that of any other religion, in Negombo. The reason is because during the Portuguese and Dutch colonial periods, many Catholic missionaries arrived in the area and established churches, making Negombo a predominantly Christian town. The city became a center of Christian influence and worship, which has persisted over the centuries. There are over 20 churches in this small town of Negombo. We will talk about only a few important ones.
Churches and Cathedrals
St. Sebastian Church Wellaweediya (Sea Street) is one beautiful church with its bell tower separated from the main church building.
There is another St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, which came into prominence because of a bomb blast on Easter a few years ago, that claimed over 90 lives ! 🙁
Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage is located near the Northern end of Negombo lagoon in Duwa village. This Portuguese influenced church is dedicated to Mother Mary who is depicted with Jesus in one hand, and a ship on the other. The name suggests that sailors would worship her before setting out.
St. Mary’s Church, a magnificent blue colored Catholic church, is a noteworthy attraction, featuring beautiful architecture and a serene atmosphere. It is one of the biggest churches in Sri Lanka.
Buddhist Viharayas and Hindu Temples in Negombo Sri Lanka
Angurukaramulla Viharaya, also known as Bodhirajarama Maha Viharaya is a Buddhist temple and is home to the Dragon entrance, paintings and beautiful sculptures and, 6 meter reclining Buddha. There is also library in ruins, apparently predating the Buddhist Temple.
Sri Singama Kali Amman Kovil in Negombo, Sri Lanka, is a revered Hindu temple that holds great significance for the local Tamil community. Dedicated to the goddess Kali, it boasts stunning architecture, intricate sculptures, and hosts vibrant festivals. The temple’s allure attracts both devotees and tourists, making it a cherished cultural landmark.
There are several Churches, Buddhist Viharas, Hindu temples and mosques dotting Negombo. Should you be interested, you may ask your guide or send us a shout-out at [email protected]!
Relax on Negombo Beach
Enjoy the golden sands and turquoise waters of Negombo Beach. It’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports like windsurfing. It has a long tract of beach for a leisurely stroll and to choose your favorite spot.
Negombo Beach is a blissful retreat where time slows down, allowing you to unwind and immerse yourself in the soothing beauty of nature. In the evening you can catch an amazing sunset, like we did 😊
As per our guide, you may find some options for whale and dolphin watching trips too. Unfortunately, We did not have time for that.
Health and Rejuvenation in Negombo
Once you are through with the day, Negombo, Sri Lanka, offers a serene haven for rejuvenation seekers. With its abundance of spas and wellness retreats, it’s the perfect destination for those seeking relaxation and restoration. From Ayurvedic treatments to soothing massages, Negombo provides a holistic approach to healing and rejuvenation, combining ancient traditions with modern techniques.
Your own hotel may be providing these services too.
Indulge in the tranquil ambiance and let the skilled therapists pamper you, leaving you refreshed, revitalized, and ready to embrace challenges that travelling throws at you, with renewed vigor.
Night Life at Negombo
Experience Negombo’s nightlife: The city comes alive after sunset, with several beach-side bars, restaurants, and clubs offering live music, delicious cocktails, and a vibrant atmosphere. Enjoy the nightlife and mingle with locals and fellow travelers. Don’t forget to taste the awesome Sri Lankan cuisine here.
Useful Information about Negombo in Sri Lanka
Tips while traveling to Negombo
- Negombo is a convenient base for travelers arriving at the Bandaranaike International Airport, as it is located only a short distance away. Many tourists choose to stay in Negombo upon arrival or just before departure. We had scheduled our flight in such a way that we got 24 hours in Negombo.
- One can do a day trip to the Muthurajawela Marsh, a large wetland area located near Negombo, which is a haven for biodiversity and of interest to nature lovers, photographers and birdwatchers.
- Be appropriately dressed while visiting places of worship.
Tidbits, Snippets and Trivia on Negombo
- Negombo is sometimes often called Sri Lanka’s favorite coastal town.
- Hamilton Canal is named after Gavin Hamilton who was the Government Agent of Revenue and Commerce.
- Negombo is the Portuguese way of saying the Tamil name “NeerKozhumbu” (நீர்கொழும்பு). By the way the Tamil name for Colombo is Kozhumbu (கொழும்பு )” and Neer means water. Maybe referring to Negombo Lagoon, perhaps.
- Why Colombo is called so is another discussion, altogether. We will get to that when we write about Colombo. 😊
- Negombo Sri Lanka is sometimes referred to as the “Little Rome” of Sri Lanka due to its strong Roman Catholic influence and the presence of numerous churches in the area.
- The Dutch fort in Negombo was torn down to by the British to build a prison which is still in use as a prison!
Where to Stay in Negombo in Sri Lanka?
When looking for accommodation in Negombo, there are various options to suit different preferences and budgets. From luxury beachfront resorts offering a tranquil escape to budget-friendly guesthouses near the bustling city center, travelers can choose from a range of accommodations that provide easy access to the beautiful beaches, seafood restaurants, and cultural attractions of this coastal town.
Some of the well-known luxurious resorts in Negombo
Book Your Tours Here for Negombo or Sri Lanka
If you would like to book a tour instead of doing it on your own, then Click below for a couple of to embark on an unforgettable tours, through the enchanting landscapes and cultural wonders of Negombo, Sri Lanka’s best-kept secret
FAQ on Negombo Sri Lanka
How old is Hamilton Canal?
The name Hamilton Canal was given after British arrived here in early 19th century. Some form of canal already existed from time immemorial. However when the Dutch wrested control from the Portuguese in 17th Century, they improved it and during that period it was called the Dutch Canal.
Where is Negombo located in Sri Lanka?
Negombo is a city located on the west coast of Sri Lanka, approximately 37 kilometers north of the capital city, Colombo.It is just about 12 KM from the Bandaranayike International Airport, Colombo
What is the best time to visit Negombo?
The best time to visit Negombo is during the dry season, which spans from November to April. This period offers sunny weather with minimal rainfall, making it ideal for enjoying the beach and outdoor activities.
How can I reach Negombo from Colombo?
Negombo is conveniently located near Colombo, and you have several transportation options. You can take a taxi, hire a private driver, or use public transportation such as buses or trains. The journey by road typically takes around 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.
Are there any historical sites to explore in Negombo?
Yes, Negombo has a rich history, and there are several historical sites worth exploring. The Negombo Dutch Fort, built during the Dutch colonial period, is a popular attraction. You can also visit the Angurukaramulla Temple, which features impressive Buddhist murals and a large reclining Buddha statue.
Is Negombo a good place for shopping?
Yes, Negombo offers a vibrant shopping scene. The city has various markets, such as the Negombo Fish Market and the Negombo Lagoon Market, where you can find fresh seafood, local produce, and handicrafts. There are also shopping centers and boutiques where you can purchase clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs.
Are there any cultural festivals celebrated in Negombo?
Yes, Negombo celebrates several cultural festivals throughout the year. One notable festival is the Feast of St. Mary, held in August, which is an important religious celebration for the Catholic community in Negombo. The festival features processions, music, dance, and cultural performances.
There are also many festivals pertaining to Buddhists and Hindus all over the year.
Are there any day trips or excursions that can be done from Negombo?
Yes, Negombo serves as a convenient base for various day trips and excursions. You can visit the nearby Muthurajawela Marsh, a unique wetland ecosystem, which offers boat tours and nature walks. Another popular excursion is a visit to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, where you can observe and interact with rescued elephants. It is about 2 hours from Negombo.
Is it better to stay in Negombo or Colombo?
Proximity to the airport: Negombo is located closer to the Bandaranaike International Airport, making it a convenient choice if you have an early or late flight. It’s just a short drive away, which can save you travel time.
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