The southern coast of Sri Lanka is still largely untouched and unchanged by tourism, but with the New York Times and Forbes naming it a Top Destination, it won’t be overlooked much longer. One of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world, there is much to see and Hambantota is the gateway to most of it.
Hambantota city is located 241km south of Colombo in Hambantota district of the Southern Province of Sri Lanka.
The name “Hambantota” was derived from the Sinhala word “Hamban” and “Thota”. The former was used to describe a certain variety of sailing craft and the latter which means the “port”. The Chinese and the Arab’s selected Hambantota in the centre of the former Maritime Silk Route around 250 BC for sea transportation.
Hambantota is home to the main salt pans of Sri Lanka. The salt pans attract a large number of waders and shore birds, including greater flamingo, spot-billed pelican, several species of plover and tern, gulls, ducks, egrets, sandpipers and many others.
Yala National Park, it is said, brings The Jungle Book to life. Ironically, it was once a hunting ground for the elite under British rule — today it holds the world’s largest concentration of leopards and elephants. Bundala National Park is an important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka, the highlight being the greater flamingo. With herds of elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and leopards, Uda Walawe National Park rivals the savannahs of Africa. Head there for a tropical safari.
The boho-chic set is heading to Galle, southwest of Hambantota, for stylish relaxation. The UNESCO World Heritage protected Galle Fort is an 18th-century Dutch walled town with chic shops, grand colonial houses and beautiful beaches.