Negombo, close to Colombo’s airport, grew from an historic little town with many legacies of its Dutch and Portugese settlers into Sri Lanka’s first beach resort. For the traveller without time to linger, Negombo is a superb town to taste beach life and rest before jetting back to the “realworld” or as a jumping off spot to visit Kandy and the hill country.
Villa Araliya is a new and prestige guesthouse just 20 minutes from the airport. Look out to sea during the evening and see the twinkling lights of all the ships dotted along the horizon as they anchor awaiting their daylight entry into Colombo Harbour. Or take a trip out by day for a spot of whale watching, the West Coast is breeding ground for the Blue Whale and the Sperm whale.
Though still interesting for its canal system- courtesy of the Dutch- rice aroma of the cinammon harvested here, and the sight of the local fishermen sailing out and back daily in their outrigger canoes, as a beach resort it has been outshadowed by the more sophisticated South.
The fish auction is a colourful reason to rise early- 6 am; or view the shark catch being brought in during early afternoon. The canal structure and narrow paths have a real feel of Amstadam and to explore, ordinary bicycles are readily available to hire, also mountain bikes and helmets can be booked.
At the South end of Negombo lagoon is Pamunngama- a charming strip of coconut palms, Portuguese style churches and bunches of houses and beach side restaurants giving it a family friendly, almost Mediterranean atmosphere here.
The Pearl on the beach side captures this family spirit. Bordering is Muthmajawela Marsh, previously a rice-growing area, spoiled by the introduction of sea water by the portugese, it is now an outstanding saline wetland rich in water birds- though under threat from encroaching industrial development.
Slightly inland there is a belt of plantation and farming land which meets the mountaneous region that divides the West from the Cultural Triangle. Village life here is untouched by commercialism and very quiet. Hideaway is a luxurious villa set within a pineapple bungalow, only 30 minutes from the airport.
Organic farming techniques are very common and communities work together on projects to preserve the land and provide ongoing employment. Those wishing to embrace this working community, their ancient techniques, morning yoga on the mountain and live at one with nature, can do so at Ulpotha Eco Retreat.
A further 30 mins north towards the ancient cities is a truly colonial coconut plantation bungalow, Horathapola, an ideal resting place.
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