Sought after by travellers for its long stretching beaches with relaxing soft golden shores, Negombo is a serene city sprawled across the west coast of Sri Lanka. The town is known to be the proud possessor of some of the finest hotels and resorts in the west coast of the island. Located 7 kilometres away from the Bandaranaike International Airport, 102 kilometres from Kandy and approximately 38 kilometres from the commercial capital, Colombo, Negombo resides at the mouth of the scenic Negombo Lagoon in the Western Province of the island.
The Negombo Lagoon is celebrated for its spectacularly diverse mangrove swamps and vast biodiversity in flora and fauna. The lagoon is inclusive of the beautiful Muthurajawela Marsh, a wetland sanctuary noted for its distinctive and highly diverse ecosystem. Both the lagoon and marsh are extremely popular tourist attractions; largely for the exquisite boat tours and canoe rides that journeys through the swamp. With a fascinating fishing industry that dates back centuries, the town is also home to the island’s second-largest fish market – locally known as ‘Lellama’ – situated at the north end of the Negombo Lagoon, where tourists can encounter local fisherman and learn their distinct fishing methods. Even today, the local fisherman here adhere to traditional fishing to sustain their livelihoods. Consequently, Negombo has become the ultimate spot for gourmet food lovers, with fresh scrumptious seafood available in the various delightful and quirky restaurants and cafes scattered across town.
Greatly influenced by Portuguese and Dutch colonizers in 17th and 18th century, Negombo is also home to several colonial-period churches and establishments such as St. Mary’s Church and the Negombo Dutch Fort. The long-standing and still-functioning network of canals developed by the Dutch, namely the Hamilton Dutch Canal, which covers roughly 130 kilometres from Puttalam to Colombo, is also a fascinating tourist attraction here.
In addition to the adored serenity of its untouched shorelines, Negombo beach is well-known for activities such diving and snorkeling as well as water sports such as kayaking, sailing, Jet skiing and Water skiing for beginners and adrenaline junkies alike. These attributes, coupled with the city’s effervescent nightlife, has made Negombo a hot spot for tourist activity.
Negombo is well-known for being the proud possessor of some of the finest hotels and luxury resorts in the west coast. Popular among these are hotels such as Jetwing Lagoon from the Jetwing chain, which is among the first resort creations of the celebrated Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa.
Negombo is generally a transit town where tourists spend their first few days upon arrival to Sri Lanka, usually to rest and relax following a long and exhausting plane ride, before heading out to explore the rest of the island. Likewise, it is also in some cases the last stopover after exploring the island, in order to spend the last few days chilling and basking in the sunny beach prior to heading to the airport to depart the island.
Negombo was once renowned for its prosperous cinnamon cultivation. Largely controlled by Jaffna kings during the medieval period, the language used here during this time was mainly Tamil. Negombo served as one of the ports from which Sri Lankan kingdoms carried out trade transactions with neighbouring countries, thanks to the low waters of Negombo Lagoon that ensured the safe lodging of maritime vessels.
In the 16th century, Portuguese colonizers overthrew the Jaffna Kingdom. They built a fort in Negombo and took over the cinnamon trade from the Jaffna kings. With the Portuguese occupation came the extremely effective proliferation of Catholicism, which led to Negombo sometimes being referred to as “Little Rome”. The city’s name derives from its Tamil name Neerkolombu, which later turned to Negombo following the influence of the Portuguese. The Portuguese were later ousted by the Dutch in the 1640s, who contributed to Negombo’s architectural allure with the construction of churches, a canal system and other Dutch buildings. Negombo was among the most important sources of cinnamon during this era. The Dutch were later overthrown by the British. Signs of these European occupations still prominently exist to this day.
How to get there
There are few options of travelling from Colombo to Negombo which are via car, bus, train and air.
By car – Renting a car to travel directly to Negombo would be the most comfortable mode of transport. The main route is via the Colombo – Katunayake Expressway and taking the exit to Puttalam. The journey from Colombo would take approximately 45 minutes. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can help you make arrangements to rent a car.
By bus – Taking the bus would be slightly less comfortable than renting a car but much cheaper option. As the distance is not so great, the bus ride isn’t very tiring. There are buses departing to Negombo every half an hour from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal in Olcott Mawatha, Colombo. The journey would take approximately 45 minutes.
By Air – There are no direct flights from Colombo to Negombo seeing as the nearest airfield to both cities is the Bandaranaike International Airport, which happens to in lay between both cities.
From Kandy – The fastest way to reach Negombo from Kandy is to fly to Colombo on Cinnamon Air/ Sri Lankan Airlines from Polgolla Reservoir in Kandy; the flight would take an hour to complete. An alternate option would be to drive to Negombo via A1, the Colombo – Kandy Road, which would take approximately a little over 2 hours. Vehicle or taxi arrangements can be made for you by our tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays. It is a distance of 102 kilometres from Kandy to Negombo.
The average temperature here varies from 24 to 30 degree Celsius. Featuring a tropical rainforest climate, also referred to as an equatorial climate, the temperatures in Negombo on average is always high and coupled with high humidity, especially from February to April.
The city experiences rain, mostly from the Southwestern monsoon, from May to August and again from October to January.
Food & Drink
The food available in Negombo extends from local cuisine to Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Indian and Western. There are plenty of charming cafes and restaurants offering food from cheap eats, mid-range to fine dining. With fresh sea fish and shellfish such as lobster, crab, shrimp available in abundance, Negombo is a paradise for food lovers, especially those with a fondness for sea food.
Popular restaurants among tourists are Black Coral Restaurant, The Sushi Bar (Samurai), Café Envo, Bijou Swiss Restaurant, Greek Grill, Dolce Vita, Coco’s, Lords Restaurant Complex, Tusker Restaurant, Mad Dog’s Bodega (Heritance Colombo), Aroma’s Café and Pizzeria, Bacco Wine Bar Bistro and Toro Pub & Restaurant.
A few popular pubs are Rodeo Pub and Serendib Pub and Restaurant.
Negombo Beach – Bask in the toasty rays of the sun or take a sunset stroll along the soft golden shores of the Negombo beach. The coast is also perfect to enjoy a beach game like volleyball or football with friends, families and loved ones, after which one can take a dip in the ocean to cool down. Negombo is also popular among adrenaline junkies for water sports such as kayaking, sailing, Jet skiing and Water skiing.
Diving & Snorkeling – Dive in and explore the phenomenal marine life that exists below the waters of the ocean bordering Negombo. Witness the exquisite aquatic wildlife ranging from a variety of exotic fish to coral reefs and caves or survey the shipwrecks submerged in water years ago.
Negombo Lagoon – Escape the hustle-bustle of Negombo town and embark upon a boat ride through tranquil waters of the Negombo Lagoon. Feast your eyes on the spectacular biodiversity of the Negombo lagoon, the various gorgeous water birds that visit the area and learn about the fascinating centuries old fishing traditions still followed by its local fisherman.
Muthurajawela wetlands – Take the same boat ride and cruise the soothing waters of the Muthurajawela marsh, across magnificent partially submerged mangroves. Declared a sanctuary by the government of Sri Lanka in 1996, the marsh has a rich aquatic ecosystem with various vegetation, and beguiling wildlife such as water monitors, crocodiles, monkeys and insects such as dragonflies and butterflies. This marvelous marsh is a popular attraction in Negombo.
Negombo “Lellama” Fish Market – Locally popular as Lellama (Lel-La-Ma), this vibrant and busy market is the second largest fish market in the country with approximately 4,000 boats depart to sea from here every day.
Angurukaramulla Temple (Bodhirajarama Maha Viharaya) – A place of worship for Buddhists and Hindus alike, this temple is famous for its Buddha Statue that is over 6m in height and the iconic dragon’s head which acts as an entryway to its shrine room. The temple is adorned with vivid murals, paintings and sculptures depicting stories of Buddha as well as kings and queens of Sri Lanka. At the back of the temple lies the Hindu temple, Sri Siddha Suniyam Devalaya named after the Sri Lankan deity Sri Siddha Suniyam.
Negombo Dutch Fort – Now a historical ruin, the Dutch Fort in Negombo built by the Portuguese to defend Colombo during their occupation. It was later restored by the Dutch only to be later torn down and built as a prison by the British. The Eastern bastion with mounds at its northern and southern ends still remain today along with its gateway that is inscribed with the date 1678. The site is still used as a prison to this day.
Hamilton Canal (Dutch Canal) – Travel via boat this remarkable 14.5 kilometre network of canals that passes through Negombo and links Puttalam to Colombo. Designed by a Sinhalese King of Kotte, Veera Parakramabahu VII, and later the Dutch, this extraordinary network was constructed by the British to drain the saline water from the Muthurajawela wetlands. It is named so after Garvin Hamilton, the British Agent of Revenue and Commerce in 1802.
St. Mary´s Church – One of the largest cathedrals in the country, this rose coloured church is adorned with alabaster images of numerous saints on its ceiling and sculptures of religious saints on the walls of the upper levels. With a neoclassicism style, the church also represents the amalgamation of European and Sri Lankan arts and architecture as a result of the colonial era.