The palm fringed bay and picturesque coves of Tangalle are a natural treasure. This is a lazy town littered with gentle reminders of the Dutch days of the 18th century and beautiful villas looking out over the shimmering sands of Seenimodera. Located 195 kilometres form the beautiful capital of Colombo and 35km east of Matara, is a pleasant fishing port situated on one of the finest and largest bays in the island, which is protected from the ocean by an enclosing reef. You can arrive at this exquisite destination both by train and bus or hired transport within 4 to 5 hours. Exhibiting fine beaches which are good for swimming and more than reasonable for diving, Tangalle is a popular beach destination on the south coast. It is believed that the name is derived from ran-gala or golden rock, from a legend that tells of a time when a holy man once partook of a meal there, and the rock was turned to gold whilst further research also reveals that it means the “projecting rock”, because long ago the town was protected from the ocean by a long rocky slab that projected into the sea across the mouth of the bay.
Tangalle has spread since those days, so that it now comprises not just one bay but a series of them. Approaching Tangalle from the west, you will encounter Goyambokka and Pallikkudawa, situated on a double bay south of the town.
Beyond the town and harbour are the larger bays, Medaketiya and Medilla. Medaketiya in particular has fine white sand, excellent swimming conditions, and is rarely crowded. The most popular day excursion from Tangalle is to the stunning rock temple of Mulkirigala, 20km to the north where after ascending a series of rock steps you will reach a few natural caves with numerous wall paintings and Buddha statues.
One cave houses a library, in which a most important discovery was made in 1826 by a British administrator who found some long-unseen palm-leaf manuscripts containing the key to translating the Mahawamsa, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka.
Mulkirgala has a strenuous climb in some places while it is reasonably easy in most. It is well worth making it to the summit, for there are magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
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What is certain is that Tangalle has for long been considered a good anchorage. The Dutch were the first Europeans to discover the maritime benefits of Tangalle and their influence can be seen in a few remaining examples of architecture, such as the Rest House, Court House and Fort. The Dutch Fort stands on a slope above the bay. Unfortunately it has undergone considerable alteration since it was turned into a jail in the mid 19th century. This fort differs from many others of the Dutch era since there are no massive ramparts. There are four main walls, which are 12 metres high, enclosing a space similar to a rhombus. The British too, used Tangalle as an anchorage. Furthermore, tea planters began to develop it as a resort, finding the clean white sand and deep blue water there the best antidote to life in the sometimes chilly and damp hills.
The best months to visit this scenic town start from November through to April. Tangalle the land of white sand and basking sun is a place not to be missed when you visit the coastal South of Sri Lanka.
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