Located 240 kilometers south of Colombo, Hambantota is a newly-developed city situated on Sri Lanka’s southeastern coastline. Recently, the tranquil settlement has developed a reputation for being Sri Lanka’s hidden gem boasting a baked countryside, friendly locals, colonial style buildings, and vast salt plains. It is the main town of Hambantota District in the Southern Province and in the past has been known by many names: ‘Mahagama’, ‘Ruhuna’ and ‘Dolos dahas rata’.
The Peacock Beach Hotel is Hambantota’s premier resort located just to the east along the sandy coastline. The larger area is home to a number of wildlife sanctuaries, museums and heritage sites. Compared to other tourist hotspots, Hambantota receives less rainfall in the monsoon season.
In a nearby fishing village called ‘Kudawella’ is the ‘Hummayanaya’ blow hole, the second largest in the world. A natural fountain which occurs as water rushes though subterranean caves and pushes out through the rocks. During the monsoon season the fountain’s displays are even more magnificent.
A thirty-minute drive north will lead you to the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, which was initially built to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018 but unfortunately, Sri Lanka’s bid lost to Australia. The stadium hosted two one-day games during the 2011 ICC World Cup and three T20 games during the 2012 ICC World Twenty20. It also hosted the 3rd ODI of the current Pakistan vs. Sri Lanka series.
Hambantota features one of the few remaining ‘Mortello Towers’, which was built by the British Empire during the late 18th century. The two-storied structure is said to have repulsed an attack from the ‘Kandyan Empire’.
This region was historically known as the ‘Kingdom of Ruhuna’, and was established by ‘King Mahanaga’ after a personal dispute with his brother. In the past, it has played host to traders from the East seeking anchorage at its natural harbor at Godawaya, Ambalantota. The large vessels these merchants travelled in were known as ‘Sampans’ and in the local dialect ‘thota’ means port, hence the deep water harbor became known as ‘Sampantot’. In earlier times the region was the centre of a thriving civilization and evidence suggests that it was blessed with fertile lands and an intricate irrigation system.
In 2004 it was struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami with devastating effect. It is estimated that 35,000 people died and over half a million were displaced. The government has since planned to transform the city into the second major urban hub of Sri Lanka besides Colombo. Many development projects have been undertaken by the government including the construction of a new sea port and Sri Lanka’s second international airport.