But that’s not its sole appeal. The resort town also has a sandy beach, a wide selection of hotels and restaurants with a lively evening buzz.
It also has a historically interesting town centre where the colonial architecture reveals the influences of its former Portuguese and Dutch colonisers. For Negombo was once an important commercial centre for the trade of spices, most notably cinnamon – endemic to Sri Lanka which is still the world’s largest producer of the spice.
It is also a hub of Christianity with the number of locals who converted to Catholicism so high that the area became known as ‘Little Rome” with churches and shrines peppering the streets.
Tucked behind the town is the lagoon from which the local fishermen draw their supplies of lobster, crab and prawns. The sea here is also prime fishing territory, with the daily trawls hauled in by colourful wooden outrigger boats and then sold amid the vibrant chaos of the local fish market.
Combine all of the above, and Negombo makes for a great introduction to the island, particularly for more cautious travellers.
Places to Visit in Negombo
- Fish market
- Muthurajawela Marsh
- Negombo Beach
- Angurukaramulla Temple
- St Mary’s Church
Unique Things to See and Do in Negombo
- Browse the daily catch at the fish market
- Take a boat ride across the lagoon
- Visit the Buddhist place of worship on the edge of town – Angurukaramulla Temple
- Tour the churches that have given the city the nickname “Little Rome”
- Catch a cricket match on the esplanade by the Dutch Fort
A Little About “Little Rome”
When the Portuguese arrived in Negombo, lured by Sri Lanka’s spice and cinnamon, they brought with them their customs and their Catholic religion. As a result, there are a number of churches spread around the city that date back to these times which feature elaborate architecture and intricate ceiling paintings.
Although Portugal’s hold on the area came to an end, its Catholic influence endured. Around 75% of the local population are Catholic. As a result, many churches continued to be built. For example Thalahena Church which was erected by parish priest John Lio Ratnayaka in 1889. The church is also known as Barbara Church as it was built in memory of a woman bearing that name who was killed because of her religion and was later made a saint.
The number of churches in the city has earned it the nickname of “Little Rome”. St Mary’s Church is perhaps the most famous, but the Grand Street Church and the Katuwapitiya Church are the two biggest parishes.
Nevertheless, other religions are present in the city, mainly Buddhism, Hinduism and Islamism. These religions have also left their mark on this city. For example, the Agurukaramulla Temple is a famous Buddhist Temple to the east of town that dates back around three centuries and features a 6 metre reclining Buddha.
Getting Around Negombo
Buses run frequently from the bus station in town to the Bandaranaike International Airport and also to Lewis Place or Porutota Road – the services are very cheap but can be slow. Slash your journey time by taking a taxi, although this is considerably more expensive. Those seeking a real Negombo experience can take a three-wheeled tuk tuk.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Negombo
Negombo is hit by a monsoon season which generally lasts from May to August, with the driest period falling between December and April. November to March is generally considered the best time to visit the city, however, this also means this is the busiest period with more crowds and higher prices.
Average temperatures sit at around 29 or 30 degrees Celsius with humidity high year round, sitting at around 75%, although temperatures do tend to fall during the monsoon.
Did you know…?
Negombo has changed hands a number of times – the Dutch captured the town from the Portuguese in 1640, lost it, and then captured it again in 1644. The British then took it from them in 1796.
Did you ALSO know…?
The fishing community of Negombo speak the Negombo Tamil dialect otherwise known as Negombo Fishermen’s Tamil, just one of the many dialects used by the remnant population of formerly Tamil people of this western region of Sri Lanka.
Ready to plan your visit to Negombo? Check out these popular guides and trips.