Hambantota is a gateway to some of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Sri Lanka, with the chance to spot leopards, elephants and crocodiles. Once a laid-back fishing village, today the thriving port town is a great base for exploring Yala National Park, as well as nearby hot springs, temples and an ancient Buddhist monastery.
Things to do in Hambantota
Leopards are the major draw at Yala National Park, with dozens of the big cats living within the sanctuary. Safaris at Yala also offer incredible elephant encounters. If you’re lucky, you might spot baby elephants and bulls with enormous tusks.
After a dusty Jeep safari in Yala National Park soothe your muscles at Mahapelessa Hot Springs. There are seven crystalline spring-fed pools to plunge into, all kept at different temperatures. Rehydrate with a fresh coconut sold outside the main entrance.
For an off-the-beaten-track safari, head to Ussangoda National Park. Set on the coast, the park is famous for its rust-coloured soil and is home to elephants, crocodiles, monkeys and sea turtles. Safaris along the Walawe River showcase the lush riparian ecosystem and offer a chance to spot crocodiles basking on the shoreline.
Home to some of the rarest species in Asia, Birds Park and Research Centre is a rewarding destination for ornithologists. You’ll love getting up close with parrots, macaws, peacocks and other feathered friends. Feeling hungry? The on-site restaurant serves excellent Sri Lankan food.
Built in the 2nd century, Sithulpawwa Buddhist Monastery cradles more than 2,000 years of history. The ancient monastery is perched on a rocky outcrop and commands sweeping views over the surrounding jungle.
Getting around Hambantota
Renting a private driver is the easiest and most comfortable way to get around Hambantota and visit nearby sights and attractions. Motorbikes and scooters are also a good way to get around. Bandaranaike International Airport is a 3.5-hour drive away.