Tangalle is the gateway to the wide-open spaces and wide-open beaches of southeast Sri Lanka. It’s the last town of any size before Hambantota and has some old world charm. But you’re really here to find your perfect beach and revel in it.
The name of the town in Sinhala means “projected rock”, a reference to the rocks which form the coastline in the town area, which contrasts with the sandy beaches of the surrounding areas. Another rationale is that the name is derived from ran-gala or “golden rock”, which relates to a local legend that a holy man once ate a meal there and the rock was turned to gold.
Tangalle is a regionally important fishing port and a centre of tourism. In the city centre there is an old Dutch fort which is used as a prison today.
Secluded on Sri Lanka’s southernmost shores overlooking the Indian Ocean, beach-blessed Tangalle is the go-to place for laid-back, forget-about-everything lounging.
Here, nature rules; calm fishing boat-flocked coves carpet a zig-zaggedy stretch of coastline west of town and wild turtle-trampled beaches extend eastwards for miles. Watersports and Whale Watching beckon if you’re feeling adventurous, with spas and spicy cuisine back on shore for spoiling yourself.
Beyond Tangalle’s seductive sands, explore the lush green interior of paddy fields, rock temples and national parks, a wow for wildlife safaris. Sri Lanka’s shape is often likened to a tear-drop but we reckon a sojourn on its sleepy southern shores should put a smile on your face.
Partly because of its relative isolation, Tangalle caters to two very different types of clientele. The beaches to the west of town contain some very up-market villas and hotels, many hidden in idyllic secluded coves and bays.
To the east of Tangalle are the beaches of Medaketiya and Medilla. These lie on a spit of land between the Indian Ocean and a series of beautiful mangrove lined lagoons. These beaches attract a growing number of budget holidaymakers looking for a combination of cheap accommodation and sublime natural surroundings. Tangalle has also become very famous for its beach cabanas, built of local material with thatched roofs that are sometimes built on stilts.
The most amazing thing about Tangalle is the colour of the Indian Ocean. It is of the deepest blue and gives the whole seascape the feel of an idyll somewhere in the South Pacific!
Rekawa Turtle Conservation project is 10 km (6.2 miles) east of the town. At the beach you can watch five species of marine turtles: Green turtles, Loggerhead turtles, Leatherback turtles, Olive Ridley turtles and Hawksbill turtles laying their eggs in the sand nests at night. The Turtle Conservation Project conducts a ‘turtle watch’ programme, which protects the nesting sites until the hatchlings return to the ocean.
Tangalle (Tangalla) is the furthest beach option on the Deep South Coast before the jungles of Yala take over. It takes around 4 hours to get there from Colombo Airport.