Tour guide to Ampara Sri Lanka !
Located in the south east region, the once historic town of Ampara is now an ideal vacation spot for those who enjoy surfing and other water based activities.
Set almost equidistant from Batticaloa and Potuvil, Ampara, once a modest settlement, is now a bustling town thanks partly to tourism. The local population of about 40,000 people is about 45% Buddhist, 40% Muslim and 15% Hindu.
Once part of the historic Digamadulla kingdom, Ampara is slowly recovering from thirty years of civil war and becoming a touristic hub in eastern Sri Lanka.
How to get to Ampara and how to move around
If you are not travelling by your own means, you can reach Ampara by either bus or plane.
You can get a bus from Kandy or Colombo almost every 45 minutes. These buses start plying from 5:30 am. From Colombo, the journey can take anywhere from 5 to 10 hours depending on the type of bus you select. A one-way ride can cost between Rs.100 to Rs.300. If you are travelling from Colombo, you can book your bus tickets in advance.
If the weather is good and you have little time, you can consider taking the air taxi from the Bandaranaike International Airport. These planes fly only on demand and generally cost 200 USD per person. If you are a group, some of them allow you to book the whole plane for 800 USD. These air taxis fly to and from a military air base only 5 km away from Ampara town.
Top tourist attractions in Ampara
Ampara is mostly made up of historic sites, ancient religious structures and areas of scenic beauty.
Not to be missed. This monastery complex lies about 7 kilometres to the north east of Ampara. The site covers over 1200 acres including 5 rock formations where the remains of the ancient monastery are to be seen. It is said that the place was part of the Digamadulla Kingdom (4th century BC) and it is also believed that the founding of the monastery dates back to the same time.
Abandoned through the ages, the place was rediscovered by a Buddhist high priest in the 1960s. What you see today are remains of the past, a replica of the Gal Vihara in Polonnaruwa, a new Bo tree, a Stupa inaugurated in 1974 and living quarters of priest in old caves... in short, a poetic version of Sri Lankan anachronism at its best.
Built in the first century AD, the Diviyagala Temple offers a tranquil setting for a hike and/or a nature photography trip. On your way up the mountain you can see stone pillars, rock formations and the remains of a Stupa. Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded by the sight of two crystal clear ponds – the main source of water of this area.
Be careful not to disturb the meditating monks here nor scare away the porcupines!
Kandewattanawana Ruins and Reservoir
On the Ampara-Inginiyagala Road lie the ruins of the mighty Digamadulla dynasty. The set of reservoirs, dating back to the 10th century AD, was used to irrigate the nearby paddy fields. As per the tradition of the time, there is also a monastery near the “wewa” (reservoir). You can see an early sculpture of Buddha’s feet here.
A choice of appealing places to visit around Ampara
Gamini Thissa Monastery Complex
Located in nearby Mottagala, the Gamini-Thissa Monastery complex, built in the 3rd century BC rapidly became an important settlement in eastern Sri Lanka. History enthusiasts will definitely notice the inscriptions in this area, written in the pre-Brahmi script especially on Mottayakallu rock. Pillars, Stupas and foundations of ancient constructions abound in this once-glorious land.
If you are around here for a day or two, you can explore other places around such as Bandaraduwa, the Gonagolla Monastery and the Madana Kanda Monastery in Uhana.
Pannathgoda Purana Raja Maha Viharaya at Dewallahinda
This temple on a small hill is archaeologically significant as it contains a carved map of Sri Lanka. Although the date of this carving is unknown, the geographic boundaries are perfectly represented. The area is quite beautiful and offers great opportunities for landscape photos.
Maha Oya Hot Water Springs
Famed for their healing properties, the hot water springs at Maha Oya, near Ampara, have been famous ever since the end of the thirty-year war. Here we find the hottest of all the natural springs in Sri Lanka with amenities well suited for a relaxing bath and some sightseeing. The water is crystal-clear and filtered naturally by sand and quartz.
You can purchase tickets for the hot-springs bath but keep in mind that soap and other additions are not allowed to keep away all sources of pollution.
Ampara has great beaches for tourists to enjoy
There is a wide choice of beaches to be enjoyed here. The best beaches are situated either around Batticaloa or around Aurgam Bay.
Wildlife parks and natural sites in Ampara
Gal Oya National Park
Located west of Ampara, the park covers an area of 64,000 hectares and includes several lakes including the huge Senanayake Samudra tank, which in itself is a photographer's dream. The place to go if you want to see wild elephants bathe.
Gal Oya is located in a dry zone, mainly under the influence of the northeast monsoon. Around 45% of the park is evergreen forest and a further 33% is savannah. The combination allows the visitor to see a variety of animals and birds. The most interesting part of the visit to the park is the boat ride that allows you to observe pachyderms in water. Elephants here can be spotted in herds of up to 150 individuals.
The Gal Oya Valley is very important in Sri Lankan history as it is said to have been the seat of Sinhalese kings at three different periods: King Tissa in the 2nd century, King Buvanekabahu in the 13th century and to King Dore Swamy in the 19th century. The Digha Vapi Dagoba dating back to the 2nd century BC is believed to be the last place where the Buddha was seated during his last trip to Sri Lanka. Henebedde Cave, further east, has several interesting relics. The mountainous region to the west is one of the last dwellings of the Veddas.
Activites for children in Ampara
Between Siyabalanduwa and Ampara lies the largest man-made reservoir in Sri Lanka. This area is lush with greenery. Take a leisurely boat ride around the reservoir and you might just see migratory birds nesting here. Sometimes wild elephants are seen around the catchment area.
During the boat ride, ask to be taken to the Gal Oya reserve, where the Gal Oya meets the reservoir. There is a natural whirlpool here and if your kids are lucky, they will see elephants swimming around the small islands!
Great things to see in Ampara
The Japanese Peace Pagoda
This pagoda is fairly recent, having been built only in 1988. The Stupa on the banks of the Ampara tank is influenced by Mahayana architecture. Built as a shrine to world peace by Nichidatsu Fujii, a Japanese monk, the pagoda stands to promote non-violence.
Remember to stick around till sunset to watch wild elephants crossing the surrounding area.