Tour guide to Moneragala Sri Lanka !
Often a traveller’s first stop in east Sri Lanka, Moneragala, meaning “Rock of peacock landing”, is a charming town located at the foot of forests and hills.
A quiet and authentic Sri Lankan town, Moneragala is a good introduction to the hidden spots of East Sri Lanka. In fact, if you are travelling to Arugam Bay, Moneragala can be a transit stop on the way.
If you happen to be here on a Sunday, do not miss the Sunday Market that is well worth a visit!
How to get to Moneragala and how to move around
Moneragala is quite tucked away and as such can only be reached by road. Thankfully, buses are fairly frequent and you can take them from many nearby destinations. Buses to and from Colombo ply once every hour. Tickets are quite cheap as these are not luxury coaches.
Top tourist attractions in Moneragala
This little town does not have anything particular that can be of unique interest in Sri Lanka. However, it offers a good glimpse of traditional village/town life in Sri Lanka that can also become vibrant on festive days. The hills around Moneragala are suitable for interesting hikes and you can avail the help of trackers to learn more about the endemic flora and fauna.
Places to visit around Moneragala
A short ride from Moneragala town, Maligawila is a shady and untouched forest and village area. Here stand two statues from the 7th century amidst the trees. One of the statutes, about 11 metres high and representing the Buddha in a pose similar to the one in Avukana, is considered to be the tallest free-standing statue in the world.
The 10 metre-high Maitreya Bodhisattva or Avalokiteswara was reconstructed from over a 100 pieces patiently discovered half a century ago. The statue is protected from rain and shine by a tin shed that tends to foil any attempt to take a beautiful photo.
This area, surrounded by paddy fields and jungles, will give you a great opportunity to observe rural Sri Lanka as well. Admission is free. If you are not travelling by private transport, there are quite a few buses to take you there from Moneragala town.
You can visit rubber plantations in Moneragala
A quick hike through the town and surrounding greenery of Moneragala can be most refreshing! Starting from the bus station, you can walk to the local Ganesh temple known best for its bright colours and follow the trail to see the rubber factory and adjoining rubber plantations.
Where to admire wildlife around Moneragala
Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya lies north of Moneragala, towards Batticaloa. If you want to see wild elephants bathe, then this is the place to go. 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.
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 in three different places: 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 said to be the last place where Buddha was seated during his last trip to Sri Lanka. Henebedde Cave, further east, has several interesting relics. The mountainous region to the west was one of the last dwellings of the Veddhas.
Great things to see in Moneragala
For those who enjoy trekking, hiking and other adventure sports, the hike from Moneragala to Peacock Rock is time well-spent. This rock is at the summit of the hills, while Moneragala town is at the foothills. The entire trek takes about 6 hours but since there are no marked trails you should request your hotel to provide you with a guide. The trek and guide will cost between Rs.800 and Rs.1000.
Although physically taxing, the view from the top is amazing. In fact, on a clear day, you can see the seas down at Arugam Bay from up here!