Top 10 Things to Do in Tissamaharama That You Shouldn’t Miss

Tissamaharama is a quaint town in the Hambantota district of Sri Lanka, which mainly serves as the starting point for Yala National Park, Bundala National Park safaris and the Katharagama Pilgrimage for the visitors. When I was in Tissamaharama, I was blown away by the beauty of the Tissawewa lake. But quickly realized that this little town has much more to offer and its a paradise for the bird lovers. Here is my list of top 10 things to do in Tissamaharama and nearby places that you shouldn’t miss when you are next time in town.

1. Boat ride at Tissa Wewa Lake

Two shades of Tissa Wewa lake
Two shades of Tissa Wewa lake

Tissa Wewa reservoir/artificial lake is the center of attraction of the quaint town of Tissamaharama. One of the best things to do in Tissamaharama is to enjoy a soothing boat ride on the lake among the lotus plants in the evening. Observe the flocks of migratory birds and the fruit bat colony hanging from the trees.

There is a wide lakeside walkway along the southern edge perfect for evening strolls. I have seen locals swim in the lake but don’t be tempted to do the same as crocodiles have been spotted here sometimes.

2. Visit Yatala Wehera

Visit Yatala Wehera Buddhist Stupa
Visit Yatala Wehera Buddhist Stupa | Picture Credit: Flickr

This is an ancient Buddhist stupa believed to have been built 2300 years ago by King Mahanaga in gratitude for the birth of his son Yatala Tissa as well as for his narrow escape from an assassination attempt in Anuradhapura. You can see a traditional moonstone inside the stupa which is fenced by a sculptured wall with elegant details of elephant heads. The entire place exudes a sense of calm and tranquility. This is one of the beautiful places in Sri Lanka to visit.

There is a small museum right next to Yatala Wehera, containing an astonishing range of treasures including a baroque antique bidet, which has murals of ugly faces carved into it in order to stop the user from thinking about his/her sexual desires.

3. Visit Tissamaharma Dagoba

Often famously known only as Tissa Dagoba, this beautiful dagoba is allegedly built by Kavantissa, a king of Ruhunu in the 200 BC and now restored to its original glory. It is one of the sixteen most sacred sites (Solosmasthana) in the country for the Buddhist pilgrims. The dagoba has a circumference of 165m & stands 55.8m high and is enshrined with holy tooth relic & forehead bone relic of Buddha.

Next to the dagoba is a statue of the brave Queen Viharamahadevi, wife of King Kavantissa. She bore him two sons: Dutugemunu and Saddhatissa. Kind Dutugemunu is one of the greatest heroes of Sri Lanka, while Queen Viharamahadevi herself is renowned as a great heroine of Sri Lanka.

4. Visit Sandagiri Wehera dagoba

Another beautiful dagoba in the complex of Tissa dagoba is Sandagiri Wehera dagoba and the remains of a monastery complex believed to date back around 2000 years. Further down about half a km, there is another small dagoba by the name of Menik Dagoba. Both are believed to have been built by the King Mahanaga in the 3rd century BC to provide residence to the monks in Tissamaharama.

5. Visit Wirawila Bird Sanctuary

All bird watchers/lovers must  visit the Wirawila bird sanctuary
All bird watchers/lovers must visit the Wirawila bird sanctuary | Picture Credit: Hayleystours

If you love bird watching like me, I would suggest you visit the Wirawila bird sanctuary once during your stay here and capture beautiful migratory birds through your lenses. Each year many migratory birds including the aquatic species come to the Wirawila Bird Sanctuary to roost and nest due to Wirawila Tank and the Tissa Tank.

Don’t forget to see the sunset at Wirawila Lake. Situated a little farther away from Tissawewa Lake, Wirawila Lake is a heaven for bird waters and is covered with dainty water lilies.

6. Casually stroll around the Debarawewa Lake

Casually stroll around the Debarawewa Lake
Stroll in the lush greenery of Debarawewa Lake | Picture Credit: Flickr

Debarawewa Lake is yet another beautiful water reservoir situated adjacent to the Tissawewa Lake in the town named Debarawewa, which literally translates to “lake of wasps”. The water buffalo and their attendant egrets mooch around the lily-covered lake occasionally paying attention to the visitors. There are occasional crocodiles and lots of different birds to be seen from the lake shorelines.

Read More: A Travel Guide to Kirinda, the origin of a famous legend of Sri Lanka

7. Canoeing in Yodakandiya Lake

Canoeing in Yodakandiya Lake
Canoeing is such a fun activity! | Picture Credit: Flickr

Canoe in the scenic lake of Yodakandiya in Tissamaharama to see beautiful islands, lake fishermen and many sights of the locality. This lake is also a good spot for glamping(glamorous camping) in Tissamaharama. I highly suggest you add this to your things to do in Tissamaharama bucket list.

8. Get lost in Bundala Birds Paradise

Get lost in Bundala Birds Paradise
Get lost in Bundala Birds Paradise | Picture Credit: Flickr

Bundala National Park is a paradise for bird lovers. More than 200 bird species have been recorded to migrate to Sri Lanka from the North. In contrast to the Yala National Park, this is a less-traveled spot so the roads are not as much rutty, which makes for a great safari experience.

9. Go for Yala National Park Safari

Spotted a few elephants at our Yala National Park Safari
Spotted a few elephants at our Yala National Park Safari

Staying in Tissamaharama will be very helpful if you want to do early morning safari in Yala National Park. A former hunting reserve, which was transformed into a nature park in 1938, Yala National Park is presently home to over 390 elephants, several of which are tuskers, and about 120 leopards, reportedly the highest density of leopards in the wild anywhere in the world. Watching elephants go for their bath at sunset or seeing leopards idle about on the rocks at dusk are the most prevalent natural spectacles at Yala National Park. You can stay in a luxury treehouse and share stories around a campfire.

10. Take a walk through the Kirinda Fishing Village

A beautiful Kirinda beach
A beautiful Kirinda beach | Picture Credit: Flickr

You can visit Kirinda fisheries harbor to get a firsthand experience on how fishermen bring their catch of the day to the island and sell them to the fish traders. While walking through the village, a visit to the historical Kirinda Vihara Maha Devi temple is a must. It is dedicated to Queen Viharamahadevi, who is at the heart of a local legend.

The legend says that when raging waters threatened the kingdom of Kelaniya, King Kelanitissa ordered his youngest daughter, then a princess, to get into a boat as a sacrifice to appease the Gods. Immediately after her boat sailed away from the island, the waters calmed down and the princess miraculously survived. Meanwhile, the young princess finally reached ashore, at a spot known as Dovera in Kirinda which was a quite prosperous area ruled by King Kavantissa. King Kavantissa upon hearing about her valor, married her and she bore him two sons: Dutugemunu and Saddhatissa.

If you have only a day to stop and relax in Tissamaharama before an early day at the Yala National Park or Bundala National Park, I would suggest you explore the town which is dominated by ancient Buddhist temples as well as an archeological museum that provides a glimpse into the ancient Ruhunu kingdom.

Have you been to Tissamaharama before? Tell us which spot in the town is your favorite and why? If you like my post, share it with your friends and family.

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13 thoughts on “Top 10 Things to Do in Tissamaharama That You Shouldn’t Miss

  1. Alysa Reply

    I feel like all I’ve seen of Sri Lanka is that famous blue train, but there is so much more to it! The Bird Sanctuary sounds and looks incredible. It seems as if Sri Lanka really is an incredible nature destination.

  2. Trijit Reply

    I am really surprised that I haven’t visited this place inspite of staying in a neighbouring country. The way you described Tissamahrama is really splendid and the pictures are amazing.

  3. Sophie van der Meulen Reply

    Wow, this is stunning! I was in Sri Lanka a few years ago but sadly didn’t get to see this. I might just have to go back now 😉

  4. Viaje ni Bree Reply

    I’ve seen and heard a lot of good things about Sri Lanka. The stupa looks interesting! And yes, I agree that the lake is stunning. I love nature trips like this one. 🙂

  5. Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions Reply

    Wow, all of these activities look amazing! Sri Lanka has been on my radar for a while now, and this just makes me want to go even more. I’ve never heard of Tissamaharama but I can see why you recommend it! The birds are incredibly beautiful and the Kirinda Fishing Village does look like a must-see.

  6. Yukti Agrawal Reply

    First of all, I must say, your first photo of two little birds are very romantic and so natural. Tissamaharama is really a quaint town and looks very less crowded by tourists. I really want to get lost in Bundala Birds Paradise as to capture natural shots of cute birds must be really fun here.

  7. Emma Reply

    There are so many beautiful and unique birds here. Great pictures. This definitely feels like an outdoor place with lots to see. Great list, I would love to visit one day

    1. Anwesha Guha Reply

      I hope you do. Tissamaharama won my heart.

  8. Margarita Reply

    What a fantastic wildlife watching destination! I didn’t realize there were such excellent birding spots nearby. So often one big destination completely overshadows all the other amazing places in the area. Thank you for revealing the other spots 🙂

    1. Anwesha Guha Reply

      Very true Margarita. Often one big destination like Yala overshadows all the other amazing places like Tissamaharama or Kirinda.

  9. Meghan Emcee Reply

    So many beautiful birds to see! I love all the wildlife in the area, thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Jennifer Mostert Reply

    One of my friends returned from Sri Lanka in December, and she has raved so much about it that when we can we plan to visit. Thank you for telling us about this beautiful of the beaten track place. I can’t wait to visit.

  11. Alma Reply

    Tissamaharama certainly looks worth exploring and those birds are beautiful!

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