The sprawling town of Negombo is of interest mainly thanks to its proximity to the international airport, just 10km down the road — many visitors stagger off long-haul flights straight into one of the beach hotels here, or use the town as a last stop before flying home; it’s also a good place to arrange onward tours and transport, and is convenient for boat trips to the wildlife-rich wetlands of Muthurajawela, just south of town.
Negombo’s beach is very wide in places, and the coastline has become a very popular beach resort with numerous luxurious hotels being built alongside.
Ancient history and settlement.
Thanks to its position between the rich ocean waters and the Negombo Lagoon inland, Negombo has also developed into one of the most important fishing ports on the island. Fishing still dominates the local economy, with the sea providing plentiful supplies of tuna, shark and seer, while the lagoon is the source of some of the island’s finest prawns, crabs and lobster.
Negombo is also the heartland of Christian Sri Lanka, as borne out by the enormous churches and florid wayside Catholic shrines scattered about the town and its environs. The people of Negombo are Karavas, Tamil fishermen who converted en masse to Catholicism during the mid-sixteenth century under the influence of Portuguese missionaries, taking Portuguese surnames and becoming the first of Sri Lanka’s innumerable de Silvas, de Soysas, Mendises and Pereras. The Dutch made the town an important commercial centre, building a canal (and a fort to guard it) on which spices – particularly cinnamon, which grew profusely in the surrounding areas – were transported from the interior to the coast prior to being shipped abroad. The Dutch captured the town from the Portuguese in 1640, lost it again in the same year, then captured it again in 1644. The British then took it from them in 1796 without a struggle. Negombo was one of the most important sources of cinnamon during the Dutch era, and there are still reminders of the European days