Tying touristic characteristics to remote, diminutive towns is a practice less than usually observed. ‘Travel’ brings to mind those world-acclaimed heritage sites, eclectic big cities and almost inescapably, Europe.

Sri Lanka’s Arugam Bay, a dainty little town pinned to the Southeastern Coast of the country, has acquired itself a place amidst the few remote towns that serve the aesthetic of touristry, and this is not solely owing to its fame in being an internationally recognized surfing joint nestled among hotels, but also to the certain pastoral township distinctive of the tropical small town, composed of thatched cabanas and quaint restaurants, peculiar rock formations jutting into the sea, national parks, historical landmarks, and last but not the least, its glorious sunsets.

Tokens of Times Bygone

Arugam Bay is one of those profuse settings in Sri Lanka where the country’s palatial history had left its traces for the world to behold.

Standing undefeated by challenges of time within the region, specifically in the town of Pottuvil, is the Muhudu Maha Viharaya—coined “Temple of the Ocean” in this tongue—both a religious site constructed under the direction of King Kavan Tissa in the heydays of the Ruhuna Kingdom, and an indication of the state of civilization as of over twenty centuries ago.

Murky stupas and statues of the Buddha and other deities, ruins, and leftovers of remnants of ancient livelihood—including a urinal made of stone—mark the site, along with statues of the King Kavan Tissa and his queen Vihara Mahadevi, the survivor-turned-sacrificial-offering of her father, the King Kelani Tissa, to the goddesses of a sea in turmoil.

Besides the detriments of a kingdom, forty-five minutes off the center of Arugam Bay is a monastery referred to as Kudimbigala, an array of caves built into the chill of a forest, inside the tranquil shelters of which monks from the first century BC had been living out their lives of sworn devotion.

Braided Into Nature

Nature and Arugam Bay thrive so close to each other that perception often recognizes the two as a single being.

With sunbathed beaches carpeted with soft, pale sands hugging the easy, blue ocean, and the Lahugala Kithulana Park with its community of exotic birds and herds of scrubland animals nearby, with lagoons and natural viewpoints uplifting its own touristry, Arugam Bay never disappoints those whose hearts leap at nature.

Being so in touch with nature has opened up a drove of rewarding activities that would replenish a traveler’s soul: a twenty-minute drive from Arugam Bay brings one the Elephant Rock, a formation in the shape of its namesake that looms over a gorgeous lagoon—the unparalleled spot to experience an unblocked view of a splendid sundown. It goes without saying that Arugam Bay is a surfer’s paradise, with local and global surf aficionados flocking to Main and Whiskey Points knowing they will not go home with their spirits cold. Early mornings and mid-afternoons can be filled with safaris to the Kumana and Lahugala National Parks that are close by, and swimming in the gentle waves is only one favored water activity in a list of those where paddleboarding and snorkeling are inherently popular.

For the Chowhounds

Peanut Farm Beach is another site adored by surfers and travelers alike; not that the peanut farm that used to run in the place has survived, but its vacant buildings have been bestowed the liveliness of waterfront restaurants. Speaking of which, Arugam Bay is a hub for a unique array of multifarious idyllic food joints that one could hardly expect to find elsewhere in the country.

The unmatched menus listing multicultural cuisines play only part the role in summoning in the hordes that venture into Arugam Bay’s eating houses; the shops’ rustic, creative, and modestly chic appearances are owed as well. Arugam Bay is a hotspot for treehouses and oceanfront cabanas, brunch cafés, serene coffee shops delivering fine cups of freshly-brewed caffeine delicacies from beans acquired straight from the coffee plantations while highly rated hotels and restaurants keep the nights alive with the breath of good food.

All in all, Arugam Bay is so spirited in character that forgetting it is a tiny coastal town on the margin of the country is never improbable. Its simplicity in itself, however, is its attractive quirk, and dropping by for a visit—if only to try a hand at surfing or a sit-down through a meal at one of its food joints—is a reward one’s mind, body, and soul all deserve alike.

By Rebecca Mischelle