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Forts and Lighthouses in Sri Lanka


First the ancient kings fortified the cities of the Northern plains to defend against invasions from South India and then with the onset of the marauding hordes of the western empires erected many forts and bastions along the coastal belt in Sri Lanka, garrisoned to defend against the Royal Sri Lankan forces in the hills and as a defence against the other empire building nations on the prowl in the Indian Ocean. Of the ancient fort only two remain in Sigiriya (UNESCO World Heritage) & Mapagala located south of Sigiriya.

Of the western bastions most were destroyed either in battle with Sri Lankan forces or each other and one account says the fort of Trinco known as fort Fredrick changed hands from the Sinhala to Hollanders to English then the French Admiral De Saffren defeated the English in an epic battle in Trinco, only to hand the fort back to The British after the Paris treaty was signed in Europe after the Napoleonic wars in Europe.

Today only a handful of the 36 Original forts remains and most are in ruins with the exception of Galle (UNESCO World Heritage), Matara star fort, Tangalle, Martello tower, Baitticaloa, Fort Fredrick Trinco, Poonaryn Fort Jaffna remains in more or less good conditions but will fall to ruin if restoration is not carried out.


A tower or building designed to warn or guide ship using light in the recent times and oil fires in the ancient, was used by mariners as well as explorers alike as guides. Generally they were utilized to mark hazardous coastlines, coral reefs which posed grave dangers to wooden hulled ships of the ancient times, till the advent of the modern steel hulled ships.

The Colonial era saw the building of 25 lighthouses being built in aid of navigation under the British with the oldest being the now defunct Clock tower (1829) which stand designated as a monument in the heart of Colombo. The tallest being “Dondra head” in Devundara south of the island and standing 50m tall and magnificent, the loneliest lighthouses of Sri Lanka are the Great Basses some 15 km off the shores of Yala and another 14 more functioning lighthouses and their “Wickie’s” are the keepers are affectionately known, solemn and proud as the towers they serve, are very much places to enjoy glorious sunsets and panoramic views from dizzying heights.

Popular Forts and Lighthouses in Sri Lanka