This was once the passage to India. Until 1990 ferries departed to Rameswaram in India from this tiny port on the island’s western extreme. But those days are long gone – the last ferry departed in 1994, with a load of refugees fleeing the violence.
Today you feel at the end of the world here. A lonely lighthouse stands near the old rusty ferry pier. There are some sunken fishing boats among the working ones. There are few people about and no services, but signs describe the local history, and the views over the turquoise water are alluring.
Offshore is Adam’s Bridge – a chain of reefs, sandbanks and islets that nearly connects Sri Lanka to the Indian subcontinent. In the Ramayana these were the stepping stones that the monkey king Hanuman used in his bid to help rescue Rama’s wife Sita from Rawana, the demon king of Lanka.
The narrow beach around the old pier is OK for swimming. It’s better at the village of Urumale, 1km east of the lighthouse, where fishermen specialize in catching stingrays – you’ll see (and smell) chunks drying in the sun here. Boats line the beach in front of the village, but there are empty sands a short walk away to the east.