Ten kilometres south of Colombo Fort, the leafy beachside suburb of Mount Lavinia is bounded by the small headland that is one of the few punctuating features on the coastline near the capital. The area supposedly takes its name from a certain Lavinia, the lady friend of British Governor Sir Thomas Maitland, who himself established a residence here in 1806.
Maitland’s residence was subsequently expanded by successive governors before being turned into the Mount Lavinia Hotel, now one of the most venerable colonial landmarks in Sri Lanka and the main reason most foreign visitors come here. Even if you can’t afford to stay at the hotel, there are a few other pleasant small-scale guesthouses nearby, and the suburb’s proximity to the international airport makes it a handy first or last stop on a tour of the island Mount Lavinia is also home to Colombo’s closest decent beach, and on Sunday afternoons half the city seems to come here to splash around in the water, play cricket .
The proximity of the city means It’s not an idyllic tropical seashore for swimming, but does have a decent stretch of sand and a certain scruffy charm, especially at night, with the lights of the towers in central Colombo twinkling away to the north, and the more modest illuminations of the Mount Lavinia Hotel framing the beach to the south.
Mount Lavinia has a good spread of places to eat, some of them quite swish. Both the beach and the Mount Lavinia Hotel are attractive spots for an evening meal, although it’s a bit of a trek down the Galle Road unless you’re staying in one of the southern suburbs. Plenty of taxi and tuktuk drivers hang out around the hotel until late at night, so you won’t have any problems getting home.