Lakes in Sri Lanka

Lakes in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has beautiful natural and man-made lakes. Rivers and lakes stem from the central highlands. Natural lakes are located around the highlands whereas the man-made lakes serve as a water reservoir in the dry months for both humans and wildlife.

Sri Lankan lakes are almost all man-made. Most of the lakes were made about 2000 years ago for irrigation purposes and as a reservoir for the dry season.

The lakes are important in the mostly-arid ecology of the isle. The water catchment has wider net of utility in the country. These lakes are used for irrigation, fishing and daily needs of the local community. We will discuss notable lakes recommended for tourists here.

Parakrama Samudarya (sea of Parakrama) is about a thousand years old covering 75 square kilometres. Parakrama Samudarya is located at Polonnaruwa. The big lake is a reservoir of water combining three ancient reservoirs and serves irrigation and fishing purposes. Parakrama Samudarya is one of the fishing lakes with large populations and diversity of fish.

Kala Wewa Lake is situated in Anuradhapura. This is one of the most ancient lakes in Sri Lanka build around 300 B.C. built by King Dhathusena.  This lake was originally a reservoir for irrigation and water needs of Anuradhapura city. There is a Buddha statue in a village on land between the lakes. The lake has seven square miles of area.

Tissa Wewa at Tissamaharama is another pre-Christ era lake built in the 3rd century B.C.E. This lake served domestic water needs for Tissamaharama and provided irrigation for neighbouring areas. Tissa Wewa stayed neglected till 1871 when British restored the lake and turned it into a dam. This rare oblique dam has a surface area of 652 acres. Advantage of visiting this lake is that you get many other historic monuments, mostly at an hour’s distance.

Udawalawe Dam is a lake located aside the Udawalawe National Park. This lake serves irrigation and fishing purposes and guarantees lush green neighbourhood around the year. Some part of the national park is situated on the land between the lake’s sections. For lake lovers, the scenery available here is very charming when seen in the neighbouring national park.

Beira Lake and Kandy Lake are two lakes that won’t ask you to go outside to enjoy the Sri Lankan lake beauty. Beira Lake in the heart of Colombo and Kandy Lake of Kandy city are two of the most approachable lakes in Sri Lanka with amazing facilities. There are many lake property options for these lakes where you can enjoy a night stay besides the lake. Lake entertainment and play like lake cycling and other lake sports.

Other recommended lakes include Bolgoda Lake, Diyawanna Oya Lake, Sembuwatta Lake and Ashwaubomay Lake. Ashwaubomay Lake is built for recreation and swimming. Perhaps it is the only clear lake for swimming as other lakes are filled with marine life.

Before you start exploring Sri Lanka lakes, here is a collection of lake maps that will guide you about where you should start and how should you plan your visit.



Minneriya Tank

Like many of the lakes in Sri Lanka, Minneriya Tank also has a very important history attached to it. Minneriya Tank is another one of the tanks that contributed to the ancient irrigation network in the Anuradhapura Era. Minneriya Tank was built by King Mahasen and the enormous lake spans for more than 4000 acres. This big lake gets its water supply from the Mahaweli River, which is the longest river in Sri Lanka. Even though it was built in ancient times, the lake is still used today by people living nearby. It is also a source of water for the animals that live in the reservoir as well as in the jungles of Minneriya.

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Sembuwatta Lake

Sembuwatta Lake is an artificial lake that is filled with natural spring water which can be found in the Matale district. This clear lake is said to be located on the western side of the Knuckles Mountain Range. Sembuwatta Lake currently belongs to a plantation that is situated nearby, but, according to the villagers, it had been one of the places where Europeans have played golf during the colonial era. It is advised against bathing or swimming in the lake since the lake is known to be very deep. However, there is a natural pool nearby which is safe for swimming. Lake lovers can enjoy the nature near the lake by camping overnight.

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Basawakkulama Wewa

Located in Anuradhapura, this tank is known as the first irrigational tank that was built in ancient Sri Lanka. Records say that it was Prince Anuradha who built this tank first. Prince Anuradha ruled Anuradhapura, giving his name as a namesake for the city. Later King Pandukabhaya enlarged the clear lake further and named it Abhayavapi, giving it the name of one of his uncles who reigned before him. As time passed, the name of the lake changed from its original name to Basawakkulama, but sometimes people still refer to it as Abhaya Wewa. When full, the Basawakkulama Wewa spans for 330 acres. Just like in the ancient times, the lake still functions perfectly, and is used to provide water for the neighboring people.

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Tissa Wewa

Tissa Wewa is located in Anuradhapura and is considered to be one the oldest artificially constructed tanks in Sri Lanka. This clear lake was built by King Devanampiya Tissa in the Anuradhapura Era to supply water to the people of this area, which was the capitol at that time. Spanning for 550 acres, This lake plays a major role in providing water for the peoples of Anuradhapura even today. Like most lakes and tanks of the ancient capitols, Tissa Wewa also has many villas and hotels built around it. Cycling on the bund is a great way to experience the biodiversity of the lake, as well as to visit other attractions like Isurumuniya, which is built nearby.

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Kala Wewa

Kala Waewa is one of the biggest lakes in Sri Lanka. Built in the Anuradhapura Era during the reign of King Dhathusena, Kala Wewa has many legends that are attached to it. this lake went under many restorations as the ages passed, but the clear lake is still used as a source of water for irrigational work by many of its neighbours. Other than irrigation, the big lake is also used for fishing by people who live in the area. Kala Wewa is one of the must see places in Anuradhapura, and it is used to feed many other lakes in the area as well.

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Kandy Lake

Kandy Lake is an important landmark in Kandy, and is situated in front of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. It was built by the last king of Sri Lanka, Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe. Even though it used to be a bigger lake in the past, the size has reduced for various reasons through the times. Lake lovers are welcome to take a boat ride around this clear lake, and there are other attractions on the lake property that travelers can visit. The island in the middle of the lake is one such attraction, and visitors can also explore the Queen’s bath and the Cloud Wall which is built around the lake.

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Beira Lake

Even though the Beira Lake was mostly used during the colonial era, the lake’s history goes a long way before that. Beira played a major role when it came to transporting goods within Colombo, where it can be found. This lake used to be much larger than it is now, but now spans for only 65 hectares. It was the Europeans who started to call this lake Beira, and the same name is used even today. Many corporations and other building are situated around the lake property and it is a wonderful sight to see in Colombo at night.

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Parakrama Samudraya

Parakrama Samudraya can be translated to mean The Sea of Parakrama. Parakrama, the namesake of the lake, was a sage king who was responsible for building this amazing lake, who reigned during the Polonnaruwa era. Built by interconnecting a few of the smaller lakes, Parakrama Samudraya still functions perfectly, and the clear lake is the source of water for many people who live in the area even today. There are many hotels and villas built around the lake, and by staying at places like this, travelers will be able to see the many animals which have made the lake its home, as well as locals fishing in the big lake on their boats.

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Bolgoda Lake

Bolgoda Lake is spread in a very large area in the Western Province of Sri Lanka and is known as a lake that has played a major role in transportation during the colonial era. This big lake is the home to a wide variety of animals and plants and a lot of guest houses and hotels can be seen situated around the lake. Lake lovers can stay in these villas to enjoy the beauty of the Bolgoda Lake and experience the biodiversity surrounding it. If a traveler wishes, a boat ride can be taken around the Lake, and thus will be able to experience fishing, bird watching, while also enjoying the beautiful scenery.

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Madu River

The Madu River is a very famous river in Sri Lanka, where locals and tourists visit throughout the year. Lake lovers visit this river to experience the river safari as well as to see the many different kinds of animals and plants that have made this River into their home. Madu River is a big lake covering a large area, and travelers can visit the many islets that they meet while on the safari. The inhabitants of these islets make a living by fishing and producing cinnamon oil. Travelers will also be able to experience the famous fish therapy and the Sri Lankan culture by taking a trip around the lakes.



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