It is a charming village with lots of scenery and some ancient archaeological ruins.

can be reached by the A2 Southern main road travelling via Galle and Hambantota. You can also take the Southern Expressway up to Galle and then travel further South to reach the town.

TISSAMAHARAMA (usually abbreviated to Tissa). Tissa’s main attraction is as a base for trips to the nearby national parks of Yala and Bundala or the temple town of Kataragama, but it’s an agreeable place in its own right, with a handful of monuments testifying to the town’s important place in early Sri Lankan history when, under the name of Mahagama, it was one of the principal settlements of the southern province of Ruhunu. Mahagama is said to have been founded in the third century BC by a brother of the great Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura, and later rose to prominence Under Kavan Tissa, father of the legendary Dutugemunu. A cluster of dagobas and an expansive tank dating from this era lend parts of Tissa a certain distinction and a sense of history which makes a pleasant change from the run-of-the-mill towns which dot much of the southern coast.

Modern Tissa is a bustling but unremarkable local commercial centre – essentially a single thoroughfare, Main Street, lined with banks, shops and little caf├ęs. Refreshingly compact, the town is bounded on its northern side by a lush expanse of paddy fields, in the middle of which stands the most impressive of Tissa’s various dagobas, the Tissamaharama dagoba, allegedly built by Kavan Tissa in the second century BC and now restored to its original glory, with a “bubble”-shaped dome topped by an unusually large and lavishly decorated harmika and broad spire – a strangely squat and top-heavy-looking construction quite unlike any other dagoba in the island.

A second, much more obviously ancient dagoba, the Sandagiri dagoba, stands close by (currently covered in scaffolding) comprising a big, square, high brick base and a slope-shouldered dagoba in the “heap-of-paddy” shape (see Structure and shape), although the harmika has completely vanished. The scant remains of the monastery which formerly stood here can be seen scattered hereabouts.

Between the northern & southern turn-offs to Tissa, the Hambantota Wellawaya road runs on a causeway across the large Wirawila Wewa (Reservoir). The best time for bird watching is early morning.


Tissa Wewa
North of the modern town lies the beautiful Tissa Wewa, an expansive artificial lake built by King Kavantissa in the 2nd century BC of the ancient southern kingdom of Ruhuna. The shore nearest the town is often busy with crowds of people bathing & flock of aquatic birds including bitterns, herons & egrets skimming across the waters. A beautiful walk leads along the massive bund (embankment) which encloses the lake's southern shore, shaded by a procession of majestic old trees. At the far end, a track leads to the smaller adjacent man-made lake of Deberawewa, another haven for birdlife, its surface prettily covered in water lilies.

Tissa Maha Dagoba (Tissa great stupa)
Most impressive is the restored Maha Stupa, built by King Kavantissa in the 3rd century BC located between Tissa town centre and the tank. It was the largest dagoba in the island at the time. Today, for Buddhist pilgrims, it is one of the sixteen most sacred sites (Solosmasthana) in the country. The dagoba has a circumference of 165m & stands 55.8m high, and is enshrined with sacred tooth relic & forehead bone relic of Buddha.

Sandagiri Dagoba
Nearby stands the Sandagiri Dagoba, together with the remains of a monastery complex. A walk around the dagoba provides us with an insight into the construction of the great dagobas. Santagiri (or Sandagiri) dagoba, too was built by Kavantissa in the second century BC & now restored to its original glory. By the Tissa-Deberawewa road is Yatala Wehera, built 2300 years ago by King Yatalatissa with its surrounding wall of sculpted elephant heads & moat and large moonstone. There is also a large monolith with scorings on one face that are believed to have been made by chains used to tether royal elephants. You will also witness a small cluster of pillars you pass en route is all that remains of the Galkanumandiya, thought to be some kind of monastic building.