Beyond Hikkaduwa, the south coast presents a more laid-back and budget oriented face. Gateway to the region is the marvellous old Dutch city of Galle, Sri Lanka’s finest colonial townscape, which has been recently given a marvelous facelift. Beyond here a string of outstanding beaches remain largely the preserve of independent travelers. The foremost of these is at the personable village of Unawatuna, currently the island’s most popular backpacker hangout, whilst further along the coast are a string of quieter beaches including Weligama, Mirissa (most popular whale-watching destination) and Tangalla, as well as the lively provincial capital of Matara, boasting further Dutch remains. East of here, the newest metropolis in the south – Hambantota and the amenable town of Tissamaharama serves as a convenient base for the outstanding Yala and Bundala National Parks, and for the fascinating temple town of Kataragama, one of Sri Lanka’s most important pilgrimage destinations.