With its Colonial design and Dutch architectural influences, the historic and colonial town of Galle is situated on the southern coast of Sri Lanka; a walled town overlooking the sandy shores, magnificent ocean views and streets lined with vibrant and chic cafes, boutiques and restaurants. Needless to say Galle is the pride of the south.
Galle, is a historic city and is renowned for the Galle Fort; a UNESCO world heritage site which even at present remains to be the largest fortress in Asia. This city is endowed with the alluring architectural styles of the Portuguese and the Dutch. When strolling around the busy and vibrant streets of Galle you will come across the natural harbour; which was once the main port of Sri Lanka during the ancient times, various religious sites, museums and other splendid and magnificent locations and buildings.
The sea turtle hatchery in Habaraduwa; a non-profit organization working tirelessly in order to protect turtle species, the Koggala lake, the Kanneliya rain forest with its rich biodiversity, the Unawatuna beach with its splendid coast and corals, and Dooli Ella are some significant places of interest in close proximity while Bentota, Andahelena water fall and Hikkaduwa are some other places of interest for all the adrenaline junkies to satiate themselves with the thrill of engaging in water sports.
As claimed by the ‘Ramayana’ (an Indian epic poem), Rummasala is a part of the Himalayan Mountain range in India and is yet another heavenly wonder. When you reach the top of this hill you will be undoubtedly blessed with a bird’s-eye view of the southern coast.
The Galle International Stadium is another major landmark as it is considered to be one of the most scenic cricket grounds not only in Sri Lanka but in the whole world, and is undeniably the place to be in if you wish to enjoy a good game of test cricket.
Without a shadow of doubt, Galle can be named as one of the most captivating and enthralling places in Sri Lanka with its colonial architecture and timeless attractions.
The Galle port was an important seaport in the past and it is believed that Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Chinese, Romans, Malays and Indians have carried out trading activities through this port. According to historians, Galle could be the city of Tarshish, from where King Solomon came into possession of gems, ivory and spices.
When the Portuguese fleet of ships en route to Maldives was blown off the correct route as a result of a storm, the Portuguese, led by Lourenco de Almeida landed in Galle and eventually invaded this city. It was the Portuguese who first constructed the very first fortification. The Dutch then took over control of this city from the Portuguese and proceeded on to build and expand the Galle fort. When the British took over, after defeating the Dutch, Galle became an administrative capital. The Galle port eventually lost its importance as the Colombo port gained more prominence for trading activities. Over the years the Galle fort has undergone many changes but still displays the colonial Dutch style.
The name Galle seems to have been derived from the Sinhala word ‘Gaala’ which means the place where cattle are herded after long and tiresome journeys. Another belief is that the name has been derived from the Dutch word ‘Gallus” which means rooster and because the Dutch had used the rooster as a symbol of Galle.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are various modes of travel in order to reach Galle from Colombo.
By road: the most leisurely way to reach Galle would be by renting a vehicle. In order to reach the destination from Colombo, it would take approximately about an hour and a half if you take the Southern expressway (E01). The longer route along the Galle road would take approximately 3 hours, but is more picturesque and scenic.
By bus: once you board the bus from Colombo it would take nearly 4 hours in order to reach Galle. Although travelling by bus would be tiresome it is the cheapest way. On the way you would pass cities such as Wadduwa, Beruwala, Bentota, and Hikkaduwa. The No. 2 bus going directly to Galle or Matara, or the No. 32 bus going up to Tangalle or Kataragama are some options for those who wish to travel by bus. While many buses are available during the day time, only a few buses leave Colombo during the night.
By train: another option to travel to Galle is by train. Since there are many trains going to and fro between Galle and Colombo almost every day, it is an easy option. The train journey from Colombo fort to Galle would take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, and will make stops at Kaluthara, Aluthgama, Kosgoda, Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa before arriving at the destination.
By air: although this is the most expensive mode of travel it is also the fastest way to get there. It is important to note that there is no direct flight to Galle from Colombo. The flights operated by Cinnamon Air will leave Katunayake and will make a short stop at Dickwella, before resuming the journey to Koggala. From Koggala you can either rent a vehicle or take a taxi to reach Galle.
From Kandy: the most effortless way to reach Galle from Kandy is by air. For this purpose, you could either, taxi to Katugastota and fly to Koggala on Sri Lankan Airlines or taxi to Hatton and fly to Koggala on Cinnamon Air, and then taxi to Galle. Other possible options would be to travel by train to Galle via Maharagama or to taxi or drive by renting a car via the A1 (Colombo-Kandy), before proceeding on to the Southern Expressway (E01).
From Kataragama: in order to reach Galle from Kataragama, you could either fly, take a bus and taxi or drive in a rented vehicle. There are plenty of options to choose from if you wish to fly since Sri Lankan Airlines provide domestic flight services from Weerawila and Hambantota, to Koggala. Also both Sri Lankan airlines and Cinnamon Air offer flight services from Hambantota to Dickwella and Dickwella to Koggala. The fastest route to drive is via Colombo- Galle- Hambantota- Wellawaya highway (A2).
Vehicle and taxi arrangements or flight bookings can be made for you by our tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays.
There is no specific time that can be referred to as the best time to visit Galle since it is an all year round destination. The temperature shows no large fluctuations and ranges between 25 degrees Celsius to 31 degrees Celsius.
FOOD AND DRINK
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants in Galle ranging from fine dining to street food, and is undoubtedly noted for its seafood and fusion cuisines. While the majority of the population are Sinhalese, a minority referred to as Sri Lankan Moors too reside in this area (believed to be descendants of the Arabian Seafarers), and this influence can be seen in their food. According to tourist reviews, some of the best restaurants are ‘Fort Printers’, ‘Chambers’, ‘Church Street Social’, ‘Fortaleza’, ‘Poonie’s kitchen’, ‘The Bungalow Galle Fort’, ‘The calorie counter’ (Galle Fort), ‘Amangalla’, ‘Nihal’s (Jetwing Lighthouse club)’, ‘Crepe-ology’ and ‘The Galle Fort Hotel’. The restaurants and cafes in the Old Dutch Hospital such as the ‘Sugar Bistro’, ‘the Tuna and the Crab’, ‘Starbeans’ and ‘A minute by Tuk Tuk’ are some other sought-after restaurants in Galle. If you wish to enjoy some delicious and fresh ice-cream with a great selection of flavors and bite into a crunchy cone, you will have to visit the gelato places like ‘Isle of Gelato’, ‘Pedlar’s Inn Gelato’ and ‘II Gelato’.
The Galle Fort Experience: A walled town surrounded by the ocean on three sides, the splendid fort was first built by the Portuguese, passed on to the hands of the Dutch before it ultimately fell into the hands of the British. This fort is a UNESCO world heritage site and to this date remains to be the largest fortress in Asia.
The Galle Harbour: A natural harbour with paramount importance since it was once the main port of the country through which trading activities took place. After the control of the country vested upon the hands of the British, this port lost its significance and at present remains to be one of the world’s best attractions for yachting.
Habaraduwa Turtle Hatchery: The ultimate place to be for all the nature and animal lovers. While there are a few hatcheries in the south, the motive is the same; to conserve sea turtles and prevent their extinction.
High tea at Amangalla: Enjoy an afternoon high tea served with fine snacks and pastries, a delectable dining experience looking over the Galle fort.
Koggala: A small coastal town within close proximity to Unawatuna, Koggala is famous for its rich biodiversity, tropical and splendid beaches, stilt fishing and important religious sites. The tea estate which produces the internationally acclaimed ‘White Tea’ is also located in Koggala.
Kanneliya Rainforest: Belonging to the KDN forest complex (announced as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO), this rainforest is the largest remaining rainforest in addition to Sinharaja Rainforest, and houses many endemic species of flora and fauna.
Andahelena Waterfall: the cascading rush of water, pounding through the rocks is an absolutely charming sight to witness and requires a difficult trek through the forest, which is definitely worth it.
Unawatuna: Yet another coastal town with a rich biodiversity, splendid beaches and corals is the perfect place to enjoy the sun, sand and sea, and also for swimming, snorkeling, diving and surfing.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve: A national park, a biosphere reserve and a world heritage site; the SInharaja Forest Reserve is home to a variety of endemic species.
Hikkaduwa: An exotic paradise with exquisite beaches, coral reefs, and a sunny and bubbly atmosphere. It is an ideal place for diving, snorkeling and surfing.
Whale and dolphin watching in Mirissa: Indulge in a world famous and phenomenal whale watching experience off the southern coast of Mirissa where plenty of whales and dolphins appear above the waters. Be lucky to catch a glimpse of the rare blue whale.