South (Galle)

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Distance from Colombo: 116 km

Galle is the major city in the South Coast and was founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese. Galle’s geographical location on world sea routes made it an important port of call between the Middle East and the Orient. Its oldest landmark is the massive Portuguese and Dutch fort in which the central city is contained. The Galle Fort also known as the Dutch Fort or the “Ramparts of Galle” was built first by the Portuguese in 1588 and then, extensively fortified by the Dutch from 1694 onwards. This is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and Southeast Asia and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by the European occupiers.

The Galle fort is a historical, archeological and architectural monument and has been inscribed as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO.

A walk around the fortification that surrounds the modern city of Galle is a pleasant way to pass the morning or early evening at sunset. One can enjoy the old canon mounts, the light house and many Old Dutch buildings that are still intact inside the fort. Colonial mansions preserved as private residencies, spacious and airy, with large ornamental doors and windows, pillared verandahs and cool inner courtyards are still visible to this day with some of the most famous being Closenberg, Eddystone, Armitage Hill, Mount Pleasant & Buona Vista. The narrow streets within the fort still have their original names such as Leyn-Baan Street, Zeeberg Street and Moderabaay street.

Some of the important heritage sites within the fort are: The Dutch Reformed Church built in 1640. The major highlight of the building is there are no pillars inside and the weight of the roof is supported by the walls. The old Dutch government house; the Dutch Museum with paintings, documents, furniture and ceramics from the Dutch colonial era; the National Maritime Museum; residence of the Commander; Great Warehouse built around 1669 to store spices, ship equipment and so forth; the Meera Mosque built in 1904; the All Saints Anglican Church built in 1871, and the Clock Tower dated 1707.

Streets of Galle Fort are lined with colorful boutiques selling both antiquities and modern arts; abstract paintings, silverware, handicrafts, gems & jewelry, hand-made lace, handlooms and batiks. One will also come across may guest houses, hotels and restaurants lining the streets closer to the beach area.

The Galle fort area today is also popular amongst the artists, designers, writers, poets both local and foreign and is now taking the shape of an arts village. One of the popular annual events held in the city is the Galle Literary Festival. The event initially launched by an expat in the aftermath of the tsunami to restore foreign interest in Sri Lanka has now continued its run for the fifth consecutive year. Like minded people from all over the world take part in the event, including famous writers & poets, where they engage in numerous workshops, book reading event and competitions.

Other sites to visit around the city of Galle are Koggala; hometown of Martin Wickramasinghe, a famous local writer. The museum of Folk, Art & Culture built in his honor at his old residence has an excellent display of local folk items, including costumes of folk dancers, household items & furniture that describe the folk lifestyle of the early 20th century. One can also take a boat trip in the Koggala lagoon with many of its small islands and engage is some bird watching.

Another hot spot just 5 km away from Galle is Unawatuna bay, which is major tourist attraction and is famous for its beautiful beach. Unawatuna is rich in its biodiversity and is a great attraction for eco-tourism. The bay provides safe swimming, snorkeling & diving, with a number of coral reefs, shipwrecks, and a great variety of fish and turtles to see.

For the Whale & Dolphin lovers, a famous spot in the Island’s south coast is Mirissa which is situated a few miles away from Galle. A high concentration of Blue Whales and Sperm Whales has being seen sighted in this area, making it by far the best place for one to catch a glimpse of these graceful giants. One may also have the opportunity to spot Spinner Dolphins towards the point of Dondra. The best months for sightings are during December to April, with early morning trips being the most suited.

Places of Interest
  • Galle Fort
  • Dutch Reformed Church
  • Dutch Museum
  • Meera Mosque
  • Koggala Lagoon
  • Martin Wickramasinghe Museum
  • Dolphin & Whale watching
  • Colonial Mansions
  • Dutch government house
  • National Maritime Museum
  • Clock Tower
  • Unawatuna Bay
  • All Saints Anglican Church