Jetting off to Sri Lanka? Lucky you. If you haven’t got your itinerary down pat, Galle is definitely a destination to be checked off your bucket list. Rich in history, brimming with cultural sites and boasting a unique ambience of its own, this seaside town is an unmissable sight. There’s a bevy of attractions waiting to be explored – and we’ve narrowed the list down to the absolute must dos.
Explore the Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts majestic fortifications and a diversity of architectural elements and street layouts. It’s also known for its alluring back streets and old world charm, and is ideal for exploring on foot.
A guided tour lets you get a feel for the town’s history and discover its hidden gems. Juliet Coombe’s popular Galle Fort Walking Tour offers several themes; a Meet the Artists tour introduces art enthusiasts to the local artist community, her variety of culinary tours are best suited for foodies and culture buffs will be regaled with tales of myths and legends in the Mystical Fort Tour.
Alternatively, stroll about the old town on your own. Start off from the Main Gate of the Fort, and wander down Church Street, Middle Street and Queen’s Street. Walk back through the gate to the east where you’ll find the Court Square and old Dutch Hospital. Follow on down to Leyn Baan Street and Pedlar’s Street. Continue on the path parallel to Rampart Street, past the Aeolus Bastion, Star Bastion and clock tower to return back to the Main Gate. Keep your eyes peeled for the stunning architecture of landmarks like the Amangalla, Galle Fort Hotel, Great Warehouse and Historical Mansion Museum.
Discover Galle’s historical and cultural gems
Historical and cultural gems are peppered all around the old town. Step into the National Maritime Archaeology Museum to pore through its collection of artifacts retrieved in underwater expeditions of shipwrecks – from maps and naval craft, to sailor shoes, guns, and beer mugs.
Located close by is the Dutch Reformed Church, a remarkable colonial building with tombstones built into the floors and walls. A skip away lies the All Saints’ Church; its majestic, beautifully preserved exterior offers great photo taking opportunities. Step in to explore the grounds of the church and soak up its peaceful ambience.
Along Leyn Baan Street, several minutes’ walk away from the All Saints’ Church stands the pristine, all-white structure of the Meeran Mosque. Constructed by Arab traders of the olden days, the mosque features an unusual combination of architectural elements, and resembles a cathedral more than a mosque. Enter the compound to admire the well-crafted mihrab, ornamental domes and eye catching floor tiles within.
At the southernmost point of the fort, facing towards Meeran Mosque lies the towering Galle Fort Lighthouse. Marking the end of the rampart, this well-visited viewpoint is particularly striking at sunset.
You find, beyond the fort walls, the Japanese Peace Pagoda. It’s within walking distance from the fort or accessible via a tuk tuk ride, and is best combined with a day trip to Jungle Beach. Perched atop the hills, this wonderfully constructed shrine is an excellent vantage point for taking in panoramic views out to the ocean.
The Martin Wickramasinghe Folk Art Museum is an attraction to be checked off the itinerary of all culture buffs. Exhibits are well-displayed, with information in English and an extensive display on Sri Lankan dance and folk arts. Stop by the bookshop to browse through a collection of Wickramasinghe’s works.
Visit the Handunugoda Tea Estate
While tea plantations in Sri Lanka are aplenty, Handunugoda Tea Estate sets itself apart from the rest with its informative tours and comprehensive tea tasting session. The estate is also known as the Virgin White Tea Factory, as it manufactures a white tea that’s untouched by human hands in its production process. The on-site store, featuring an extensive selection of unique teas is a tea lover’s dream come true.
Soak up the tropical vibes at a beach paradise
The southern coasts of Sri Lanka are known for its palm-fringed shores, golden sand and aquamarine waters. While Unawatuna Beach is a picture-perfect destination ideal for sunbathing and swimming, it does tend to get busy with travellers and beach vendors. Skip the crowds by heading off to Jungle Beach, located off the main strip (it’s a flight of steps down from the Japanese Peace Pagoda). Walk down further from the bay to a stretch of coast that’s relatively isolated, to enjoy the enviable experience of having a beach paradise all to yourself.
Top image courtesy of Roberto Saltori.