Galle is known for its Dutch walled fortress, today a world heritage site. Wandering the old walls and streets yields one architectural surprise after another as you explore the amazing collection of structures dating back through the centuries.
There is much to see and explore within the fort. The Dutch Reformed Church is the oldest church in the region. The Galle lighthouse, Peace Pagoda, a Buddhist temple, and Meeran Jumma Masjid are also other prominent landmarks. In cricketing circles, Galle is known for its cricket ground, which has rebuilt itself successfully after the tsunami destruction.
Today the historic Fort area is full of little boutique shops, cafes and hotels. The Dutch Market is known for selling the freshest fruits and vegetables and dates back 300 years. Elephant Walk has a good selection of spices, potions and handicrafts. Kanthisiri is a good option to buy good quality cotton fabrics. For those interested in gems and jewellery, Millenium Gems offers a range of gem stones and jewellery.
Beyond Galle, lies a stretch of coast with a series of beaches like Unawatuna, Thalpe and Hikkaduwa. Unawatuna also being famous for its stilt fishermen. Trips to the Koggala lagoon, the Sea Turtle Hatchery, whale watching from Mirissa and Kottawa Rainforest and Arboretum are excellent day trips. Surfing at Midigama and Ahangama is another option for surfing enthusiasts.
Sights in and around Galle
Top things to do in Galle
This fort, initially built by the Portuguese, was taken over by the Dutch in 1640. They further fortified it over the next 6-7 decades, also building a new elaborate system of sewers. Every high tide they would be flooded, taking the sewage out to the sea. This walled city, within the city, gives a peek into Galle’s colonial past. The pillars and the facades, courtyards full of the shops selling spices and sarongs, antiques and modern curios give a glimpse of the old times.
One of the most pleasant strolls you can take in town is the circuit of the fort walls at dusk. As the daytime heat fades away, from the lighthouse walk clockwise around the top of the ramparts all the way to the main town-facing bastions. Flag Rock, is a part of the wall where it is a great place to be at sunset.
Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church is worth a visit for its atmosphere and architecture. Originally built in 1640, the present building dates from 1752 to 1755. Its floor is paved with gravestones from the old Dutch cemetery. The organ from 1760 still sits in the building and the impressive pulpit, made from calamander wood from Malaysia, is an impressive piece.
With an entrance behind the iconic old Bell Tower, this is easily the more engaging of Galle’s two maritime museums. Exhibits include interactive displays and ancient artefacts that illuminate the town’s maritime past, including the many shipwrecks in the surrounding waters.
This vast, collonaded colonial landmark dates to the 18th century. Its size was necessary as both the voyage to Ceylon and life in the tropics proved very unhealthy to the Dutch, who died in droves from various diseases and the tropical heat. Recently restored, it is now home to many boutique shops and cafes.
Kottawa forest reserve is situated in northeast of Galle approximately 17 km away. Sprawled across 37 acres lies one of its most secluded nature reserves. Relatively unknown to the visiting multitudes to the island, Kottawa Rainforest Reserve is well worth the visit for nature lovers in search of breathtaking natural beauty off the beaten track.
The vegetation is a wet evergreen type with tall trees struggling upwards to reach the sunlight with small canopies touching each other preventing the penetration of sunlight to the bed of the forest. The vegetation is dominated with Dipterocarpus species and tree ferns, where orchids and moss grow on their tall tree trunks.
One can find purple-faced langurs, giant squirrels, muntjacs and sambars residing here. There are also different varieties of birds and reptiles.
Attractive and tranquil Koggala lagoon, approximately 20 km from Galle is dotted with rocky islands and fringed with mangroves. The lagoon is alive with birdlife and reptiles like monitor lizards and snakes.
Motorboat trips and catamaran rides take you to the small islands in the lagoon. The Temple Island here has an old Buddhist temple, which is still in use and attracts many visitors on full moon (Poya) day. The Cinnamon Island is also worth exploring and Ananda Spice Garden are other sightseeing options here.
SEA TURTLE HATCHERY
With the aim to aid the survival of sea turtles, Sea Turtle Farm and Hatchery is a not-for-profit organisation. The farm was opened in 1986 and to date have released over 500,000 sea turtles into the sea.
This beachside facility aims to protect populations of olive ridley, leatherback, green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles. The centre includes a sandy area where the turtles hatch under small hills and tanks where you can see the variety of species swimming around. With the entry fee of LKR 300 only, one can experience a baby turtle hatching out and making its way to the sea.