Galle is acknowledged as a must-see destination for all tourists looking to visit Sri Lanka. Here are the top ten things to do in Galle, Sri Lanka.
Located south of the capital Colombo — easily accessible by modern highway, — Galle mostly boasts of natural beauty and the undeniable touch of European legacy. The Portuguese, the Dutch and the British all left lasting marks that when mixed with Galle’s epic attractions, make the coastal city an inviting proposition. Galle, in fact, has many things to offer but listed below are the top things to do when stopping by the city.
Galle Fort and the Fort Walls
It was the Dutch who made an enduring mark in Galle. Before being evicted by the British, the Dutch erected a fortification called the Galle Fort that UNESCO has included on its list of World Heritage Sites. Inside the walled city, crumbling, ochre-washed buildings and tumbledown colonial houses with eaves and pillared frontages can be found on the narrowed streets, serving as silent reminders of the Europeans that once lived with the Ceylon natives.
According to India.com, the Galle Fort proved a robust protection when the devastating Tsunami in 2004 hit the island, and the fort was left relatively undamaged. As a result, visitors can still admire the fort’s main attractions – a lighthouse that remains in use, the Old Dutch Hospital, the Meera Mosque, a gemstone workshop and the ruins of an old Dutch Clock tower.
Outside of the fort, one can take the famed Galle Fort Walk in order to get “an unforgettable insight into the gardens, architecture, artisans, food and wildlife in and around the fort.” In a blog posted on WheresSharon.com, it was estimated that “you can walk about three-fourth of the way round on top of these walls and it makes for a great experience.”
Further south of the fort, visitors will find a cliff known as the Flag Rock. In the past, he Dutch utilized the rock to warn approaching ships of possible danger but today, it said to be “the best place to see the sunset,” over at Indian Ocean, according to WheresSharon.com.
The cliff also offers the spectacle of young men taking a plunge on the sea below. “It’s thrilling to watch the cliff divers jump off the ramparts into the ocean, narrowly missing dangerous rocky outcrops,” Traveller.com reported. The show, however, will cost $10 per viewer, the report reminded.
Dutch Reformed Church
Situated inside the highest point of the Galle Fort is the Dutch Reformed Church, known to its original builders as the Groote Kerk and now touted as the oldest Protestant Church in Sri Lanka. First constructed in the 17th century, the church was rebuilt a hundred years later and again renovated and opened its doors in 2004 through the sponsorship of the Dutch government.
Traveller.com said the place of worship appeared austere to visitors but digging deeper, one will uncover tales to make a swing by worth the trouble. “Part of the church’s floor is paved with gravestones from the Dutch cemetery. There are plenty of stories attached to this church, including one about human remains hidden in the walls and under the floor. The church was rebuilt in the 18th century and houses an antique organ and a calamander wood pulpit,” the report said.
For tourists wanting to revisit what Sri Lanka was, these are the good places to begin – the Marine Archeological Museum, the National Maritime Museum and the National Museum. A stop on the National Museum right inside the Galle Fort is likely the best way to learn of the country’s history first-hand. “The museum houses artifacts from the British, Dutch and Portuguese periods and can be broadly divided into three sections,” according to India.com.
Although damaged by the 2004 Tsunami, the National Maritime Archaeology Museum still boasts troves of artifacts that provide glimpses of Sri Lanka’s past. “There are nautical objects such as maps, naval craft, ropes, earthenware and artillery guns. Many were recovered from shipwrecks and some are 800 years old,” Traveller.com reported.
Rumassala Peace Pagoda at Unawatuna
In the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s years of civil war, a group of Japanese Buddhist monks built the Rumassala Peace Pagoda at Unwatuna, a suburb of Galle that is located around two kilometers from the Galle Fort. The pagoda can be seen from the fort, serving as an eternal reminder of the Buddhist faith’s tireless work of promoting peace.
As Galle is surrounded by the sea, the next best thing to enjoy apart from what the land has to offer is exploring the seas. Hence, taking a boat trip is highly recommended. As reported by Traveller.com, “The Indian Ocean is a decent place to spot sperm whales, blue whales, humpback whales and dolphins … The best places to spot the giant mammals are near Mirissa and Dondra Point, both of which are close to Galle.”
During the trip exploring the waters around Galle, one might get the chance to see the blue whales that can grow to a length of 20 meters and weigh up to 200 tons.
Next to Australia and Hawaii, surfers from around the world consider the Sri Lankan waters as “arguably one of the best surfing spots in the world.” In the Arugam Bay (located northeast of Galle), for instance, adventurous surfers anticipate of the annual spectacle in which “the Antarctic winter swells that hit Indonesia’s southern shores,” according to Traveller.com.
Not to be outdone, the waves in the Galle coastline are regarded as well-suited for surfing beginners, and the best place to be on this respect is the Hikkaduwa Beach, which is a 30-minute drive from the Galle Fort.
Galle was once Sri Lanka’s gateway to the world and as the country’s main port, ships sailed and some sank along the town’s coastlines, providing a rich spot for scuba divers to explore. For divers, the following should be worth the trouble: “At the bottom of the Indian Ocean near Unawatuna lies a treasure trove of coral reefs and shipwrecks, including an old wooden English ship, the Rangoon, which lies 30 meters deep. The Napoleon and Galapiteala reefs are multi-level dive sites with a variety of fish, including bat fish, Napoleon wrasse and golden moray eels,” per the report by Traveller.com.
The Wildlife-Rich National Park and Forest Reserve
Among the most irresistible characteristics attributed to Sri Lanka is the rich wildlife collection roaming the country. The Hiyare forest reserve, 17 kilometers from Galle, is home to the Sri Lankan green pigeon, the green pit viper and the purple-faced leaf monkey – all endemic to the country.
Likewise, when visiting the Yala National Park the chance is high that one will get to spot leopards, elephants, sloth bears, wild boars, antelopes, crocodiles and hornbills. As the park’s freshwater, scrub and woodland areas serve as natural magnet to wildlife, “it’s possible to spot more than 100 different species in one day,” Traveller.com said.
A bite of Sri Lankan cuisine
Being a coastal city, fresh seafood is aplenty in Galle, and add to that are the local restaurants that mostly dish out delicious servings of Sri Lankan curries. Inside the Galle Fort, for example, Traveller.com suggests a trip to the Rampart Hotel that is prized for its restaurant boasting “a good view of the fort’s walls and the ocean.” And for those interested, the national cuisine still carries a taste of the Dutch influence, somehow attesting to the latter’s lingering impact on the Sri Lankan culture.