Perched on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast, the revered town of Galle can at first glance appear colourless, more like a commercial centre than a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, as you pass through the Fort gates you are transported back in time and into Sri Lanka’s best-preserved colonial landscape. UNESCO describes it as ‘the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and Southeast Asia’ and we don’t disagree.
Galle illustrates a fantastic marriage of European architecture and South Asian traditions, not only from the 16th to 19th century, but also today as there’s a vibrant community still living and working within Galle Fort. The 36-hectare fort was built in 1663 as has been heavily influenced by Dutch, Portuguese, and later by the British. The low-rise wide streets are lined with colonial villas; each with its own garden or veranda is testament to its European heritage. There’s surprisingly not a huge amount to do in Galle, apart from a few museums and boutiques. It’s best enjoyed by ambling through the streets, sipping a cup of coffee in one of the trendy coffee shops, and enjoying views of the ocean from its ancient ramparts.
Galle is a convenient two-hour drive south of Colombo and a four-hour drive from Yala. Most stay in accommodation within the fort walls or a short drive away on the outskirts of the city.