• Galle

Galle

Sri Lanka

If you only have time for one destination in Sri Lanka, make it Galle. At  its heart lies the historic Galle Fort, a UNESCO-protected fort jutting out into the Indian Ocean that was built by the Dutch in 1663. Given its long history as an important Dutch, Portuguese and British trading post, the town feels more European than South Asian, with cobblestone streets dotted with whitewashed churches and shady town squares. Today, modern Galle is packed with beautiful colonial architecture, where indie cafes emerge from behind restored columns and bookstores mingle with antique dealers amidst the salty sea air.

The most enjoyable way to experience the Fort is on foot. Wander through the narrow and charming streets and take in the relaxed, bohemian atmosphere. A leisurely stroll will lead you past the old Dutch Church, the Governor’s House, Town Hall, lighthouse and other historic monuments as you experience the hustle and bustle of the community’s daily life along the way. The town is also home to a fast-growing international community of artists, writers, photographers and designers who are behind the city's blossoming restaurant and arts scene. If you feel like some beach time however, some of the Southern Coast’s famed beaches and coral reefs are just a short tuk-tuk ride away.

Why Go?

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, historic Galle is a charming colonial town surrounded by world-class beaches.

When to Go

December until March is the best time to visit Galle as well as the surrounding west and south beaches and nearby hill country. From June through October you'll find lower prices and quieter beaches — but also frequent monsoons in this part of the country.

Average Temp

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F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

High °C

31

31

31

32

31

30

30

30

30

30

30

30

Low °C

23

23

24

25

26

26

25

25

25

24

24

23

High °F

88

88

88

90

88

86

86

86

86

86

86

86

Low °C

73

73

75

77

79

79

77

77

77

75

75

73

 

Book to Pack

Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje: a story about love, family, murder and identity in Sri Lanka by the award-winning author of The English Patient.

  • Historic Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
  • A beach in Galle, Sri Lanka
  • Sunset over Galle, Sri Lanka
  • Life in Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
  • Tea Plantation workers in Galle
  • Tuk tuk in Galle Fort
  • Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka
  • Fishermen off the coast of Galle, Sri Lanka
  • The historic Dutch fort
  • Paddleboarding in Galle, Sri Lanka

Things to Do

  • Climb up the Fort’s weather-beaten ramparts for some gorgeous sunset views across the water. You’ll encounter the lively townsfolk as they gather to hang out, perform daredevil dives and fly kites as the tropical sun goes down over the glittering Indian Ocean.
  • Shop till you drop at the Fort's numerous boutiques, crammed with semi-precious gems, jewellery, antiques and handcrafted goods.
  • Enjoy a sunset cocktail at one of the town’s up-and-coming boutique cafes and restaurants.
  • Sunbathe on the white sandy beaches at nearby Unawatuna and Thalpe.
  • Visit the Handunugoda Tea Estate, about 25 minutes south of Galle. Indulge in afternoon tea and cakes on the sunny verandah of the Planters Bungalow, witness the harvesting and drying process and enjoy some of the plantation’s award-winning teas with a professional tasting session.
  • Pop into Shoba Display Gallery to witness the dying art of lacemaking, taught to local women and sold at fair trade prices. Lessons can also be arranged with advance notice.
  • Visit National Maritime Museum, showcasing Sri Lanka's fascinating naval history.
  • Ogle at the display of fresh fruits and vegetables in the lively Dutch Market, housed inside a 300 year-old colonnaded building.
  • See Galle and its surrounding areas on a hot-air balloon ride for a sweeping aerial perspective.
  • November to April is the best time for a whale-watching tour along the coast.

Galle Fort, Sri Lanka
Unawatuna Beach, Galle

Getting There

NOTE: Travel information such as flight, train, bus and boat schedules and fares are subject to constant change. The information below is intended as a basic guide only; please check with the relevant companies/authorities before planning your journey.

By Air

Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is the only international airport in Sri Lanka and is located about 30km north of the capital. Alongside Sri Lankan Airlines (the official state carrier), many international carriers operate routes here, including Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Cathay Pacific and Thai International. Malaysia-based Air Asia also operates budget flights from Kuala Lumpur several times a week. The drive from the airport to Galle takes approximately 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on traffic conditions.

By Train

Train travel is the most scenic way to travel from Colombo to Galle, as the route hugs the coastline closely with lovely views over the Indian Ocean. The journey can take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours in a rather charming, old-fashioned railcar, but is overall an enjoyable experience. Trains and stations are clean and safe, and tickets are reasonably priced.

By Road

Thanks to the newly-built Southern Expressway, road travel times between Colombo and Galle have been reduced to slightly under two hours. The easiest option is to take your hotel’s organised airport transfer, or else you can also hire a car with a driver to take you.

 

Getting Around

On Foot

Walking is the best way to experience Galle Fort, with its quaint, hidden streets and cobblestone alleys. Pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a hat.

By Taxi

Tuk-tuks can be hailed anywhere along the streets, and will take you around town or to the nearby beaches in Unawatuna and Thalpe for several dollars. Just be sure to agree on the price before getting in.

The Essentials

Visa Requirements

Sri Lanka offers a 30-day online tourist visa, or ‘ETA’ for citizens of most countries. Singaporeans and citizens of the Maldives and Seychelles are exempted from visa requirements, although it’s always advisable to check before making travel plans.

Currency

Sri Lanka uses the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR), although US dollars are widely accepted and even preferred by many establishments. US$1 is roughly equivalent to LKR 130. Visit xe.com for the latest exchange rates.

Health & Safety

Galle is generally a very safe place. As always however, travellers should still take precautions against pick-pocketing and snatch thefts, especially when walking in dimly-lit areas. Mosquitos can be a concern depending on the time of year, as they can carry dengue fever as well as malaria in the northern parts of the country. Use mosquito repellent when outdoors especially during dawn and dusk. It is not advisable to drink tap water; bottled water is cheap and readily available.

Rules & Regulations

Sri Lanka only recently ended a bloody, decades-long civil war, and the scars still run deep beneath the surface. The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, and strict rules govern the country’s religious sites. It is an offense to take a photo with your back turned to any statue of a Buddha or to pose alongside them, which is regarded as disrespectful and can result in a fine. Religious tattoos (especially tattoos of the Buddha) and images are also prohibited, and visitors are advised to cover up any visible tattoos that can cause offense.

Galle Fort antique shop

Learn the Lingo

Sinhala

Sri Lanka’s official languages are Sinhala (spoken by the majority Sinhalese) and Tamil (spoken by the minority Tamil and Muslim groups). English is widely spoken in urban areas.

Hello – Ayubowan

How are you? -- Kohomada

Thank you – Isthuti

My name is… -- Mage nama…

How much is this? – Kiyeda

Have a nice day – Subha davasak