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Galle Sri Lanka With Old-world Charm And Palm Fringed Beaches

light house galle

Galle Sri Lanka

Galle Sri Lanka, the southern post city was once world-renowned trade emporium glued by merchants of Arab, Greek, China, India… ply along the silk path, from east to west using ships. It is now one of the most interesting places to visit for tourists, included in most Sri Lanka road trip and welcoming millions of tourists every year.

The Dutch Fort is the most important tourist attraction in Galle Sri Lanka. The cobblestones pathways are lined with whitewashes Dutch styles shops, houses, museum, Galleries and boutique hotels. A few places on earth can match the beautiful settings of this colonial walled city. But this UNESCO world heritage site is about much more than colonial charm and Dutch architecture.

Galle Sri Lanka is one of the fascinating cities and it has a vibrant history dating back to the pre-Christian era. It offers a wealth of history, nature, culture best of all pristine palm-fringed beaches! Galle Sri Lanka is popular for warm, friendly and hospitable people. From amazing rainforests and marine reserves to colonial palaces with Dutch colonial heritage, Galle Sri Lanka offers a large number of tourist attractions to suit every traveller and every budget. Galle being a major city in southern Sri Lanka offers plenty of opportunities for shoppers too.

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Just like most other beach holiday destinations in Sri Lanka, Galle Sri Lanka also offers a number of tours within the city and outside. If you find it difficult to organize the tours your own, you can seek the help of Seerendipity tours. We regularly offer trips to Galle Sri Lanka and to most other tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Taking part in a tour to Galle Sri Lanka allows you to see the typical southern Sri Lankan culture, introducing you to traditional customs, costumes, foods, literature, art and crafts and another typical movement of people of Galle.

Galle fort sri lanka, road trip sri lanka

History of Galle Sri Lanka

The first historical note of Galle goes back to the epoch of Ramayana. According to Ramayana, the origin of Rumassala is attributed to the war between Rama and Ravana. Even though Galle is not considered to have a religious background, it was the most important port city on the island during the medieval period.

In 1518, Albergaria set out with a fleet for Colombo from Portugal, but contrary winds drove him to Galle, where he remained for some time and where he even thought of erecting the fortress. Changing his mind, he came to Colombo and sent an ambassador to Kotte to announce his arrival and purpose.

Dharma Parakrama Bahu himself came to Colombo to meet the governor who pressed the king for permission to erect a fortress in Colombo against the Muslims. The king promised to grant it after consulting his council. Muslims of Sri Lanka were enjoying the monopoly over the cinnamon, ivory, gemstone trade during this period.

Being located near the world sea route, Galle had one of the most favourable locations to become an international trade emporium. According to the historical information, Harun ar-Rashid, the fifth Abbasid caliph, who created the popular court at Baghdad, which would be immortalized in the thousand and one night, had been to Galle port in 8th century AD and engaged in business with Chinese traders. Galle port believed to be the harbour mentioned in the old testament, where King Solomon drew gemstone, ivory and other valuables. The port had been a leading trading place among international traders in the medieval period. The merchants from India, China, Persia, Arabian countries flock into the city to exchange their goods.

Portuguese arrived in Galle in 1506 under the leadership of Don LORENZO D’ALMEIDA. Actually, they were after an Arabian merchant ship that was heading to the Maldives. But the ship of Almeida caught in a storm and drifted in the direction of Galle. They were accidentally landed on the island. Portuguese called the harbour ‘punta de Galle’, the name was changed to ‘point de Galle’ under the British administration. Later Portuguese took the control over Galle and its surrounding and built the first Catholic Church in the island in 1543 near the harbour.

Due to the conflict between the Portuguese and Kandyan king, Portuguese constructed the first fortress in 1588 at Galle. The fortification was small and made of mud and thatched with coconut leaves. Later it was widened with a strong structure.  When the Dutch came to Sri Lanka (1640), the Portuguese were not able to defend Galle by stopping the Dutch. There had been heavy fighting between two sides. 2000 Dutch soldiers in 12 ships came to Galle under the supervision of Commander Jacob Koster. They had to fight against Portuguese for 4 days before taking the control of the port city of Galle. Galle was the administrative city of Sri Lanka under the Dutch administration. The fortification was improved under the Dutch administration. They added a sophisticated drainage system to the fort and turned the fort into a well-developed city.

As the administration of Sri Lanka peacefully changed between Dutch and British in 1796, the importance of the port city was weakened. Colombo was developed and named as the capital of Sri Lanka. As the Colombo port was developed under the British administration, all the ships were directed to Colombo and Galle harbour was also given minimum attention. All the goods such as tea, rubber, coconut were exported from Colombo harbour. And Galle lost its importance as a trading port. Galle is a major tourist attraction in Southern Sri Lanka. Today, agriculture, handicrafts and fishing industry are the main contributors to the income of people in Galle.

Some of the attractions to explore in the colonial port city of Galle Sri Lanka.

Galle Fort

Galle fort is south of Sri Lanka is a perfect blend of yesterday and today. Ruled by Portuguese, Dutch and English many years ago, Galle’s past not only shows the influence of the Europeans but also boast of Sri Lankan charm. There are many cathedrals within the fort, the narrow cobbled alleys crisscross the fortress giving you easy access to any part of the within a short time.  Don’t forget to see the stunning sunset over the Indian Ocean.

The fort showcases some of the biggest architectural designs of Dutch administration in Sri Lanka.  If you are an architectural buff, Galle fort will definitely keep you interested with its spectacular palaces, churches, and houses adorned by Dutch architectural designs.  Taking a stroll along the narrow paths of the fort take one back in time.  Sitting around in a café, smelling the sea breeze, which brushes the Indian Ocean is definitely one of the many highlights of Galle Fort.

Perhaps Galle fort is the most valuable contribution made by Dutch East India Company to entire southern Sri Lanka. Today Galle fort is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Sri Lanka and visited by hundreds of thousands of travellers every year. The history of Galle Fort is dating back to the first half of 1500’s. Even though Galle fort was first constructed by Portuguese colonial rulers, there is nothing left in Galle fort as reminiscent of the Portuguese colonial period.

Dutch, who succeeded Portuguese have completely removed the Old Portuguese fortification and established a very sophisticated fort with all the facilities. The Galle fort is a stunning piece of architecture with typical Dutch characters, offering the possibility to explore elements of Old Dutch constructions. Most of the buildings inherit the characters such as big verandah, steep roof, big doors and windows, and a well within the house. Galle Fort is one of the seven world heritage sites in the island and one of the must be visited tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. Galle Fort is the best remaining ancient fort in southern Sri Lanka.

The galle fort Sri Lanka

The Dutch Reformed Church of Galle

In the Galle fort sits the Dutch Reformed Church, which is one of the major tourist attractions in Galle Sri Lanka. Even though there are many historical attractions in the city, the Dutch Reformed Church is a must visited place among all of them due to the unique architecture and antiquity of the Church.

The fort of Galle Sri Lanka, which is located bordering the Indian Ocean on one side and sitting on a piece of land penetrated into the ocean, is the proud owner of this historical church. The fort is located at the highest point of the city which, looks over the town. The church is located towards the southern end of the fort near the Galle maritime museum. It commands the awe-inspiring sight over the Indian Ocean and historical port of Galle. Several families, who are still adhering to this religion, come to the church on Sundays for the weekly sermon. They worship before the rare more than 200 years old spiritual objects hangs on the wall. The church was built by Dutch East Indian Company. This is one of the oldest functioning Protestant churches in the country.

The beginning of church goes back to the Dutch colonial period. Another church, which belongs to the same religion, can be found in Colombo and it is known as the Wolvendaal church. These churches are two of the most ancient churches in the island. Dutch Reformed church is housed in a building that built after the typical Dutch architecture. The church had been drawing a large number of devotees for many years during the Dutch period in Sri Lanka. But since the end of Dutch colonial rule in the island, the number of devotees of the religion was drastically reduced. Today only several dozens of families believe in this religion.

Dutch Reformed church is a leading tourist attraction in the fort of Galle. Galle Fort is one of the most historical parts of the city and declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Today the Church draws very few local people but it is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The Dutch Reformed church is not huge inside and there are certainly bigger churches in the city. One unique feature of the church is the gravestones of late Dutch East India Company servants.  Nearly a half of the floor is built over many dozens of gravestones.

The church still looks very antiques with its old style building and antique furniture. Chairs and other furniture are made of valuable hardwoods such as ebony. Most of the furniture and woodworks are dating back to the 17th and 18th century. the collection of furniture is a remarkable and veritable treasure of the church.

The church is an archaeologically protected monument on the island and it is under the purview of the archaeological department. The Dutch Reformed church of Galle is one of the oldest Protestant churches in the country. The church is built after the Doric style of the period, in the form of the Greek cross with several feet thick wall. The transepts are roofed with brick barrel arches and a central dome.

Tsunami monument Peraliya

Tsunami monument of Peraliya exhibits one of the most tragic incidents of Tsunami in 2004, in which a train was washed off and claimed more than 1500 lives.  Peraliya is the spot where the train was destroyed by the waves. Today near the railway track, where the train was destroyed is a monument to remember the people, who sacrificed their lives. The monument is constructed of cement and showcases the tragic event with destroyed train carriages and bodies of the victims.

Martin Wickramasinghe folk museum

Martin Wickramasinghe folk museum is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Sri Lanka offering possibility to explore the rich historical past of Galle and suburb, and it is a must-see attraction in Galle. It is a place to see typical ancient farming practices, fishing methods, hunting methods and many other cottage industries. The museum has a large collection of bullock carts known as “Thirikkala”, which functioned as the main transport method of southern Sri Lanka in the past.

Galle maritime archaeological museum in Asia

The Galle city in southern Sri Lanka is the location for the largest maritime museum in Asia. The museum is housed in the Dutch storage premises of the colonial city that built in 1676 by the Dutch administration. It occupies four spacious chambers in the Dutch storehouse (40,000 square feet) and the present museum was established in 2008. Large numbers of items with archaeological importance are stored in the museum. Some of them are of the high importance that recovered from the seabed off the sea of Galle. Sri Lanka had been a popular port of call in the region and sea of the island is scattered with a large number of ships wrecks.

There is an impressive collection of artefacts numbering more than 200 in the museum that are recovered from the seabed during the exploration and some of the items are nearly 800 years old. Some of the important artefacts recovered from the seabed represent a ship anchor of a ship that sank in the 1800’S, the soda bottles dating back to 1600’s and the remnants of the ship that was transporting them, fossils of sea creatures and miniature skeleton of a whale.

One of the most important exhibits of the museum is a diorama of historical inhabitants in Hambantota district. They believed to be lived about 7000 years earlier. Another valuable artefact is a tri-lingual stone inscription that is written in Chinese, Tamil and Persian languages. It believed to be written 600 years earlier in China and later brought to the island.

It also shows the methods of traditional fishing, fishing gears and fishing vessels of the country. Some of the articles among the exhibits are ropes used in vessels, old canons, porcelain items, smoking pipes, maps, and shipwrecks. A valuable artefact of the museum is the model of ship Avondster (evening star) that sank in the port of Galle. The model of the ship and the artefacts recovered from the ship can be witnessed in the museum. The ship has perished in 1659 AD.

Galle maritime museum was established by the Central Cultural Fund of Sri Lanka under the conservation program of the Galle world heritage site. The museum showcases the cultural and religious aspects of the people of southern Sri Lanka. It gives an idea of the convergence of Sri Lankan culture, trade, language and tradition with the other foreign nations.

One of the important functions of the museum is educating the people on the fragile maritime ecosystem of the sea. It shows a specimen of a large number of sea creatures such as fish, corals, seagrass and algae. One can see the causes of sea pollution and coastal erosion and precautions that one need to observe to stop the destruction.

One can visit the laboratory of the archaeological museum and witnessed the process of conservation of items with historical value. It provides rare opportunity of acquiring hands-on experience of conserving items in a laboratory. The historical value of the artefacts represents the period from 8000 B.C to the present millennium.

Gold

Rathnadweepa (Gold Island) is one of the ancient names of Sri Lanka. Foreigners used to call the island Rathnadweepa, not because of the richness of its beauty, gemstones and pearls. The richness of Gold had been the main reason for naming the island as Rathnadweepa. Historical evidence suggests that the people of Sri Lanka were wearing beautiful gold jewellery. It was a habit of wearing gold jewellery among the women and men as well. Kings and queens of ancient Sri Lanka had been wearing very valuable gold jewellery.

Archaeologists have discovered a number of Gold statues during the excavations in historical sites and the statues are dating back to several hundred years. According to the historical information, the kings of Sri Lanka had exported gold jewellery from the island and foreign traders had bought gemstones, pearl as well as gold jewellery from kings of Sri Lanka. For instance, the king Solomon had sent merchants to buy precious stones, pearl, ivory and jewellery from the island. Tarshish as in the Old Testament or modern Galle is the port, where the merchants landed on the island.

Bungee jump without an elasticized rope in Galle

This spectacular and adventurous performance is undertaken voluntarily by a group of youth to entertain the spectators.  Jumpers have started their brave act in 2009 and today they are popular throughout the island of Sri Lanka due to their bungee jump without an elasticized rope.

They are being sponsored by popular trademarks due to the popularity and large numbers of articles are written on their dangerous act. They have done thousands of jumps so far and every jump is thoroughly enjoyed by the spectators. Flat rock bastion in Galle Fort, Sri Lanka, is the venue to see this acrobatic spectacle. They are rewarded with some money by the people for their performance, who enjoy seeing their jump. But the jump can be very dangerous because they can be landed on the rocks with a very slight mistake. The rampart is about ten meters high from the water surface at the Flat rock bastion and the gap between the rocks and the stone wall of the fort is not more than one meter. It is very important to keep the adequate distance between the rocks and the wall of the fort, during the jump. This near-death act is performed by five lads namely Chamara, Lasantha, Chinthaka, Rawan, and Ranga.

The jumpers take the lift after three meters run and instantly jump into the sea targeting the patches of water between the rocks. They have mastered their own techniques and they are very accurate even on very windy days. It is definitely a dangerous act to jump into the sea, where the surface is full of rocks. These young lads are very accurate in finding the landing spot between the rocks. Many people have tried to imitate their act but none of them was lucky to beat these lads. One Japanese tourist broke his legs while another Italian national landed on the rocks, shattering his face and the head.  If you happened to be there, when they perform the acrobatic jump, just enjoy the act of these brave lads and pay them something. Don’t ever try to do the jump.

It may seem very danger three brave young boys make a fearless jump into the sea from the rampart of the Galle Fort. The jump is similar to bungee jump but without an elasticized rope.

Discovery of the hidden bunkers in the recent time

There are several hidden bunkers is discovered in the Galle Fort (UNESCO declared world heritage site). It was discovered by Galle Heritage Foundation and the Archaeological Unit of the Galle city. The bunkers were discovered hidden under the clock tower and it had been a secret for centuries.

According to the archaeologists it had been either a prison cell or an armoury. Material which used to build the bunker is coral, lime, clay with a plaster-like most of the other bunkers in the fort. Bunker had been divided into 2 chambers. There are 14 such chambers recorded in the fort so far and all of them were renovated during the British rule in Sri Lanka. Archaeologists are doing further excavation in hoping to unearth the bunkers.

Hotels in Galle

When planning a holiday to Galle Sri Lanka, the top priority of anyone should be finding the hotel in Galle. Some travellers just looking for clean and basic accommodation facilities at an affordable price while other searching for perks and facilities. Whatever the requirement of the travellers the choices is endless here. A large number of accommodation facilities are concentrated within the walls of the Galle Fort. A large number of Dutch houses are converted to dormitories, guest houses, rest houses, small hotels and some of the mansions are converted to top luxurious hotels.

The travel industry in Galle has been under a rapid change and, especially the Galle fort where spree of new accommodation facilities came into being. You might not find a huge hotel here with large swimming pool, golf ground, gymnasium etc because all these cannot be put into the building available in the fort. Neither new buildings can be built here and existing structures can be changed as it is a UNESCO world heritage site. But most of all you are well on way to enjoy old world charm like nowhere else on the island.

A large number of hotels and other accommodation facilities can be found outside the Galle Fort and they are available at varying prices with varying facilities. Many large Beach hotels are located in Galle, Unawatuna, Ahangama. A large number of small properties are also dotted along the coastal belt from Galle to southern direction as well as towards northern Sri Lanka.

How to travel to Galle

Whether you use private transport or public transport, you can travel to Galle from any part of the country with ease.
Galle is a major city which has a port within its borders. It immensely contributes to the economy of the island. Therefore Galle is well connected with other places such as Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Kataragama, Trincomalee, Jaffna. There are direct public buses to Galle from most cities in Sri Lanka while there are many numbers of daily trains from Colombo to Galle and vice versa.

Things to do in Galle

Below are 5 activities that can be performed in your hotel in Galle. All these activities can be done within a short period of time and therefore no need to spend long hours in travelling form ten hotel.

Visiting the Galle maritime museum

There is an impressive collection of artefacts numbering more than 200 in the museum that are recovered from the seabed during the exploration and some of the items are nearly 800 years old. Some of the important artefacts recovered from the seabed represent a ship anchor of a ship that sank in the 1800’S, the soda bottles dating back to 1600’s and the remnants of the ship that was transporting them, fossils of sea creatures and miniature skeleton of a whale.

One of the most important exhibits of the museum is a diorama of historical inhabitants in Hambantota district. They believed to be lived about 7000 years earlier. Another valuable artefact is a tri-lingual stone inscription that is written in Chinese, Tamil and Persian languages. It believed to be written 600 years earlier in China and later brought to the island.

It also shows the methods of traditional fishing, fishing gears and fishing vessels of the country. Some of the articles among the exhibits are ropes used in vessels, old canons, porcelain items, smoking pipes, maps, and shipwrecks. A valuable artefact of the museum is the model of ship Avondster (evening star) that sank in the port of Galle. The model of the ship and the artefacts recovered from the ship can be witnessed in the museum. The ship perished in 1659 AD.

Galle maritime museum was established by the Central Cultural Fund of Sri Lanka under the conservation program of the Galle world heritage site. The museum showcases the cultural and religious aspects of the people of southern Sri Lanka. It gives an idea of the convergence of Sri Lankan culture, trade, language and tradition with the other foreign nations.

One of the important functions of the museum is educating the people on the fragile maritime ecosystem of the sea. It shows a specimen of a large number of sea creatures such as fish, corals, seagrass and algae. One can see the causes of sea pollution and coastal erosion and precautions that one need to observe to stop the destruction.

One can visit the laboratory of the archaeological museum and witnessed the process of conservation of items with historical value. It provides rare opportunity of acquiring hands-on experience of conserving items in a laboratory. The historical value of the artefacts represents the period from 8000 B.C to the present millennium.

Madu ganga river safari

Koggala lagoon

Koggala lagoon, a basin estuary, is one the most scenic and popular nature travel places with a large concentration of fauna and flora species in Sri Lanka. It is located near the port city of Galle towards the southern tip of the island.  The lagoon covers 727 hectares of surface area. It measures 4.8 km in length and 2 km at the widest point while the depth measured between 1-4 meters. There are 10 islands in the lagoon, namely Kath duwa, Kos duwa, Tala duwa, Medin duwa, Madol duwa, Keena duwa, Gan duwa, Kak duwa, We duwa and Kurulu duwa. Out of these ten spots only one (Gan duwa) is inhabited by the human. Rests of the islands are harbouring a vast range of animals, birds, amphibians, fishes, vertebrates and a large number of flora species.

Gan duwa expands over 8 acres and only 4 families living in the island at present. The people on the island are having the simplest form of life that one can imagine. They have no electricity and pipe born water, but still, they are happy and love to live on the island due to the calmness and the serene atmosphere of their habitat. One can have the opportunity to explore this isolated place, and the journey from the mainland to Gan Duwa takes few hours with a paddle boat. And it is the best method to reach the island, while the surrounding here provide endless possibilities to enjoy the nature and you need time. On the other hand, no harm is done to the virgin environment, when you travel by paddle boat. Keep in mind, the rich bio-diversity of Koggala lagoon cannot be explored within a few hours even a day or two due to its vastness. Martin Wickramasinghe, a well-known writer, is one, who ascertained the value of this surrounding and enjoyed it. Therefore, he has given a prominent place to Koggala lagoon and surrounding in his writings.

Tourism is one of the main income generators for the people living on the island. Some people on the island are engaged in agriculture and they cultivate paddy, coconut, cinnamon, arecanut, jack fruit, bread fruit etc… But none of them is engaged in systematic cultivation, therefore they do not get a considerable amount of yield. Some of the products such as cinnamon are sold to the tourists, who visit the lagoon while the rest of the products are sold at the village market in Habaraduwa. Fishing is also another important industry for the people here.

One will encounter the place where the treasured stone is located, on the way to the Gan Duwa from the mainland. It is one of the deepest places in the lagoon. The treasure stone looks like a halved stone, the letters on the stone might give a clue about it, but no one has been able to read it so far. The stone inscription in the nearby temple, known as ‘Hirigal Devala’ makes some remarks on the treasure that is hidden beneath the stone.

A large number of foreigners from the nearby resorts such as Galle, Beruwala, Weligama visit the Koggala Lagoon and enjoy the natural beauty of its surrounding. But most of the tourists are escorted by motorboat and it makes some damage to the fragile Eco-system here, through the smoke and the roaring noise of the boat engines. Recently Koggala lagoon is selected as the landing place for seaplanes in the area. It might also make a huge impact on nature. Naturalists opine that it would frighten the birds around the lake and kills the fish by the strong waves generated on the water surface by the planes.

A group of scientist from the University of Ruhuna has conducted a research on the wetland of Koggala and they have discovered that ecological conditions of the lagoon are largely changed over last few years due to the human intervention and tsunami in 2004. They further opine that there could be a huge natural destruction of nature at Koggala lagoon.

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Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity tours)

This blog is all about travelling in Sri Lanka, I am trying to illuminate my readers with a wide range of information related to Sri Lanka travel. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you need more information. Furthermore, we can organize your holiday package or any travel related requirement in Sri Lanka. Please contact us on info@seerendipitytours.com

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