Perched on Sri Lanka’s south coast, Galle was built by the Portuguese in 1588 and fortified by the Dutch during the seventeenth century. Previously an undiscovered hideaway, Galle is fast becoming a popular tourist destination due to its vibrant culture, golden beaches, charming fishing villages and architectural wonders. As well as the new Aman resort, a swathe of luxury villas in Galle has encouraged travellers in search of stylish relaxation as well as European expats looking for an easier pace of life.
The main attraction in the region is Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage protected Dutch walled town bursting with cool cafes, bijou boutiques and beautifully restored grand colonial houses. Enclosed within a chain of large bastions guarding the area from modernisation, the town seems to have barely changed in 200 years. Atmospheric, narrow cobbled streets are lined with old villas, churches and fine colonial architecture and remain refreshingly traffic-free.
There is plenty to see and do in and around Galle, particularly for history buffs who will enjoy strolling along the fortified walls and visiting the many museums and churches. Highlights include Groote Kerk, the oldest Protestant church in Sri Lanka and the National Maritime Archaeology Museum which offers an interesting insight into past events. It’s also worth heading to Flag Rock, situated at the southernmost end of the Fort, where daredevil locals can often be seen leaping into the water from the rocks during daylight hours and in the evening there’s no better place to catch the mesmerizing sunset.
Aside from the chic shops, Galle Fort has several excellent markets including the Flea Market which takes place on the first Sunday of every month under the shade of giant banyan trees. Foreign influence has also seen various cultural events cropping up during the year such as the Galle Literary Festival which attracts a wide range of international authors and the Galle Music Festival which showcases the best local and international musicians, dancers and performers in the region. There is also an international cricket stadium and many beautiful beaches are within easy reach of this historic town.