In many ways, Galle is Sri Lanka’s comeback kid, a city that has seen more rises and falls than John Travolta’s career. It was first discovered by the Portuguese, who built a small fort on its windswept promontory. Then came the Dutch, who replaced the existing architecture with their own, and established Galle as the country’s most important port. A century and a half later, however, the action moved to Colombo, and for the most part, time stood still in this quiet but colourful coastal town.
Then, in 2004, the Boxing Day Tsunami struck. Held back by the Dutch ramparts from total destruction, it nevertheless caused widespread devastation, and it took many years for both the city and its infrastructure (especially fishing) to restore itself. But rise again it did, and Galle is increasingly finding itself back on the tourist agenda, with brand new cafes, boutiques and luxury boutique hotels in Galle (such as our own Why House, or Twenty-Three Palm Villa) to complement its laid-back vibe and spectacular beaches. Here are the second half of our Top 10 highlights to inspire you:
- Walk the fort walls: An evening stroll around the fort walls as the sun begins to set is one of Galle’s great pleasures, shared by tourists and locals (especially loved-up couples) alike. The full circuit takes between 1-2 hours – aim for Triton Bastion for the best sunset view. The fort is within a convenient distance from our luxury villa in Galle, Twenty-Three Palm, which makes it an ideal last stop before heading home for an outdoor shower and a meal with a view of the Indian Ocean.
- Sink into a spa: Indulge yourself with a visit to the Amangalla spa, The Baths, where you’ll find everything from Balinese massages and Ayurvedic Rituals to delicious beauty treatments for the ladies and a special barber shop and salon where men can enjoy a wet shave, followed by a face and scalp massage.
- Play treasure hunter at the Maritime Museum: Galle’s museum, which held a large collection of priceless historical treasures garnered from the ocean floor nearby was one of the casualties of the Tsunami. Many exhibits were lost, but the museum was rebuilt in a Dutch colonial warehouse, and displays a carefully curated, interactive collection of objects from ancient pottery to sailors’ pipes and tankards.
- Float down a river of gin: Well, almost… The Gin River (or Gin Ganga River) is a picturesque place to spend an idle afternoon, paddling along in the sunshine and enjoying the Sri Lankan wildlife. Tours are available.
- Cool off at sunset with a local beer: There’s nothing quite like an ice-cold glass of honey-coloured ale to sate the thirst after a long hard day of relaxing in the tropics. The best-known local beer is Lion Lager and its sister brew, Sinha Stout, for those who prefer their drinks tall, dark and handsome.