Galle is Sri Lanka’s greatest colonial treasure, a classical European fort plonked in an exotic, tropical setting. Once the greatest port of Ceylon, trade is still an important aspect of Galle’s industry whilst it is also becoming a centre for the arts. The great bastions of the fort, built by the Dutch, keep the old and the new separate - built on a promontory it is a delightful place to wander, the colonial villas and narrow streets offering an atmospheric and old world escape.

What to see

Galle Fort

Galle Fort

Galle’s UNESCO-listed fort is considered the greatest example of a European-built fortified city in South Asia. Begun by the Portuguese, strengthened by the Dutch and final taken over by the British, the fort has seen a lot of history, which makes exploring it all the more exciting. A circuit of the walls is a good way to get orientated before heading down to straight level to see the old gates. Wander the narrow streets to stop Dutch and British colonial architecture before settling down in one of the many cafes to soak up the ambience. Make your way to Flag Rock in the early evening to watch the sun drop into the Indian Ocean.

Galle town

Galle town

Galle has a diverse range of sights to enjoy, so after you’ve spend some time wandering about the Fort you could try one or some of the following. The Marine Archaeological Museum tells of the town’s maritime past through interactive displays and videos – this, along with the National Museum, housed in a 1686 Dutch building, are both within the fort’s walls. Outside try the Dutch Market with its 300 year old columned roof, or the charming St Mary’s Cathedral, founded by Jesuits at the end of the 19th century. If you are in Galle between November and April, head out to sea to spot whales and dolphins as they head on their annual migration passing close to Sri Lanka.

Where to stay

Jetwing Lighthouse

Sat on a rocky promontory overlooking the vast blue of the Indian Ocean the Jetwing Lighthouse emanates old world charm and understated elegance in a building designed by Sri Lanka’s great Geoffrey Bawa. Combining Dutch colonial influences, traditional styling and minimalism with impeccable service and comfort in a beautiful beach front location just outside of Galle.

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