Is Galle (Sri Lanka) Even Worth Visiting ?
My first visit to Galle was extremely short, or so I thought when I first scheduled my stay here for 2 days, somewhere mid 2015. While scheduling my first solo Sri Lanka trip, I was in double minds whether or not two days would be sufficient. After all, you don’t really get myriad things to see and do when you search about Galle on the internet. It is no way like some of the popular cities of the world like London or Sydney or Delhi. I could find only about 5–6 things, that I thought I would enjoy doing but these would be getting over in a day. So, leaving on the 3rd day from Galle was like one day wasting, literally. But no, it actually turned out to be just fine. And I felt Galle was indeed worth visiting — just that you don’t get up judging it every now & then with other popular cities of the world.
What’s Galle All About ?
Galle is a quaint little Sri Lankan town located on south west coast of the island. Coming out of the Railway Station doesn’t really make you feel the town, as it looks like any other town. But then when you initiate strolling on your own, exploring at your own pace, you get this feeling of the Portuguese and the Dutch working hard on developing the town that it is today. One of the most beautifully fortified towns. It is also notable to know that the Portuguese developed the whole infrastructure, making this town one of the important ports in Asia and the Dutch took it one step ahead with the fortification. With a modest area of around 17 km square and the total population just under 100,000 also, it doesn’t really feel crowded at any time.
So, what did I do in my 2 days in Galle ? More than a couple of nice things…
Places To See & Things To Do in Galle
Probably the most popular and most touristy of all the places in and around town is the Galle Fort. Built around 1590 AD by the Portuguese and remodeled thereafter by the Dutch, this fort — also known as Dutch Fort — is one of the most beautiful examples of fortification. Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort has been maintained very nice & polished, even after about 400+ years is something of a great achievement for any country. I was here at the fort for about 2 hours. The fort didn’t just safeguard the Portuguese & the Dutch but also saved a lot of people from the Tsunami 2004. In fact, there are a lot of other popular touristic things to see and do very near to the fort itself. So somewhere my 2 hours actually accounts for all the other nearby places as well. But an early morning visit here is a definitely yes from my end.
Watch a Cricket (Test) Match
The game of Cricket is equivalent to religion in the Indian Sub Continent. When I visited the Galle Fort for the first time and saw 360 degrees, I could see the Galle International Cricket Stadium and it felt great. Built in 1998, the first test match played here was between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Considered as one of the picturesque cricket stadiums in the world, it has a seating capacity for 35,000 spectators. I found that amazing, primarily because the whole town’s population is around 99,000. So, almost one-third of the town can be accommodated to watch a great test match, mostly everybody supporting the home team Sri Lanka. Locals generally see the match from the Fort (see the extreme left side in the photo of Fort).
Stilt Fishing in Galle
Well, I don’t expect you to spend a lot of time on this one but it is worth visiting once and seeing the skills at display. This technique of fishing is not found everywhere, although it is said that this kind of fishing got reduced after the Tsunami of 2004. Koggala, Ahangama and Midigama are among the known spots where this technique is being used. Be here around sunset and enjoy the treat.
Whale & Dolphin Watching in Mirissa
Don’t believe the above picture is what you are going to see. This does not happen. May be once in a million opportunities. But yes, Dolphin and Whale Watching is still very popular, in and around Mirissa — the southernmost part of Sri Lanka. Typically, the boat companies charge in the range of 2,500 to 5,000 LKR and the entire trip is over within 4 hours max. Dolphins are pretty much there for everybody to see but not whales. Whales are elusive and they get chased away by the 10–20 boats, like that of yours, who come to watch them. I could see only the back portion of whales when they came out for little bit of air. Families and kids especially enjoy this. A lot of locals from as far as Colombo come on the weekends here. I suggest you check the number of people traveling on your boat, to avoid too many people on the boat.
Stroll The Bylanes of Galle
A lot is evident of the Portuguese and Dutch culture in anything and everything in this wonderful town. In fact most of the Southern Sri Lanka itself has a colourful history, when it comes to seeing the mixture of culture from the Portuguese, the Dutch and later the British, along with that of the local people. The heritage properties & buildings, the Fort, the architecture & construction of the Dutch-type bungalows & villas provide for a charming scene straight out of the movies. Just that you need to have an appreciative eye. Strolling these lanes is a unique experience.
Spend An Evening Under The LightHouse
Standing tall at 87 feet height, this is Sri Lanka’s oldest Light House, built around 1940s. It is operated by the Sri Lankan Ports Authority. There was a Light House very near to the present one that was constructed in 1848 by the British but since it got destroyed in fire, this Light House took it’s current shape. It appears that it is built at a very strategic spot, like that of an intersection, in order to get views from all directions. One of the good tourist spots in Galle, considering that it falls within the premise of the Fort. An evening under the Light House can be tried once.
Relax On The Beaches Of Unawatuna
Unawatuna lies only about 5–6 kms from Galle and is identified as the one place having one of the best beaches in the world. On my visit here, I found many many foreigners, especially Europeans relaxing in and near Unawatuna beaches. It is said that Unawatuna beaches featured as one of the twelve best beaches in the world at one point in time but Tsunami of 2004 destroyed quite a few spots. Besides, human encroachment in terms of building of houses or hotels, in order to do more & more business, has also spoilt the mangrove here. Still you may find a lot of migratory birds, coral reefs around this place. Don’t forget to visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda just a short drive from Unawatuna.
In fact that’s not all. There are some other important places to visit like Dutch Reformed Church, National Maritime Museum, Dutch Market, New Town etc. Despite so many attractions, I will still recommend you that Galle is absolutely okay for 2 nights. The 3rd day morning, you should leave — unless you only & only want to lie around and relax, do nothing and if you have ample time in hand.
Getting in Galle To & From Colombo
There are buses and trains regularly running between Colombo and all important towns in Sri Lanka, including to Galle. I have generally been a regular with trains, more than buses. So, I opted to go to Galle by train and the journey was not at all worrisome. It was good. Although by mistake I took the third class, there was no crowd, I got a window seat and life was good all the way. It is advisable to check the timing of your bus or train beforehand, rather than opting to travel after evening hours.
Accommodation in Galle
Since I was on budget and the fact that I always do solo domestic & international trips on budget, I had opted for a cheap homestay, that consisted of just a bed and wifi. It wasn’t air-conditioned (and that I think was a mistake from my end), but the overall experience of stay was good. Read my Budget Stay Experience in Galle.
So overall, Galle’s a good place to visit. But if you plan it around December — January, it will just turn out to be a notch higher and better !