Introducing the city

£1.00 | Rp 194.90

GBP | LKR

Gasoline £0.63 | Rp 121.87

One-way ticket £0.08 | Rp 15.04

Beer £1.54 | Rp 300.83

Main Course £1.29 | Rp 250.69

About Galle

Serene Dutch villas are imbued by the sweet fragrance of cinnamon, delicately laced with salts of the Indian Ocean. A tropical wilderness dilates to the horizon from atop the tsunami-proof parapets of Fort Galle.

On the south side of Sri Lanka, atop the Flagrock Bastion of Fort Galle, there's a clear view across the swelling pastures of the Indian Ocean to Antarctica. Bring a telescope.

There's no threat of Antarctic weather forces here though, so close to the equator. The same cannot be said of European influence. Galle is arguably the most westernised city of Sri Lanka because of a sizeable expat community and its colonial fort. Quite unlike the empty and rather boring provincial complexes of the world, Fort Galle is a rejuvenating hive of business and municipal activity, structural discovery and artist hangouts. Bespoke shops brim with the produce of poets, designers, photographers, painters, jewellers and baristas.

Galle can be covered as a day trip from Colombo, 80 miles to the north but tarry here to gaze on sunrises from stone bulwarks, bum on nearby Hikkaduwa and Unawantuan beaches and venture into the secluded Kottawa and Hiyare nature reserves.

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Weather

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When Should You Visit?

December to March for the best temperatures and buzzing tourist season.

Galle has a tropical rainforest climate. The Indian Ocean majorly contributes to Galle's seasons and the southwest monsoon brings short but extremely heavy downpours (200 millimetres a month) between late May and September. Since it is less than 420 miles from the equator, the temperature hovers at 27 degrees Celsius all year round and not even night time temperatures drop below 20 degrees Celsius.

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Travioor top tips

Swim Safe
Curry and Rice
Dress

Insider Info

  • Galle's beachfront is hedged by an extensive coral reef. This makes for calm, swimmable waters most of the time and a decent surfers' nursery. When the seas are rough do not swim.
  • There is a limited concept of dining out in Sri Lanka and many menus (though certainly not all) are not that exciting. Try asking your server for that day's local curry and rice and explain you want to try local food.
  • Bikinis and shorts are fine for the beaches but purchase a sarong for temple visits.

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Food and drink

Main Course £1.29 | Rp 250.69

3-Course Meal £7.72 | Rp 1,504.13

Cappuccino £1.72 | Rp 335.98

Beer £1.54 | Rp 300.83

The Scene

The centrepiece of any Sri Lankan meal is rice and it is ordinarily served with fish in fiery, spicy blends. Tuna, mullet, butter fish and seafood so inexplicably large, it appears to have taken steroids. Flavour-wise expect black pepper, ginger, curry leaves, cardamon, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cumin and mustard seeds.

Sri Lankan food is far hotter than Indian so don't rush in. That said, don't be scared to try spicy dishes either, if anything the invigorating flavours are a welcome relief from the sluggish side effects of heat and humidity. Remember that water intensifies spicy flavours which functions as an excellent excuse to order extra beer. You'll certainly want to try the popular hoppers, a range of dishes made from fermented batter and rice flour.

Sri Lanka shares India's sweet tooth, many fruits are incorporated into savoury cooking and sweet desserts. We love the crunchy rice and coconut cakes bathed in milk and fresh curds of yogurt with honey.

It is customary in Sri Lanka to eat with the right hand, some even claim that this improves the flavour. Foreigners won't be expected to do so but it's nice to give it a try. With some practice food can be pinched with roti, a flatbread that accompanies most meals.

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History

Galle's Story

The history of Galle (pronounced Gaul) is intrinsically linked to its exclusive position on the south coast. Sri Lanka is the head stone in the vast archway of land that encases the Indian Ocean. As such, traders have used it as an entrepôt for trade between Europe and Asia and it later developed into Sri Lanka's main trading port. Some scholars suspect Galle to be the ancient city of Tarshish where King Solomon is said to have drawn much of his wealth in gems, precious metals, (particularly silver) and spices.

Through time, Sri Lanka has been known by copious aliases. In Tamil it is called Eelam the word for gold, Greek cartographers named it Taprobana, a reference to the copper colour of its soil and Persians and Arabs knew it by Sarandīb which has its origins in the word for serendipity. These names best summarise Sri Lanka's beauty but it is Galle's niche locality along the trade route, as much as its treasured natural resources, that brought it historical prominence.

The Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century and fortified the port with fort Santa Cruz after establishing friendly relations with Sri Lankan royalty. In 1640 the Dutch claimed Galle Fort for themselves and put the local Sinhalese to work to knock together the bastions and walls. They also constructed the interior Dutch style architecture, now residential quarters, warehouses and municipal buildings. The last European power to capture Galle was the British in 1796 and it remained a colony until it gained independence in 1948. During Sri Lanka's 26 year civil war, explosives were detonated in the Galle harbour by secessionist forces, killing 100 sailors.

Further marine tragedy struck in the 2004 tsunami that claimed 4,000 Galle lives. Swim schools may be a chilling reminder of the greatest recorded natural disaster but they are the only one. Galle has emerged from a calamitous half century as Sri Lanka's centre for arts and free thinking.

Language

Vaṇakkam | Hello
Miga Nandri | Thank you

Tamil

English, particularly along the beaches, is spoken by many but don't by any means expect everyone to speak it. Portuguese and Dutch speakers will pick up on European aspects of the dialect, one of the many footprints left on Sri Lanka's culture.

  • Eppadi irukkindriirgal: How are you?
  • En peru: My name is
  • Magizhnthu unnungal: Enjoy your food
  • Nalla: Good

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Need to know

+94 Dialling Code
118 | 110 Emergency Services

Get The Low-Down

  • Western food is poorly imitated, stick to Sri Lankan.
  • Bikinis and shorts are fine for the beach but cover up in towns and when visiting temples. 
  • Roads can be quite congested so make an early start if you're planning to head off exploring. 

 

VISA INFORMATION

Find out about the visa requirements for Sri Lanka here.

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Travioor Recommends

1. Secret Beach

For a quieter and lesser known beach scene, head south to Talpe. Keep an eye out for sea turtles while you watch local stilt fisherman.

2. Guesthouses

Those on budget accommodation should hunt businesses that can provide meals for guests, a nifty fast track to trying the best of Sri Lankan food.

3. Find a tipple

Religious and educational buildings within the Fort walls mean that alcohol is hard to come by. Bypass this by sourcing a bar that doesn't have a road facing terrace.

4. Whale Spotting

Take to the seas to spot blue, sperm and humpback whales and dolphins - they can also be seen from the shore thanks to the narrow shelf.

5. Amazing Views

The Star and Moon Bastions (on the north side of Fort Galle) command free, box office views of the cricket stadium. Dull game? Turn your head left or right for ocean vistas.


See What's On In Galle  


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