Monday, May 29th, 2017

Strolling Through Galle, Sri Lanka


Kate in Galle

My time in Galle was far too short — but it was more than enough for me to declare it my favorite place in Sri Lanka.

Galle is a Dutch colonial town on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast anchored by a World Heritage-listed fort. The architecture gives it a feeling like nowhere else in the country.

What I loved about Galle was how European it felt, set in the middle of a tropical Asian country. It was a nice mix of architecture, colors, and even modes of transport.

If you have limited time in Sri Lanka — say, a week or less — I recommend you base yourself entirely on the South Coast, spending time in Galle and the resort towns that dot the coast (like Unawatuna, Mirissa, and Thalpe). As wonderful as Sri Lanka is, it’s not easy to get around the island quickly without flying, but you can still have a satisfying weeklong vacation if you stick to this itinerary.

Behold: the best of Galle.


I love scenes like this that unfold behind every corner: tuk-tuks, old-fashioned cars, and women in gorgeous dresses.

Galle Church

One thing that most people don’t know about Sri Lanka is that it’s more religiously diverse than you might think. Most Sri Lankans are Buddhists, followed by Hindus (mostly among the Tamil population primarily in the north), and there are also sizable Muslim and Catholic populations as well.

This Anglican church in Galle dates back centuries.


The streets are filled with flowers, unusually shaped windows, and motorbikes.


Tuk-tuks dominate the streets as well, and it’s one of the reasons why Sri Lanka reminds me so much of Thailand. Only the tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka are in immaculate condition by comparison!

Cafe in Galle

If there’s a cool-looking coffee shop somewhere, I must try it. Peace & Plenty had a nice vibe and I enjoyed my lemon juice.

Galle Fort

But Galle’s biggest attraction is the 16th century Dutch fort surrounding the city. Unbelievably, the fort protected Galle from the tsunami in 2004. While surrounding areas like Unawatuna were ravaged by the tsunami, Galle escaped with only minor damage.

Clear Water in Galle

That is probably the clearest water I’ve ever seen that wasn’t part of the Adriatic Sea.

Group in Galle

Galle appears to be field trip central for lots of Sri Lankan children!

Women in Galle

And those groups are led by women in absolutely gorgeous dresses.

I love how friendly Sri Lankans are — everywhere we went, we received smiles and hellos from kids and adults alike. I even got my face held a few times by different women.

Galle Fort

And finally, the lighthouse, anchoring the city.


Anyone for a jump into the Indian Ocean? (Do not attempt that at this spot; it’s rocky!!)


Where to Stay

On this part of the trip, I stayed at the Cinnamon Bey Beruwala, one of their most posh beach hotels and my personal favorite Cinnamon Resort where we stayed. It’s perfect if you want to spend the bulk of your vacation on the beach and want to see Galle as a day trip.

I also visited the Chaya Tranz Hikkaduwa, another Cinnamon Resort, which is closer to Galle (25 minutes) and had one of the loveliest open pool areas and beachfronts I’ve ever seen. It’s a bit more convenient to Galle and not quite as fancy as the Bey, but still another great option.

Women in Galle

I visited Sri Lanka for TBCAsia, hosted by Cinnamon Hotels. Thanks also to Sri Lankan Airlines for flying me there from London, CVisit Sri Lanka for carting me around, and Mobitel for furnishing me with a SIM card. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you ever been somewhere that looked like it was from a different continent?


43 Responses to “Strolling Through Galle, Sri Lanka”
  1. Katrina says:

    Such beautiful pictures! My Sri Lanka plans didn’t work out last year but I hope 2016 is the year I can go!

  2. Lovely photos. I visited Unawatuna about a month ago just fly in for a couple days, so didn’t get time to go into Galle! bummer. will have to get back there and see Sri Lanka properly

  3. Erin says:

    Gorgeous photos. Hadn’t given much thought to traveling to Sri Lanka before, but now it’s on my vacation ideas list!

  4. Laurie says:

    What gorgeous photos! Galle looks like a fascinating place to visit. I have been wanting to visit Sri Lanka for years now….as in years and years….I am so envious but my turn will come next year! How would you say it is for female solo travel? I am thinking an Interpid or Explore tour probably with some time on my own afterwards….

    I hope this year is a wonderful one for you Kate and makes you forget the shitty bits of 2014. I love reading about your adventures.

    • I would absolutely recommend Sri Lanka for solo female travelers who have a bit of experience under their belts. It’s not as easy as Southeast Asia or Europe, but it’s definitely doable on your own, especially since English is so widely spoken. I had one creepy moment (I got groped on a train ride) but other than that I was treated with kindness and respect everywhere I went.

      Thanks so much. 🙂

  5. Ashley says:

    Galle looks so beautiful and I never would have guessed it was a town in Sri Lanka from photos alone.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    That looks so cool, I love colonial towns – it reminds me a bit of Havana!

    In terms of a places that seem like they’re from a different continent – Saint Pierre et Miquelon, which are French islands off the coast of Newfoundland. Technically in North America, they feel very European, with hints of Newfoundland here and there, but are totally French. Euros, cheap French wine, narrow European streets, stores only open at odd hours of the day, and non-Canadian French accents. It’s a unique place to visit!

  7. I loved Galle too! Some other parts of the subcontinent retain strong influences of their colonial heritage. Pondicherry in India, for example, brims with remnants of its French colonial past, what with the architecture and general vibe of the place. Lovely pics!

  8. Peter says:

    “If there’s a cool-looking coffee shop somewhere, I must try it. Peace & Plenty had a nice vibe and I enjoyed my lemon juice.”

    Pretty weird statement…

    So you visited a coffee shop not to have coffee?

  9. I’ve never been to Sri Lanka or even considered it but I think you’ve convinced me. Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous. I especially love the second one of those girls walking down the street. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy travels 🙂

  10. BBC Travel wrote a post about Sri Lanka a few months ago and now I’ve been wanting to go ever since. I appreciate your detailed advice and your photos are gorgeous. I always love finding places that have combinations of cultures, it makes a unique environment that I find my curious mind wanting to wander through.

  11. Naomi says:

    I did a two week tour of Sri Lanka two years ago and it was amazing. It’s really cheap to hire a driver, we booked through Ya Tours and had a wonderful tour guide called Roland who drove us round in an air conditioned van to the main points of interest. We covered a lot of ground in 9 days and the tour included b&bs too. We spent the remaining time in an amazing villa in Hilladuwa that cost as much to rent for 4 nights as a posh hotel in London for.a night and had our own pool, chef (?!) And indoor koi carp pond. I miss the Dahl….
    We were lucky enough to visit just as a Vesak Poya celebration was happening and it was an amazing sight to see, a massive carnival proceeding down the street with 9 elephants. I’d definitely recommend it 🙂

  12. Jessica says:

    Galle sounds awesome! I’m dying to getting over to Sri Lanka. I’ll have to take your advice and go to the south when I do get a chance to go. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  13. Anna says:

    I was just commenting on those beautiful dresses while watching coverage of Sri Lanka’s election earlier today! Lovely photos, Kate.

  14. I absolutely love your photos Kate especially the one with the tuk-tuk, old-fashioned car, and the women in the beautiful pale-green sari. Very cooling! I like photos that show the true nature of things and people going about their business but wow, glorious clothes!

  15. Andrew says:

    how beautiful! I missed out on Galle when I was in Sri Lanka thanks to being pickpocketed at the station in Colombo. I sure missed out! hopefully oen day – thanks for sharing. 🙂

  16. Scott says:

    Nice pics, sounds like a great place. What are your thoughts on Sri Lanka overall? I’m going to be in that region for a few months, starting in India, but I didn’t have plans to go to Sri Lanka. Is it worth a visit? Are there affordable ways to get there from India?

  17. Evelina says:

    That looks absolutely lovely! Haven’t really had an urge to go to Sri Lanka, but maybe I’ll be looking into it a bit more 🙂

  18. Abby says:

    Ah Sri Lanka! It’s been on my destination list since I did a report in Grade 7 about their trade exports, haha. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  19. Galle is a great place. We spent two days….wish had a day more at least!
    When we went there, two years ago…it took such a long time to get there from Colombo..the highway wasnt done then! I guess that is much better now.
    It is easy to get to Sri Lanka from India…maybe it is time we plan another trip!

  20. Such pretty photos. After my research in Nepal I debated making it down there for 10 days but decided to wait until my next trip to Asia in september- then I am determined to make it to sri lanka. I’m saving this page so I know what i’m getting myself into.

  21. Sam says:

    I’m so looking forward to hopefully visiting Sri Lanka later this year, and Galle in particular. Your pictures make it look so appealing, and that European vibe on an island in the Indian ocean sounds very intriguing!

  22. Sandra says:

    Have been planning to go travelling in Asia as soon as im done with South America but Sri Lanka wasn´t on the travel route – until now! It looks amazing:)

  23. Sri Lanka loooks very pretty! I love the architecture. It means me a lot of some of the Spanish architecture in Central America. How expensive is Sri Lanka? Is it similar to Southeast Asia or a little more?

  24. Adam says:

    Talk about a colonial town in the last place that you would expect to find it … amazing find, and can’t wait to experience it when I get to Sri Lanka!

  25. Kadri says:

    That’s funny, I visited Sri Lanka in September, and I din’t like it at all. But going through those pictures brings back some good moments, and maybe I even want to go back one day.

  26. Peta says:

    We loved Sri Lanka and spent three weeks there en route to India.

  27. Great post, I totally agree with you. I had an incredible few days in Galle, definitely my favourite place in Sri Lanka.

    I have written a diary post of my experience on my blog

    Another strange one like this is Luang Prabang in Laos, a total French town in the middle of Asia, complete with medieval and renaissance buildings along the river and fresh patisseries.

  28. Albert Simmonds says:

    Verry beautiful pictures not to mention yours.

  29. Anna says:

    Thank you, Kate! Your post helped me decide where to stay in Sri Lanka. I have a little less than a week and per your advice, I will be based in the Southern coast. Even though others have adamantly urged me to go to Kandy instead, this area seems so interesting and underrated. As a solo female traveler in her 20s, I totally trust and value your opinion. Very excited to see Galle!

  30. BudgetYatri says:

    Beautiful photos Kate!!
    Hope I make it to Sri Lanka soon 🙂

  31. Deepika says:

    Lovely photos. I am off to Sri Lanka next month and hopefully some of your tips would help. Galle is on my list.


Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. […] this past year, BBC Travel, the New York Times, Adventurous Kate and Travel + Leisure Magazine have all featured Sri Lanka in their travel editorials. It’s a […]

  2. […] the Area:  Go for a walk along the beach, which is just steps from the hotel or take a day trip to Galle, a Dutch colonial town in which the Old Town and Fortifications have UNESCO status and which […]

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