Strolling Through Galle, Sri Lanka

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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.

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.

Galle

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

Galle

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.

Galle

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

Hikkaduwa

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?

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47 thoughts on “Strolling Through Galle, Sri Lanka”

  1. 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.

    1. 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. πŸ™‚

      1. Hi Kate, would you recommend Sri Lanka for a first time female solo traveler? I was feeling excited planning a trip there but have come across several comments about solo travelers being harassed, groped…basically unwanted male attention. This is making me re-think about plans to travel alone there

  2. 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!

    http://www.somethingsaturdays.com/the-blog/a-weekend-in-saint-pierre-france

  3. 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!

  4. “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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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 πŸ™‚

  7. 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 πŸ™‚

  8. 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!

  9. 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. πŸ™‚

  10. 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?

  11. 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. πŸ™‚

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

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

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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 http://www.alaperchoine.com

    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.

  18. 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!

  19. Great post πŸ™‚ I also love Galle πŸ™‚
    I just wanted to correct something though because it made me feel a bit weird reading it. Galle city (which is a lot more than the fort) was actually very badly affected in the tsunami… the whole bus station (just behind the fort) was completely destroyed for example. The videos of it specifically in galle are very awful to watch. Maybe nice to correct that as it comes across as a little insensitive to their suffering!

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