Galle is the city located on the southern shore of Sri Lanka, best known for the Galle Fort, one of the best-preserved colonial-era fortifications and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Sri Lanka cinnamon has been exported since as early as the 15th century BC, and because of the natural harbor that surrounds it, Galle was the main port city of the island for most of its history until the British have constructed an artificial harbor in Colombo.
Originally built as a small Portuguese fortress in the late 16th century, and greatly expanded by Dutch East India Company in the 17th, it represents one of the best examples of European architecture in Asia during the colonial period.
Today, the main tourist attraction of the city is the fortress with its many beautifully restored buildings, and here is the list of things to see and do in this city.
Galle Fort is one of the best-preserved European fortresses in Asia. Most of the colonial-era buildings have retained the look of the times gone by and the best way to explore the fortress is at the leisurely pace of a bicycle.
From the relics of Dutch colonial rules, such as the Old Dutch Church, the ramparts and bastions; to the splendid mansions of British times.
Conveniently you can rent bicycles or even book a guided tour, and explore the sights and history of the Fort.
As the main port city during most of its history, Galle has always been a diverse city, especially during the colonial-era. And such character is evident from historical places of worship.
The most notable place of worship inside the fortress’ walls is also its oldest, the Groote Kerk or Dutch Reformed Church, which is also one of the oldest still in use Protestant churches in Sri Lanka.
During the British rule inside the walls was constructed the Anglican church, All Saints’ Church. Near the end of the 19th century a Buddhist temple of peculiar architecture, the Shri Sudarmalaya temple.
Though not a notable temple, its architecture is characterized by a bell tower, suggesting that it has started its life as a Christian church. On Lighthouse Street is located Roman Catholic church, the Saint Joseph’s Chapel constructed in 1893.
The youngest of historical places of worship is the Meeran Jumma Masjid, a mosque constructed in 1904.
Inside of the fort’s walls are located two notable museums. The National Museum of Galle is located in the oldest surviving building from the Dutch colonial period.
Once a commissariat store, today it is home to the collection of artifacts from the history of Galle. In the former Dutch Warehouse is situated the National Maritime Museum.
It is home to the collection of historical objects related to maritime trade and naval travel, and archeological artifacts found on the shipwrecks in waters surrounding Galle, some of which are more than 800 years old.
Waters around Galle are known for more than 20 historical shipwrecks, which today are among the most popular scuba diving spots in Sri Lanka.
Two most popular wrecks are the SS Rangoon, a steam-powered cargo ship sunk in a storm in 1873, and the SS Oreste, a cargo ship sunk during WWII.
If you are completely lacking any diving experience you will be able to enjoy it in Galle, as just five kilometers from the Fort is located a PADI certified diving center, part of the largest and most reputable international diving organization in the world.
Here you can take any of the PADI diving courses, from the basic and up to the Rescue Diver certification.
From Galle Fort to one of the most popular beaches in Sri Lanka, Mirissa Beach, is less than an hour’s drive. And between them is a string of many small and big beaches that suit the tastes of practically any beachgoer.
From the big beaches, popular beaches, to hidden and relaxed, and some small crescent beaches that are still untouched and unnamed. Of the small tucked away beaches the most popular is Jungle Beach.
Located just across the bay from Galle Fort, it is very popular among people who search for a bit of tranquil beach experience. Accessible only by a footpath leading through a forest, it is one of the least crowded beaches near Galle.
Many of the beaches, such as Unawatuna Beach, are good surfing spots both for novice and experienced surfers and are known for very consistent waves. But if you are looking for calm shallow waters appropriate for swimming, you are in luck as the beaches in Midigama are the perfect spot.
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