Tourist Activities in Galle, Sri Lanka

Fort Galle Mosque, by Augapfel (http://www.flickr.com/photos/qilin/)
Fort Galle Mosque, by Augapfel (http://www.flickr.com/photos/qilin/)

Galle, the historic port, is accessible from Colombo by train or car, with both coast-hugging routes as beautiful as the other. More and more visitors are opting to stay within the atmospheric fort to taste what colonial life was like and to use Galle as a base for day trips to surrounding beaches.

The sense of the past remains strong in Galle despite the introduction of modern amenities. Streets retain their original Dutch names such as Leyn-bann and Moderabaay streets. Old houses have large ornamental doors and windows and large inner courtyard gardens although increasingly large numbers are being sold to be converted to upmarket villas, the accommodation of choice within the fort.

As you meander through the narrow streets, you might have to jostle for space with the vegetable carts, bullock carts laden with cinnamon or hundreds of old bicycles.

Galle is well known for its handicrafts. Visit a lace making factory to buy exquisitely handmade lace. Otherwise, bone up on your knowledge of lace-making in the Galle National Museum which is in an old Dutch building at the heart of the fort.

The Museum displays historical artifacts that point to the various foreign influences on Galle – Moorish weaponry and porcelain plates and the Beeralu lace making from Portugal. Traditional masks from the Kolam folk dramas are also on show.

Have your gems polished by men using pedaled polishers. Pick from buckets of gemstones including moonstones or the blue sapphire and ruby for which Sri Lanka is famous and commission a Galle jewelers to produce a customized piece for you.

Streets of Galle, by Augapfel (http://www.flickr.com/photos/qilin/)
Streets of Galle, by Augapfel (http://www.flickr.com/photos/qilin/)

Galle is also home to superb artists and many of the art galleries here display some of their best works. Shoba Display Gallery is lovely gallery which has handcrafted art works, most of which are made in the shop itself. Elaborate and colorful masks are sold at Suthuvili Gallery.

All these activities are steps away from the villas within the fort and within easy reach of the villas along the coasts. While it is easy to walk around the fort, getting a three-wheeler makes it easy to navigate the town especially during the heat of day. The staff at your villa will be happy to find an English-speaking driver for you.

Along the ramparts, keep an eye out for Flag Rock which was so called because approaching ships were signaled from the bastion to warn them of dangerous rocks. As a further alert, muskets would be fired from the nearby Pigeon island.

There is not much of a nightlife in Galle but you can count on good food at your villa. Guests of 32 Middle Street Villa have a personal cook and a cleaning lady. A three ensuite bedroom villa, this was once a Dutch house in the heart of the fort and has been described by newpaper journalists as being equal to villas in Provence or Tuscany.

Decorated with contemporary Sri Lankan and Asian furniture, the master bedroom comes with a roof terrace from which to enjoy sunset views. All rooms face the green garden and sleek swimming pool which is equipped with a counter jet flow to increase resistance for the keen swimmer.

Although it is unlikely that you would need more than three days to fully discover Galle, choosing to stay in a luxurious beach villa will make those days extra luxurious and extra pampering.

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