Coming to Sri Lanka? No trip is complete without a visit to Galle. Now with the open Southern Expressway highway it’s easy to spend even 48 hours in Galle as part of a longer itinerary or a weekend away in Sri Lanka.
Galle Fort and surrounds
Galle Fort is a charming Dutch Colonial citadel flanked by a larger bustling and charming Galle city. Located on the South Western tip of Sri Lanka you’ll find everything from well preserved colonial buildings to Sri Lanka’s finest beaches. You can cover a lot in only 48 hours in Galle. What follows is a rough plan of things to see and do in Galle in a short period of time. You can see a lot with just 48 hours in Galle. Pull out your Sri Lanka map and see Galle.
Day 1 in Galle, Sri Lanka
09:30 – Sea Turtle Centre and Hatchery
Since it first opened its doors in 1986, the centre has become an important contributor to conservation efforts in Sri Lanka for preserving the threatened lives of turtles. The centre relies on the support of private donations and with the money donated it buys eggs, rehabilites turtle habitat and rescues injured turtles. When visiting the centre you will learn about the different turtle species ( five of the world’s species of turtles call Sri Lanka home) and how the centre is caring for turtles. Address: Silver Green Turtle Hatchery, Habaraduwa Open: 08:00-18:30, Entrance Fee 500 Rupees
10:30 – Kathaluwa Purwarama Temple
This 13th century temple located in Koggala, is just east of Galle. Aside from the beautiful Kandyan-style paintings, some pictures inside the Temple depict European figures, evidence of the former colonial era.
11:30 – Morning Tea and Tour of Hundungoda Tea Estate
Sri Lanka is famous for tea but getting to the highland tea plantation areas can take a chunk out of anyone’s travel plans. Don’t worry, the Sri Lanka coast has some of the best lowland tea plantations and a prime example of this is the 140 year old white tea plantation of Hundungoda Tea Estate and Museum. As history is told, this tea estate is special because it produced the famous “virgin” white tea planation for Chinese Emperor Tsong.
So special is this type of tea that only virgins wielding golden scissors and bowls collected the tips of the tea – note more sustainable and modern practices are now in place at the estate. A perfect colonial place in Sri Lanka to grab some morning tea and then go on a free tour to see the tea production process in ancient equipment.
13:00 – Lunch Talpe Beach Restaurant and Bar
There are a great number of lunch spots around Koggala including local seafood restaurants. Indulge in local Sri Lankan curries which are renowned for their mix of spicy ingredients, coconut creaminess and fresh vegetables.
A fantastic mid price point (10 -$30USD) is the Talpe Beach Restaurant and Bar. Great quality seafood and local Sri Lankan dishes. The GM is from Dubai and knows how to blend Middle Eastern service standards with scrumptious South Asian fare. The setting is stunning with the Indian Ocean lapping at your feet. Located off Matara Road www.talpebeach.com.
15:00 – Koggala Lake Boat Tour
If you can tear yourself away from the view at Talpe Beach Restaurant then a nice afternoon activity is to take a boat tour on Lake Koggala. A picturesque landscape, the lake is a habitat to a number of bird varieties such as herons, ibis and kingfishers. Cruise around the lake, watch locals interact with the lake and enjoy the mangroves. If you feel like picking up something to cook back at your private villa rental then see whether any of the local fisherman have caught some famed Lake Koggala freshwater prawns.
16:30 Galle Stilt Fisherman
Definitely not an ordinary way of fishing, the fisherman sitting on stilts and balancing 2 metres above the Indian Ocean. When all of the fishermen take their perch, it makes for a jaw dropping and spectacular picture. The tradition has been handed down between generations and year round – rain or sun- the fisherman are out in search of catch of the day. The exact location of the fisherman are the towns of Kathaluwa and Ahangama.
19:00 – Dinner in Galle Fort Amangalla Colonial Hotel
No trip to Galle is complete without a cocktail, afternoon tea or evening meal at the famed Amangalla Colonial Hotel. Perched on a hill within the historic Galle Fort, the Amangalla is one of the oldest colonial hotels in South Asia. For $30USD you can sit down in a grand dining hall, with overhead ceiling fans and a baby grand piano and eat the most amazing Sri Lankan curry buffet. All the curries are served in beautiful little copper bowls and the generous servings will have you rolling out the door. One of the finest Colonial hotels in beach setting.
09:00 – Dutch Market
A great way to start exploring Galle and put pins in your Sri Lanka map is to head for the central fish and vegetable market in the middle of town. Getting to the market early you are guaranteed to see fresh fish arriving, farmers emptying carts with vegetables and local Sri Lankans making their daily shopping purchases. The market is a haven for fruit and veg lovers and you’ll find interesting South Asian vegetables like ochre, Sri Lankan eggplant, Drumstick, Snake Gourd and banana blossom.
While walking through the market you might also want to think about whether you have the time to squeeze in a two hour cooking class as an alternative to lunch in the Fort. Cooking classes like Trixie’s cooking demonstration includes a trip to the market and you get to cook your own lunch at one of Galle’s best villas with chef – for $30USD per person. Enquire via firstname.lastname@example.org
11:00 -Galle International Cricket Stadium
Which is THE sport any Sri Lankan is absolutely crazy about? You guessed right, it’s cricket! Take a peek into the stadium where many championships have been won and lost. After the 2006 Tsunami the ground was badly damaged. Out of the ruins and with the generous donations of some famous cricketers the likes of Shane Warne from Australia, the ground was rebuilt and back hosting international fixtures. One of the guards will show you around. Address: Colombo Road 8000. Near the entrance to the Historic Galle Fort.
Pedlars Café was the first coffee shop inside the Fort and has been turning out great relaxed food for ten years. Located in the ground floor of the old post office, it serves salads, seafood, sandwiches and fruit juices. Free wifi.
1:00 – Galle Fort
A trip to Galle isn’t complete without an afternoon spent exploring the UNESCO world heritage Galle Fort. The historical part of town was built in 1663 and its streets have been influenced by Dutch, Portugese and British colonial architecture. Visitors says that it has kept its charming atmosphere from its colonial days and is a wonderful place to see a collection of European and South Asian antiques.
A number of highlights not to miss out on:
– Dutch Reformed Church: Built from 1750-1755, the church with its baroque façade, is the oldest Protestant church in Sri Lanka and is near the Amangalla Hotel. The stained glass windows are particularly special.
– National Maritime Museum Galle: The museum depicts a fantastic collection of artefacts from countless expeditions. A highlight of the museum is its location inside the fort walls. It depicts the important role Sri Lanka played in the spice trade and the importance of Colombo and Galle as strategic port cities. Entrance Fee: 300 Rupees. open: 09:00-17:00 Address: Galle Fort
– The Light House Galle: The Light house is more than 30 metre high and was built in 1848. It burnt down in 1936 and was rebuilt and opened in 1940. Directly in front of the Light House Galle you can watch young boys jump off a cliff in to a shallow bay. Hair raising stuff. Plenty of You Tube clips of the Galle cliff jumpers featuring their death defying jumps.
– Shopping Galle: The Fort has a wide choice of shops. Antiques. Olanda Furniture, 30, Leyn Baan Street is a large warehouse space that is perfect to explore for treasures. There is also the Dutch Wall Antique Shop, 55 Rampart Street, which has a great collection of antiques. Gems Galle has some of the best jewelers in all of Sri lanka. Stones and precious metals are set prices but the real saving comes in having stones made in to beautiful individual pieces. Check out Ibrahim Jewellers, 30 Church Street, or Jo Jo 76 Pedlar Street. Homewares Souk 58, 58 Church Stret hosts local goods such as tuk tuk cushion covers and Mimimango, Pedlar Street, features collections of designer Jo Eden. The KK collection, 36 Church Street has an amazing selction of fabrics as does Barefoots. Department Stores Odels Luv Shop is Galle Fort’s department store and has everything under one roof. The restored Dutch Colonial Hospital Shopping precinct features 21 stores selling everthing from paintings, handicrafts, spices and homewares.
18:00 – Cocktails on the Ramparts
Ideal for snacks, a cocktail and seeing the Sunset is the Rampart Hotel, 31 Rampart Street, Galle Fort. Excellent for people watching and taking in the view. Watch the sun slip behind the Indian Ocean and take in the view over Galle Fort and the beaches of Sri Lanka.
19:30 – Dinner at Geoffrey Bawa’s The Light House Sri Lanka
The Light House is an amazing example of Bawa and colonial architecture. The spiral staircase, open planning dining and views out to the ocean make the perfect back drop for a meal. A recent and welcome dining experience is their outdoor BBQ. Beautiful fish caught fresh, prawns, sea-fruits and a fabulous desert buffet to top it off. Travellers Choice Winner 2014 TripAdvisor.
21:00 – Nightcap at one of Galle’s bars
Before calling it a night have a nightcap at one of Galle’s trendy and new bars. There is Sugar Bistro and Wine Bar Sri Lanka an intimate 50 seater set inside the Dutch Hospital Shopping precinct. The setting is sublime and the prices are reasonable. After a few drinks here wander down the road to the Living Room Sri Lanka which is a lounge and bar open to 11pm. A perfect note to end your 48 hours in Galle.