No visit to the ‘Teardrop of India’ is complete without exploring the gorgeous coastal city of Galle – and these are its most unmissable experiences.
Sitting pretty on the southwest coast, Galle is a breath-taking jewel in the crown of Sri Lanka. Its mostly car-free streets are dotted with UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, Dutch colonial buildings, museums, cafés, boutiques and restaurants. The city was put on the map by the Dutch in the 17th century when it became one of Sri Lanka’s most important trading ports. History even suggests that Galle is the place where the great King Solomon sourced ivory, peacocks, spices and more.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of this exotic city with these six must-do experiences.
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1. Choose from endless sun-kissed beaches
Galle has a beach for everybody. For those who love their quiet moments, there’s Jungle Beach, one of Galle’s most secluded corners. Surf’s up for the daredevils at Hikkaduwa Beach where you can ride challenging waves and celebrate at a beach bar later. Families can head to the popular beach of Unawatuna where glistening waters, swaying palm trees and sunbeds await. If you are big on capturing sunsets that take your breath away, then Ahungalla Beach is for you. Watch as the sun melts into the ocean and paints the sky in myriad shades of red and pink.
2. Explore verdant tea estates
Can you even imagine a Sri Lankan trip without a tea estate visit? One of its finest is the famous Handunugoda Tea Estate, the only tea estate on the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. Famous for producing exquisite white tea, it is also known as the Virgin White Tea Factory. This exotic blend is still produced following ancient Chinese rituals without any form of human touch. Make your way to Thalgaswella Estate, also in the Galle district, where tea has been cultivated since the 1930s. Every tea estate visit will pamper you with tea tasting sessions, where you can indulge in a number of delicious varieties. Less than 30 minutes from Galle, you can find the gorgeous Sisindu Tea Estate, a lush space dotted with tea and spice plantations and exotic birds – a perfect spot for a family picnic.
3. Visit Galle Fort
Go back in time at the magnificent Galle Fort. This historic monument was built in 1588 by the Portuguese, then fortified in the 17th century by the Dutch, and has many tales hidden within. Originally built to protect the bustling port of Galle, it was initially called ‘Santa Cruz’ and houses many churches within its sturdy walls. This colonial structure offers panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and is also a perfect spot to watch the sun disappear into the glistening waters every day. Don’t forget to take a snapshot of Galle’s most popular icon, the stunning Galle Lighthouse, just 200 metres from the fort.
4. Watch turtles hatch at Mahamodara Sea Turtle Hatchery
Known for its vibrant marine life, Sri Lanka is one of the few countries in the world where you can find five different turtle species — green, olive, ridley, loggerhead, leatherback and hawksbill. Mahamodara Sea Turtle Hatchery is a famous turtle conservation and hatchery centre, whose sole purpose is to ensure the safety of the hatching eggs on the shores of Galle. When the time comes, the volunteers safely release them back into the ocean. Learn everything about turtle conservation here and help the volunteers release the hatchlings back into the sea. It’s a heart-warming experience to watch these tiny creatures make their way to the big ocean.
5. Explore Galle’s cafés & markets
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to cuisines and flavours in the tiny town of Galle. At the Royal Dutch Café, strike up a conversation with the owner (who has a million stories to tell) over a cup of tea or coffee. You’ll find one of Galle’s most photogenic bars at Galle Fort Hotel and for those who crave Sri Lankan cuisine, head to Hoppa Galle Fort. Foodies will find themselves gorging on the freshest seafood delicacies at A Minute by Tuk Tuk in the Old Dutch Hospital. Plus, you can feast your eyes upon some amazing views of the sea. Right outside Galle Fort, you’ll find numerous shops and boutiques selling everything from teas to spices to local apparel to exotic fruits.
6. Head out on a whale or dolphin-spotting cruise
If you head east from Galle for about 40 minutes, you’ll find Mirissa, one of Sri Lanka’s most popular beach destinations. The crystal-clear waters of Mirissa teem with marine life between November and March every year. The best thing to do is to book a whale-watching cruise and as you head deeper into the ocean, you will spot orcas, blue whales, sperm whales, fin whales, whale sharks, spinner dolphins, turtles, manta rays, flying fish and more. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.