GALLE TOURISM | TOURIST PLACES TO VISIT & TRAVEL GUIDE TO GALLE
City | Heritage
#7 of 10 Places to visit in Sri Lanka
Ideal Trip Duration: 1-2 Days
Nearest City to Galle: Galle, Colombo (126 Kms)
Best Time to Visit Galle: December to March
Peak Season: December to February
At a distance of 42 km from Matara, 55 km from Bentota, 126 km from Colombo, 190 km from Yala, 222 km from Kandy, 251 km from Nuwara Eliya, 304 km from Anuradhapura, and 365 km from Trincomalee, Galle is an ancient port city located on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions to visit in the region as part of Sri Lanka Tour Packages and among the must include places to visit in honeymoon trip.
Synonymous with the country's fascinating history and rich culture, no Sri Lanka Tour is complete without visiting Galle as this historic city is blessed with imposing Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques, and churches, grand mansions, and museums. Galle was known as Gimhathitha in ancient times and is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhalese term meaning 'port near the river Gin'. Another theory is that the word Galle is derived from the Dutch word 'Gallus', which means rooster, as the Dutch have used the rooster as a symbol of Galle.
As per the historical records, Galle was an important trading center for the Arabs, Chinese and Malays, long before the Europeans occupied it. The colonial period began with the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, who was on the way to the Maldives. They remained here and built a fort called Santa Cruz. Later, the Dutch invaded Galle and began the reconstruction of the fort in 1649 and it is now the largest fortified city in Asia by European settlers. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. Galle's significance decreased after the British occupied the fort in 1796, as Colombo was established as the capital. Devastated by the tsunami in 2006, the city got back on its feet the very next year and the Galle cricket ground, one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world, was also rebuilt and hosting test matches since 2007.
Dipped in rich colonial heritage, the ancient port city has innumerable and diverse attractions within its precincts. The imposing Galle Fort is undoubtedly the highlight of the city which attracts a lot of tourists every year. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is throbbing with activity in itself, with a church, a mosque, a court, several offices and hotels within the premises of the fort. The Dutch Reformed Church, Old Dutch Hospital, Galle Clock Tower, National Museum, National Maritime Museum, and Galle Lighthouse are the must-visit places inside the fort complex. Besides, one can also visit nearby places like Unawatuna Beach, Japanese Peace Pagoda, Jungle Beach, Hikkaduwa Beach, Mirissa, Dalawella Beach, and Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
The Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is the nearest airport which is about 151 km from Galle. It has well flight connectivity with India and other parts of Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and the United States. Galle Railway Station connects it to other important places of interest including Colombo, Bentota, Matara, and Kandy. There are a number of public and private buses that travel from Galle to Colombo, Bentota, Unawatuna, Matara, and Kandy on a daily basis. The best way to get around Galle is on foot, or by hiring a tuk-tuk.
The best time to visit Galle is from December to March since the rainfall in the city is at its lowest during this time. Additionally, these months are excellent for water sports at the immensely popular beaches of Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna, which are near the city. April is the driest month of the year. Better to avoid visiting Galle from May to September as the southwest monsoon occurs at this time of the year and is considered to be off-season at Galle.