About the City
The seaside town of Galle is 116 km. from Colombo by road or rail, down the southwest coast. Both routes are very picturesque, following the coastline closely for much of the way. At some places you can still see the devastating effects of the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. Located near the southern end of the country, Galle enjoys a nice coast line and it’s a district that enjoys a great variance of settings, from beaches to marsh lands to dry planes to hills with tea and rubber plantations. The historical architecture of the city has also made it an important attraction to both local and international visitors. Galle has always been a famous port and one of the main natural harbours in Sri Lanka, until the British developed Colombo harbour and made Colombo the capital city.
The modern history of Galle starts in 1505 AD with the arrival of Portuguese traders. However, Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians, and Chinese were doing business through Galle port many years before the Portuguese arrived. The main trading goods from Sri Lanka has been Moon Stones & other gems, pearls, spices, elephants, ivory and scented wood. According to James Emerson Tennent, Galle was the ancient seaport of Tarshish, from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables.
Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in south and southeast Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and Sri Lankan traditions.The Dutch Fort built in the 17th Century still remains the main attraction in Galle and is the heart that pumps blood and has made Galle the living heritage city in Sri Lanka. The Dutch Fort has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Portuguese, who came to Sri Lanka in 1505, established a fortress in Galle in 1589 A.D. In 1602 The Dutch landed in Batticoloa, attacked Galle in 1640 with an army of 2,000 men who came in 12 ships and captured it after 4 days of fierce fighting. The Dutch enlarged the Fort in 1663, with 11 Bastions including the Sun, Moon, Star, Zwart, Akesloot, Aurora, Aeloes, Neptune, Triton, Clippenburg and Point Utrecht. It is the largest fortified city built by the Dutch.
The Fort build by the Dutch and later taken over by the British, still remains in a well preserved condition. Some of the oldest buildings such as The Dutch Church, which is the oldest Protestant Church in Sri Lanka, build in 1755 and the New Oriental Hotel Building the present Amangalla Hotel has given much character to the city. Still the streets inside the Fort remain narrow and many are known by their original names such as Leyn-Baan street, Zeeberg street and Moderabaay street. Characteristics of Dutch architecture could be clearly seen in the old houses inside the Fort, which are spacious and airy, with large ornamental doors and windows, pillared verandas and cool inner courtyards and gardens.
Some old houses inside the fort have now been converted in to luxury and villas. Also the beautiful coastal areas of Ratgama, Galle, Unawatuna, Talpe, Habaraduwa and Ahangama are currently famous for the many beach villas and boutique hotels which have come up in the recent past, making Galle a famous destination for the leisure traveller seeking luxury and serenity on the beach. At present, Galle is also famous for the Galle Literary Festival held annually and the Galle International Cricket Stadium, where domestic and international cricket matches are played regularly.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST AND ACTIVITIES:
• The famous Unawatuna Beach for safe swimming and snorkelling.
• Surfing at Ahangama and Hikkaduwa.
• Rumassala Hill associated with the Ramayana and the newly build Sama Stupa.
• Glass bottom boat ride at the beautiful Coral Garden in Hikkaduwa.
• Souvenir shopping in Galle, for gems, lace items and wood carvings.
• Boat rides in the Koggala Lake.
• Visit the National Museum in Galle and the Folk Museum in Koggala.
• Whale and Dolphin watching in Mirissa.
• Water Sports in Bentota (35km towards Colombo).
• Visit Sinharaja Rain Forest (90km one way).
Map of the City