Galle travel guide

Galle Tourism | Galle Guide

You're Going to Love Galle

Galle is the place to go when you need to return to a simpler pace of life and the rush of Colombo has you longing for beautiful coastlines, delectable food, and traditions of craft passed down through the generations. There is a distinct Portuguese influence here in the architecture, temples, and cuisine.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Galle

1. Walk along the Galle Fort's Wall

This majestic structure has become the heart and soul of Galle, with commercial stores and eateries. You can also take a stroll along the Fort's walls or its southern ramparts at sunset.

2. Trek in the Kanneliya Rain Forest Reserve

Designated by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve, this lush forest is home to varieties of flora as well as monkeys, chameleons, and extensive birdlife. It's best to visit under the guidance of a wildlife tracker.

3. Climb the Rumassala Mountain

More a "hillock" than a mountain, the views from the top are stunning nonetheless. Make sure to visit the serene Peace Pagoda as well.

4. Go Whale Watching

Aboard the Sri Lanka Navy's passenger craft "Princess of Lanka", you can view whales as they frolic in the sea.

5. Hit the Beaches

You may be relaxing beside a fisherman and his family but the beaches in Galle are no less fun. Expect to find a couple of waterfront or seaside cafes as well for when you get hungry post-swim!

What to do in Galle

1. A Stunning Legacy Of European Colonialism

Galle's most famous landmark by some distance, the city's fort seems to have been built more with postcards and Instagram profiles in mind than defensive priorities, with its stunning location overlooking the port. However, it was actually constructed by Portuguese traders in 1588, and became an essential fortification for Dutch, and later British colonial rulers. The town's heyday under the Dutch in the 17th century saw the site expanded via numerous "bastions" to hold their heavy guns, until it enclosed pretty much the entire city. Nowadays, it's an absolutely fascinating place.

2. A Golden Arc Of Gorgeous Sri Lankan Sand

Quite possibly the most popular beach in Sri Lanka, Unawatuna is just 4 or 5 miles south of Galle, and a magnet for backpackers. Part of the appeal lies in the broad bay, with a gentle arc and soft, golden sand, but the palm tree fringe and warm, shallow waters only add to the attractions. When you visit, try to tear yourself away from the water for a bit to climb up to the pagoda on the cliffs, which offers superb views across the bay. And check out the small town behind the beach, with its cafes, bars, and souvenir stores.

3. The Dutch City's Spiritual Heart

For over a century, the Groote Kerk was Galle's social center. This Dutch Reformed Church was where the colonial community came together to affirm their identity, even though they were thousands of miles from Amsterdam. Built in 1755 (but the heir to several older structures) at the center of Galle Fort, it's modestly sized but surprisingly grand inside, thanks to its wooden pulpit and impressive pipe organ. Still in use, it remains Galle's Christian hub.

4. Relax In Beautifully Restored Surroundings

Recently subject to a very successful restoration process, the old Dutch Hospital is another attractive colonial building, but it offers far more than an aesthetically appealing facade. When you duck inside the columns of the walkway, you'll find an array of restaurants serving Ceylonese curries, western-style coffee shops, and lively bars - all of which make it Galle's social center, and somewhere that pretty much every visitors finds their way to at some stage.

5. Brilliant Biodiversity Within Reach Of The Coast

Sinharaja is actually around 60 miles north of Galle in the island's interior, but it's well worth making an excursion from the city. Why? This UNESCO-listed national park is humming with animal life, including a colony of leopards and a few elephants for visitors to get acquainted with, as well as exotic species like green pit vipers and tree frogs. Although you can book bungalows for overnight stays, day trips are easy to arrange, and tour guides will be more than happy show you the reserve's biological riches.

1. A Stunning Legacy Of European Colonialism

Galle's most famous landmark by some distance, the city's fort seems to have been built more with postcards and Instagram profiles in mind than defensive priorities, with its stunning location overlooking the port. However, it was actually constructed by Portuguese traders in 1588, and became an essential fortification for Dutch, and later British colonial rulers. The town's heyday under the Dutch in the 17th century saw the site expanded via numerous "bastions" to hold their heavy guns, until it enclosed pretty much the entire city. Nowadays, it's an absolutely fascinating place.

2. A Golden Arc Of Gorgeous Sri Lankan Sand

Quite possibly the most popular beach in Sri Lanka, Unawatuna is just 4 or 5 miles south of Galle, and a magnet for backpackers. Part of the appeal lies in the broad bay, with a gentle arc and soft, golden sand, but the palm tree fringe and warm, shallow waters only add to the attractions. When you visit, try to tear yourself away from the water for a bit to climb up to the pagoda on the cliffs, which offers superb views across the bay. And check out the small town behind the beach, with its cafes, bars, and souvenir stores.

3. The Dutch City's Spiritual Heart

For over a century, the Groote Kerk was Galle's social center. This Dutch Reformed Church was where the colonial community came together to affirm their identity, even though they were thousands of miles from Amsterdam. Built in 1755 (but the heir to several older structures) at the center of Galle Fort, it's modestly sized but surprisingly grand inside, thanks to its wooden pulpit and impressive pipe organ. Still in use, it remains Galle's Christian hub.

4. Relax In Beautifully Restored Surroundings

Recently subject to a very successful restoration process, the old Dutch Hospital is another attractive colonial building, but it offers far more than an aesthetically appealing facade. When you duck inside the columns of the walkway, you'll find an array of restaurants serving Ceylonese curries, western-style coffee shops, and lively bars - all of which make it Galle's social center, and somewhere that pretty much every visitors finds their way to at some stage.

5. Brilliant Biodiversity Within Reach Of The Coast

Sinharaja is actually around 60 miles north of Galle in the island's interior, but it's well worth making an excursion from the city. Why? This UNESCO-listed national park is humming with animal life, including a colony of leopards and a few elephants for visitors to get acquainted with, as well as exotic species like green pit vipers and tree frogs. Although you can book bungalows for overnight stays, day trips are easy to arrange, and tour guides will be more than happy show you the reserve's biological riches.

Where to Eat in Galle

Head to the Lighthouse Hotel where you can enjoy an authentic Sri Lankan, all-you-can-eat-style buffet for just LKR1,200.

When to visit Galle

Galle in November
Estimated hotel price
£11
1 night at 3-star hotel
Galle in November
Estimated hotel price
£11
1 night at 3-star hotel

The best time to visit Galle is in the spring, from February to April. There is low rainfall and pleasant temperatures that hover around 73.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Galle

Plane

Koggala Airport (KCT), while close, is only host to military planes and domestic flights. The closest international hub is Bandaranaike International Colombo Airport (CMB) in Colombo. From here, take a bus or train to get further to Galle.

Train

Using the train from Colombo to Galle is one of the most comfortable and economical options. You'll leave Maradana Station so use a tuk tuk for LKR200 to get from downtown Colombo to here. Then, take the train for LKR180 to get to Galle. Or, you can take the Rajdhani Express and pre-book a first-class air-conditioned seat for LKR1,100.

Car

Driving from Colombo to Galle, take the E01 southwards.

Bus

Take a Southern Express Buses leaving Maharagama to get to Galle for LKR375 - LKR390. There are non-AC and AC-buses available. Do note: drivers may not take you if you have too much luggage.

Airports near Galle

Airlines serving Galle

American Airlines
Good (3,916 reviews)
KLM
Good (289 reviews)
Air France
Good (306 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,080 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,671 reviews)
British Airways
Good (953 reviews)
SWISS
Excellent (371 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (953 reviews)
Iberia
Good (683 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (662 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (670 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (208 reviews)
Finnair
Good (462 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (165 reviews)
LATAM Airlines
Good (641 reviews)
JetBlue
Good (1,151 reviews)
Ethiopian Air
Good (128 reviews)
Malaysia Airlines
Good (24 reviews)
Thai Airways
Good (39 reviews)
Air India
Okay (661 reviews)
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Where to stay in Galle

For a taste of history along with luxury, there's no place quite like the Tamarind Hill. Modest but comfortable accommodations await you at Templeberg Villa. For a spot that's light on the pocket, book a stay at the Rampart View Guest House.

Popular neighbourhoods in Galle

Bataganvila - close to the main hub of Galle, this neighborhood features many residential homes and the Bickay Nature Reserve.

Megalle - right on the coast of the water is this sub-district of Galle, which features homes, schools, and stunning views from the Closenberg Hotel.

Galle Fort - an old fortified city that includes many stores, the Galle Lighthouse and the British Queen's House.

Where to stay in popular areas of Galle

Most booked hotels in Galle

The Fortress Resort & Spa
Excellent (8.9, Excellent reviews)
£142+
Jetwing Lighthouse
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
£180+
Weligama Bay Resort
Excellent (8.2, Excellent reviews)
£63+
Fort Inn Guest House
Excellent (8, Excellent reviews)
£11+
Amari Galle
Excellent (8, Excellent reviews)
£118+
Club Koggala Village
Poor (0, Poor reviews)
£80+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Galle

Public Transportation

There is no coordinated public transport system in Galle so most people get around on foot, since it's quite accessible, or use tuk-tuks and auto-rickshaws.

Taxi

You can also use metered taxis to get around. If the driver doesn't negotiate a fixed price with you, expect to pay a flat rate of LKR50 and LKR28 thereafter.

Car

Have the place you're staying help you arrange a rental car service. Fares include the driver and can range from LKR20 to LKR35 per mile.

The Cost of Living in Galle

Shopping Streets

Within Galle Fort is some of the best shopping. You'll find local shops full of hand-woven textiles, artworks, and jewelers.

Groceries and Other

A quart of milk costs LKR160 and a dozen eggs costs LKR185.

Cheap meal
£1.36
A pair of jeans
£15.89
Single public transport ticket
£0.20
Cappuccino
£1.63
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