Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in south and southeast Asia...
Galle is a town situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, 119 km from Colombo. Galle was known as Gimhathiththa (although Ibn Batuta in the 14th century refers to it as Qali) before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. The major river is Gin River (Gin Ganga) which starts from Gongala Kanda and passing villages such as Neluwa, Nagoda, Baddegama, Thelikada, Wakwella and kisses the sea at Ginthota. In Wakwella over the river there is Wakwella bridge which is the longest bridge in Sri Lanka. 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 south Asian traditions. The Galle fort is a world heritage site and the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers. Other prominent landmarks in Galle include St. Mary's Cathedral founded by Jesuit priests, one of the main Shiva temples on the island, and The Amangalla, a historic luxury hotel. Galle is the main town in the most southerly part of the island, with a population of around 100,000, and is connected by rail to Colombo and Matara.
It is home to a cricket ground, the Galle International Stadium, rebuilt after the 2004 tsunami. Test matches resumed there on December 18, 2007. Rumassala Kanda is a large mound-like hill, which forms the eastern protective barrier to the Galle harbour. Local tradition associates this hill with some events of the Ramayana.
According to James Emerson Tennent, Galle was the ancient seaport of Tarshish, from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables. Certainly, cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC and the root of the word itself is Hebrew, so Galle may have been a main entrepot for the spice.
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. In 1411, the Galle Trilingual Inscription, a stone tablet inscription in three languages, Chinese, Tamil and Persian, was erected in Galle to commemorate the second visit to Sri Lanka by the Chinese admiral Zheng He.
The "modern" history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship, under Lourenco de Almeida was driven there by a storm. However, the people of the city refused to let the Portuguese enter it, so the Portuguese took it by force.
In 1640, the Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present Fort in the year 1663. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, known as "Sun", "Moon" and "Star". After the British took over the country from the Dutch in the year 1796, they preserved the fort unchanged, and used it as the administrative centre of Galle.
Best Time to Visit Galle
October to April
Dutch Fort, Ahangama / Midigama, Koggala, Dutch Reformed Church, Seenigama Temple, Peace Pagoda, Kalutara Temple, St. Mary Cathedral
Galle Attraction Details
Dutch Fort: Galle fort was built first by the Portuguese, then modified by the Dutch during the 17th century. Even today, after 400 years of existence, it looks new and polished with reconstruction work done by Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. Today Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people who still own some of the properties inside the fort are looking at making this one of the modern wonders of the world.
Ahangama / Midigama: This is Sri Lanka surfer's paradise, known for its powerful left break. For the best surfing in Ahangama, head straight out from Kabalana Beach Hotel; in Midigama, look for the breaks near the 139km marker. The whole area is popular with surfers as itís cheap to stay here and the breaks are never crowded. But apart from surfing, the area doesnít have wide appeal; the beaches can be pretty thin and thereís no real concentration of places that appeal to travellers.
Koggala: A well-known local writer Martin Wikramasinghe was born here. Museum of folk, art & culture is built in his honour at his old residence. The museum displays intriguing local folk items. Attires of folk dancers, sports items, household items and furniture and vast arena of the folk life of the early 20th century are also displayed. Koggala lake is a popular destination for picnics and bird watching.
Dutch Reformed Church: This church was first built in 1754 and has recently been restored at the expense of the Dutch government. There are several gravestones on the floor in very good condition; they were brought from older graveyards that were closed in 1710 and 1804. There are more relocated headstones in the churchyard outside. There is also an old pipe organ with a manual bellows; unfortunately it no longer plays.
Seenigama Temple: The Seenigama temple is a popular name among the Galle tourist attractions. The Seenigama temple is known as the Seenigama Devalaya in the colloquial Sinhalese. As is evident, Devalaya is the term for temple. The Seenigama temple in Galle is situated on the coast of the sea, beyond the 96 km post on the Colombo Galle highway. Thought to be over a millennia old, the Galle Seenigama temple is approximately 1300 ears old.
Peace Pagoda: The Peace Pagoda is a beautiful structure lying amidst tranquil greeneries. It never fails to arouse in the visitors a sense of peace, calm and satisfaction. This splendid building ranks among the top tourist attractions in Galle. Peace Pagodas are meant for people of all races and creeds to unite and search for harmony. These are generally Buddhist stupas. Most of the Peace Pagodas have been built by the Buddhist monk, Nichidatsu Fujii. The Japanese monk was also the founder of the Nipponzan-Myohoji Buddhist Order.
Kalutara Temple: The Kalutara temple is one of the popular Galle tourist attractions. It is favored by tourists from all across the world owing to its historical significance which dates back to the 11th century. The plot of land where the Kalutara Temple, Galle is presently situated is home to a fort in the Kalu Ganga islet. The Kalutara temple complex thus is a vast enclave accommodating a fort that interests guests from all over the world.
St. Mary Cathedral: St. Maryís Cathedral has very well catered to the spiritual needs not only of the resident catholic population of the area but also for many others who throng at the feet of Our Lady of the Rosary, for last 134 years. To enliven the faith of the catholic population and also to propagate Gospel values among Non-Christians in Galle area, the Cathedral parish has been very much outstanding.
How to reach Galle
Land at Bhandarnaike Airport of Colombo. Then take a bux or taxi for Galle.
Galle is an international sea port with passenger vessels ferrying to and from various important ports across the world.
Where to stay in Galle
Ocean View Guesthouse, Lighthouse Lodge, Fort Inn Guest House, Khalid Guest House, Orchard House, The Courtyard, Galle Fort Hotel, Lighthouse Hotel