Galle is normally the first destination on a Sri Lankan itinerary, for us it was our last – but not the least. We whizzed on a tuk tuk from Weligama (35km) and felt as if we’d been transported through time. Galle doesn’t feel like Sri Lanka, the ambiance makes it seem as if you’re in a European city rather than an Asian tropical country. There’s no surprise as the city was founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century, then later established by the British and Dutch. Today it is protected under the UNESCO World Heritage and Colonial buildings fill the streets, which are lined with boutique fashion shops and cafes. To make the most of your afternoon, here are my highlights:
Situated inside the landmark of Galle Fort, the lighthouse makes a good resting stop and it really is as pretty as the photos. This is Sri Lanka’s oldest light station dating back to 1848, but the original lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1934. The port of Galle dates back to the time when Arab traders sailed to China in search of eastern riches. Galle was their last haven before crossing the Bay of Bengal. Grab a candid pose right outside this white beauty – postcard perfect.
Galle is the most vibrant and artistic place to shop in Sri Lanka. Most stores are filled with quirky handmade jewellery, clothing, homeware and artwork. It’s on the pricier side, although you can grab a bargain souvenir from the ‘No Bills’ poster shop – the number one destination for poster art and poster design. They’re an original and definitive source for authentic, exclusively licensed travel posters. Pick up three trendy postcards for 1000 rupees (around £5).
There’s the small chance (okay a rather large chance) you’ll get hassled to buy a moonstone ring and/or an array of precious gems, but the real gems are the side streets. Go wandering with no attachment to Google Maps and you’ll stumble across secret alleyways with garden cafes and art galleries. It’s not a large place, so you can go get lost and find your way back.
As well as a European feel, we also felt as if we were in Havana, due to the gorgeous vintage cars parked on the road. They pop out of nowhere and make for a photo treat. Make sure you spot at least one classic Volkswagen Beetle and a worn out motorcycle.
To top off your afternoon, take a stroll down by the lighthouse to witness a dramatic sunset. We’d been travelling Sri Lanka for 4 weeks and it was the best sunset we’d seen. Of course it depends on the weather, but this spot is famous for it’s romantic reds and pinks. Even the locals come to enjoy!