THINGS TO DO IN GALLE, SRI LANKA
A fortified city with an abundance of attractions, Sri Lanka’s most charming city is a tourist hub and one that you can’t afford to miss. There are so many fun things to do in Galle not the least of which is visiting the iconic Galle Fort and seeing the treasures it contains.
Galle is one of those destinations that you will instantly feel comfortable in with its beautiful locales that you can spend hours admiring and exploring. Beaches that are everything you imagine them to be, quaint streets and trendy cafes, serene pagodas and museums – take a look at what to do in Galle the next time you visit.
The oldest lighthouse in Sri Lanka, Galle lighthouse has long been one of the most significant and most visited sites in Galle. The current lighthouse dates back to 1939, but there was another lighthouse in its place dating back in 1848, but the first was destroyed during a great fire in 1934. The lighthouse is as yet being used and has a prime location in the city, with a full view of the harbor and any ships that might be entering.
The bright white lighthouse with the background of the blue skies, turquoise blue and green sea, the golden sand of the shore, and the lavish green paddy fields make for a very picturesque view. The same view also makes visiting this lighthouse one of the best activities to do in Galle. I definitely recommend getting a photo of Galle’s well-known landmark. The best view, in my opinion, is from the fort walls themselves just before sunset.
Historical and Cultural sites
If you are a history lover, the inner heart of Galle Fort will not disappoint. With its complex cultural history, including colonization by Dutch, British, and Portuguese powers, as well as its maritime legacy, it’s nothing unexpected that there are numerous cultural places to visit in Galle.
Galle Dutch Church: Also called ‘Groote Kerk’ this church was built by the Dutch in the seventeenth century.
National Maritime Museum: Located in a 17th-century Dutch warehouse, this museum surveys the maritime history and marine ecosystems in Galle.
National Museum of Galle: A Sri Lankan national museum located in the oldest Dutch building in Galle.
Meeran Mosque: Built-in 1904 but the prayer spot has been used by Muslims for three centuries.
All Saints Anglican Church: A stunning church built from solid rock.
Walk on the fort walls
Walking the fort walls is one of the things to do in Galle that you absolutely must experience. The total distance for this walk is about 2km, but allocate 45 minutes to an hour if you like taking photographs. It can get quite hot and humid in Galle in the middle of the day so plan this activity for either the morning or late afternoon.
Dutch Fort is one of the most extraordinary historical and archeological sites of the world. The fort was first constructed by the Portuguese in the late sixteenth century and fortified expansively by the Dutch in the mid-17th century. It is a stunning blend of archeology, architecture, and history in the backdrop of the tropical atmosphere.
Its appeal lies in that it is not just a historical monument. Even today life is buzzing inside it, with a museum, gorgeous villas, administrative offices, antique shops, cafes, bookstores, and lifestyle stores.
The Flag Rock an ex-Portuguese Bastion, situated at the southernmost end of the Galle Fort, today is a popular destination for tourists to witness the sunset. This Rock was a natural defense center during the Dutch period, from where ships were alerted about dangers lurking and also from the unseen rocks underwater by firing Musket shots from Pigeon Island.
As numerous street vendors roll up around this time, it is also a great place to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the laidback yet lively atmosphere. In addition to this, it is also worth heading here earlier in the day; you can often see local cliff divers hurling themselves into the waters below.
Whale watching is an interesting fun activity in Galle. Sri Lanka is surrounded by the ocean which makes it more accessible to observe these huge sea mammals and quite a number of dolphins too. You have to start quite early to the beach to catch a boat. If you wish to come to Galle for a holiday then most of the Hotels provide a trip to whale watching. Otherwise, you can get to the beach directly and go for it.
The boat ride into the ocean just as the sun is about to rise is gorgeous. You should definitely carry a camera and binoculars to capture the experience. If you are lucky enough you might also get to see blue whales along with the normal ones and dolphins.
One of the best and most popular beaches in the whole of Sri Lanka, Unawatuna is the perfect place to head if you want to lounge in the sun amid some stupendous scenery. While its palm tree-lined golden sands certainly make for a beautiful sight, what with the waves of the ocean gently lapping at its shores, Unawatuna is particularly renowned for the wealth of watersports that it has to offer up.
Unawatuna, the beach town in Galle, has pretty good waves for surfing. The center is a 10-minute drive from Galle city. The diving institutes offer different levels of courses such as open water diving, refresh dive course, fresher’s diving, master level diving, reef diving, night diving, etc. Sea Horse Divers will take you out to the reef or to a wreck dive that’s only a 30-minute ride away.
The Jungle beach in Galle, which offers a perfect location for Snorkelling, is a semi-hidden bay enclosed in a jungle. It is one of the best activities to do in Galle. The reef is not dangerous as it is partially dead. The water current is not strong so you can safely swim near the rocky edges.
Snorkeling is offered by professional instructors. You may see reef fishes, crabs, moray eels, turtles, barracudas, and parrotfish.
Galle Cricket Ground
Galle Fort happens to be home to one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world, the Galle International Cricket Ground. Located right at the entrance to the Fort proper, the ground features international games throughout the year including test matches, one-day matches, and T20 games. You can watch from the grassy terrace, all the while being served fresh tropical fruits and enjoying a beer or two. It’s basically the perfect day out for any sports lover.
Lying just inside the sturdy stone walls of Galle Fort, the Clock Tower is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks and most photographed monuments. Built-in 1883, it was erected in memory of Peter Daniel Anthonisz – a popular and well-known doctor.
Nowadays, you can still read a plaque that commemorates the doctor’s life and ‘his skill and benevolence in relieving human suffering.’ Towering to a height of 25 meters, the Clock Tower makes for a fine sight with the harbor lying just behind it and the fort all around it.
The sanctuary is a mix of wild exotic plants, medicinal herbs, and beautiful shrubs. You can also see many rare species of birds here amidst the wild. To reach the sanctuary, you have to drive the Jungle Beach Road which runs along the Jungle Beach and gives beautiful views of the blue ocean. The stunning views from the Rumassala Hills make visiting this place one of the best things to do in Galle for trekkers and nature enthusiasts.
Japanese Peace Pagoda
The Japanese Peace Pagoda or Unawatuna Peace Pagoda is one of the three Buddhist stupas in Sri Lanka which makes visiting this place one of the most popular activities to do in Galle. The stupa is a paperwhite dome near Unawatuna Beach and lies amidst a thick forest. The circular deck and architecture, the golden statue of Buddha, and the stunning views of the blue ocean make this place in Galle, a must-visit.