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Galle

Like Colombo, Galle was a thriving port long before colonial times and its accessible location on the southwest of the country attracted Arabs, Persians, Romans and Greeks on their way across the Indian Ocean. In 1505 the Portuguese attacked and settled the town, 135 years later conceding it to the Dutch, who built the famous fort. In 1796 the British took over and used the fort as their headquarters. Today, Galle Fort is the old part of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best preserved colonial sea fortress in Asia. No stay here would be complete without a wander along its ramparts that hug the coastline, past the attractive architecture, iconic lighthouse and sweeping beach, especially at sunset.

A quiet and cosy little town in its own right, Galle’s narrow streets are lined by churches, cloistered courtyards and shuttered mansions, which all stand testament to their colonial past. The Galle Fort has recently received a lot of investment from expatriates living in southeast Asia so has a somewhat contemporary flair mixed into its historic feel, with an array of boutique hotels, art galleries, tiny shops, cafés and restaurants. There are also several museums that are worth visiting here, as well as the Dutch Reformed Church and a lively Arab Quarter.

A number of comfortable hotels can be found peppered around the historic Fort area, our top choice being the beautiful Amangalla, and a handful of elegant properties can also be found just outside of the bustling citadel, like Kahanda Kanda - one of our favourite boutique hotels on the island.

Thanks to its small size, Galle is easily explored on foot and works well as an introduction to Sri Lanka’s history, culture and relaxed atmosphere. Therefore, we recommend visiting early on in your tailor-made tour, after flying into Colombo, before following the coast around to Tangalle or heading inland. Day trips from here are a great option too, for Galle is the gateway to the southern beaches like Mirissa and Weligama Bay, where you can enjoy watching whales and dolphins leaping in and out the Indian Ocean.

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