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Galle is a stunningly atmospheric town at the southern edge of Sri Lanka with fascinating history evident at every turn through its eclectic assemblage of architecture.

Galle Fort itself is sat on an angular promontory that juts out into the sea. An important seaport for the spice trade long before the arrival of Europeans, the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century only to be usurped by the Dutch who built the impressive granite fort – the largest of its kind in Asia – that encloses and demarcates the old town, before they in turn were replaced by the British.

Today the walls and everything inside them are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with beautiful Dutch fusion architecture, a commanding Victorian lighthouse, grand churches and mosques, all in a sultry tropical setting.

But the town also refuses to become a relic, with numerous civic buildings still fulfilling their original purpose and the modern town extending inland. Spice traders and merchants have been replaced by an equally cosmopolitan crowd of artists, writers, designers and poets, and its small streets are packed with boutique shops, buzzing little bars and cafes as well as a smattering of charming hotels. The fishermen sat over the waves on their stilts carry on angling as they always have done.

Galle Fort is steeped in colonial history and is utterly charming. Walking down the cobbled streets was like stepping back in time, an experience made all the more vivid by my fascinating local host. One of the highlights of my time in Sri Lanka.

Rachel O’Leary
Travel Designer

What to do

  • Explore Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Browse its boutiques and vibrant markets
  • Visit the National Maritime Archaeology Museum
  • Learn all about one of the world's most popular drinks at the Handunugoda Tea Museum

When to go

The south coast is at its peak between November and March - the seas are considered unsafe for swimming outside of these respective months. The monsoons bring rain in May and June, with an inter-monsoon affecting October and early November. Average temperatures are 27-30° but a sea breeze can make it feel a little cooler.

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