With its white-gold sands and crystal clear water, immeasurable amounts of greenery and picturesque views of the ocean, Galle is already a stunningly beautiful part of the country, but the city’s not-so-hidden gem is definitely Galle Fort.
Stepping through the main entrance to Galle Fort is like stepping off of the plane in a European city a couple hundred years ago – namely a Dutch city, of course. Honestly, with the amount of tourists and Western-oriented bars and restaurants, if it weren’t for the Sinhalese writing everywhere you could honestly forget you were in Sri Lanka.
First built in 1588 when the Portuguese arrived, the area became what it is today thanks to the Dutch in 1684, who heavily infused their own culture and heritage with that of the local area. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle Fort somehow managed to withstand the Boxing Day tsunami which all but obliterated a lot of the coast of the same area.
The main gate of the fort has a somewhat Tolkien-esque appeal, with huge trees growing either side, making the entrance seem a lot more looming than it actually is (except in the dark – it is terrifying at night!).
On entering the main fort, you’re greeted by a main square, much the same as the ones found in most major European countries (except UK, we kind of suck). Much like Spain’s plazas or any Italian piazza, the square seems to be a main meeting point of the town – in the two days I was there, we witnessed a market, an outdoor concert/parade type thing and, of course, a rousing game of cricket.
You don’t need to spend money to enjoy Galle Fort – it’s one of those places where you can spend a whole day just strolling around without getting bored, drinking in its rich history and colonial architecture.
Speaking of the architecture, a friend of mine who grew up in Galle said that until a few years ago it was actually illegal to carry out any external modifications to your home or business inside the Fort, so as to maintain its authentic Dutch feel. However, as more and more tourists have flocked to the area thanks to cricket, amongst other things, the rules have relaxed quite significantly and so these days there are quite a few buildings undergoing mass renovations.
As charming and fairytale-like as inside the Fort is, far and away the most impressive part is the lighthouse and the views from the wall, particularly during sunset. In fact, if you find yourself within the walls during this time, you’ll probably be the only one – the whole population flock to the walls to enjoy the breath-taking views.
In all honesty, when I purchased my flight to Sri Lanka, I was clueless about the country. I knew where it was, I knew what language they spoke and I knew the kind of food they typically eat and that’s about it. I had no idea where I should go or what I should see. Galle (particularly the Fort) was recommended to me by a friend who visited for a Test match once, and I am so glad he did. It is probably now up there as one of the prettiest towns I’ve ever visited.