Galle, Sri Lanka — The City Time Forgot Tourist Attractions, Hotels, Things to Do, Fort
Galle was once a major trading port between East and West. Its beautifully preserved colonial fort with its quaint city within, with cobblestone streets and colonial architecture is a place time forgot. Close by are magnificent beaches, rainforests and other attractions to keep you busy. It is definitely a fascinating place to visit.
Galle Beaches Soak in the Sun
There are many excellent beaches close to Galle. The closest and most famous of these are Unawatuna Beach and Jungle Beach which are about 6 km south of Galle Fort. Once pristine coconut palm lined beaches fronting a turquoise ocean they are now somewhat commercialized.
Turtle Hatchery Save Wildlife
The entrance to this sea turtle farm and hatchery is unassuming and very basic by western standards but once inside you can see the effort of these volunteers to save and protect these vulnerable sea creatures. The guide is knowledgeable and friendly.
Tea Plantation Taste Real Tea
While the area around Galle is not the best area for growing tea; there is a tea and rubber plantation, called Handunugoda Tea Estate, about 20kms away (40 min) which offers an interesting "tea experience". Walk through the tea plantation and watch tea-pluckers picking the finest tea leaves, and then visit the factory where it is produced and even taste the various types of teas available. The plantation also has rubber and cinnamon. You can observe these trees being harvested too. Remember, it was because of the lucrative cinnamon trade that the Dutch built Galle Fort.
Surfing Ride a Wave
The waves around the beaches in Galle are most suitable for beginners to intermediate level surfers. Closenburg also know an Dewata beach is the the nearest. Other beaches close-by are Hikkaduwa , Unawatuna, Merissa and Weligama. The best seasons for surfing are between November and March.
Peace Pagoda Meditate & Contemplate
Built on a hill a short distance from Galle, it is a beautifully serene place with a breathtaking view of the sea and the Galle Fort in the distance. It has a lovely golden Buddha statue and a tsunami memorial. This is a religious site so you need to dress appropriately — cover your legs and shoulders. The sunset from this location is breathtaking.
Sinharaja Forest Go on a Safari
The Sinharaja Forest is tropical rainforest has trails that take you deep into the forest past rivers, waterfalls and a diversity of wildlife. If you are lucky you may see a leopard. The best time to visit the forest is between December and April or August and September. Be on the lookout for leeches that will love to attach themselves to you so dress in long trousers and covered shoes. A guide is mandatory so make sure he can speak your language.
Whales Try Whale Watching
Get on board a small boat and head off to sea. The sight of these awesome beasts gliding gracefully past and playfully breaching the surface of the water close to you is exhilarating. Whales can be seen at Mirissa near Galle. The best time for whale watching is December - April.
Touch a Slithery
For more adventurous there is usually a snake charmer near the clock town. See a cobra dance or wrap yourself in python.
Packaged Tours A Touch of Paradise
A number of reputable local operators offer all-inclusive tours of Sri Lanka including a visit to Sigiriya.
Viator, a TripAdvisor company, offers 100s of packaged tours in Sri Lanka. They also offer very reasonable airport pick-up and drop-off services.
Visas are best obtained online and cost between U$15-35 depending on your country of citizenship. The online process is very simple.
Many international airlines fly to Sri Lanka. The airport is approximately 160km (2.5 hours) from Galle by expressway.
Train: Trains depart from the Colombo Fort Station and follow a scenic route along the western coastline and arrive at the Galle station which is about two kilometers from the Galle Fort. Trains depart during daylight hours and the travel time is approximately 3 hours. Most trains have two carriage classes These are rather "rough" and may not be up to some tourists expectations; but they are very cheap. Second Class tickets costs Rs 180 ($2). Third class (definitely not recommended) cost Rs100 ($0.75). There is also a privately run once daily service called the Rajadhani Express which has air-conditioned carriages and leather seats. Tickets for this train cost Rs 990 ($9).
Bus: Oh dear. Do you really want to? Buses depart from the central bus terminal near the Colombo Fort railroad station. The drop off point its at the bus terminus in Galle which is about a kilometer from the Galle Fort. Normal fare is Rs135 ($1). and Air-conditioned buses are Rs270 ($2).
Getting Around Galle
The best way for a tourist to appreciate the Galle Fort is by walking. The cobbled streets have hardly any traffic and it's safe. If you prefer you can ride a bicycle. You can also use a three-wheeler (tuk-tuk) or car but in doing so you will miss the essence of the city and its architecture. The attractions outside the Galle Fort can be reached via tuk-tuk, car, bus or hire car.
Galle, like the rest of Sri Lanka, has a hot and humid tropical climate. The maximum temperatures are in the high twenties to low thirties. But the humidity is very high, so you will feel hot.
The average temperature is 29°C. The temperature at night is about 22°C.
The best months to visit are between December through January and July through September.
What to Wear
Being in the tropics, the weather in Galle is usually hot and humid. Dressing smart will make your experience far more enjoyable.
• Clothing - Loose cotton, linen or breathable fabric clothes.
• "Proper" Clothing - Also remember you need to wear "proper" clothing when visiting Buddhist and Hindu temples. This means your clothes must cover your shoulders and be below your knees.
• Sunglasses - Always a good idea to protect your eyes.
• Shoes - Any footwear suitable for the tropics is fine.
• Hat - Broad brimmed hat to keep the sun away.
• Sunscreen - Definitely a good idea in the tropics.
Mobile & Internet
Mobile phone services are good in the cities and patchy in regional areas but there is coverage island-wide. Internet/WI-FI are available at most accommodations. The speeds, however, aren't as fast as you may be used to.
Sri Lankan people are naturally happy, friendly and courteous. It is in their culture. They are always willing to help. Unfortunately modern commercialism and tourism has corrupted this lovely natural characteristic of the people and some may take advantage of you. Good manners are always appreciated. Never be rude. They may not appear as prosperous as you but they are cheerful, helpful and courteous people.
Tipping is appreciated but is not compulsory. In Sri Lanka tipping serves two purposes. Firstly is a token of your appreciation of the service someone has provided you. Not tipping can be hurtful to them because it will be interpreted that you were not happy with their service. Secondly, a more obvious reason is that, it is a financial reward. Remember that a couple of Dollars or Euros on a tip is less than the cost of a candy bar in your home country. Be nice. Make someone happy. A tip of 10% or more is the accepted standard, rounded up in to rupees. For example don't give a tip of 50 cents.
Sri Lankans are pretty relaxed about what you wear. Shorts, tee-shirts etc. are fine. Nudity is frowned upon. Also note that women wearing revealing clothing are more likely to be harassed by local males. You need to wear "proper" clothing when visiting religious sites such as temples and Anuradhapura. This means your clothes must cover your shoulders and be below your knees. Wrapping a sarong around you is an easy solution. You also need to remove your footwear and hats when entering these places.
There are no restrictions in taking photographs, except of military installations. Most people don't mind you photographing them. If you are visiting any temples, remember it is very rude to take photographs posing next to religious statues and objects. It is especially rude to do so with your back towards them or leaning on them. This is the only time you are likely to get a comment from a local.
Some museums charge extra fees to take photographs of their exhibits.
Smoking & Alcohol
Smoking and the consumption of alcohol in public places is not permitted. Alcohol is also not served during Poya Days which are holy days for the nation's Buddhists.
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