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There are two ways to get to the Sri Lankan city of Galle. Some cruise ships dock in the Port of Galle, whilst many choose to visit on a Colombo shore excursion. It takes between 2.5 and 4 hours to travel from Colombo to Galle by train, yet the city remains popular due to its beautiful architecture, interesting attractions and historic forts.
Galle’s beaches, including the beautiful Unawatuna Beach three miles from the centre of the city, are great places to relax and swim. The city also offers plenty of places to walk, hike and jog nearby scenic areas.
Sightseeing in Galle
The best ways to explore Galle are on foot, or by tuk-tuk. You’ll be able to view the impressive temples, and to walk around the fort along dusty paths that are free to access and enjoy. The city has a diverse past, having been occupied by the French, Dutch, British, Portuguese, German and Chinese. Influences from all of these cultures can be seen in the architectural designs, and can be read about in small local museums and the guide books on sale. The 2004 tsunami had a major impact on Galle, including the destruction of the International Cricket Stadium, though it’s now been rebuilt and the city shows few signs of the damage that was done.
One of the city’s most famous buildings is the beautiful Kalutara Temple. It’s easy to spot, with a white domed roof that’s topped by a pointed tip. At night, the temple is often lit and is a particularly spectacular sight.
Galle’s Peace Pagoda is a white and gold monument, built by a Buddhist monk and intended as a place where people of all races and religions could meet. The pagoda is similar in shape to the Kalutara Temple, but adorned with gold statues and decorative images.
Sea Turtle Farm and Hatchery
A short taxi ride from Galle, in the town of Habaraduwa, takes you to this wonderful sanctuary. Staff at the hatchery collect the eggs that are laid along the coast, and would otherwise be at risk. The hatchlings are raised until they’re large enough to be released, allowing the whole process to start again the following summer. Visitors can see five varieties of sea turtle being raised on the farm.
Shopping in Galle
Some of the easiest souvenirs to find are antique coins and tablecloths, often sold by travelling tradesmen who walk the walls of the fort. You might also want to visit Lihiniya Gems, established in 1982, where you can buy beautiful precious gems and hand-made gemstone jewellery.
Take time to visit the city’s clothing shops, which sell hand-crafted clothes as well as famous designer labels. One of the most unusual shops is the Shoba Display Gallery, where you can buy lace-adorned clothes that wouldn’t look out of place in a period drama.
Eating out in Galle
Alongside traditional Sri Lankan restaurants, you’ll find that Galle is filled with little cafes serving sandwiches, milkshakes and snacks. Pizzas are popular on the island, as are traditional British dishes and Indian curries. Galle’s history has meant that European fusions are common, and that countries all over the world have played a part in developing the city’s local cuisine.
The beaches are home to cocktail bars and fish restaurants, whilst the city itself includes some lovely rooftop eateries where you can dine under the stars. You’ll find that prices are low in the city’s restaurants and it is a great place to enjoy a romantic dinner or drinks in friendly surroundings before returning to your cruise ship.