Galle is a city on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, about two hours away from Colombo by car. It’s famously known for the Galle Fort, the fortified old city founded by the Portuguese, and later upgraded by the Dutch.
Before we go into detail about Galle, we should talk about transportation between cities. The transport system in Sri Lanka is limited to trains, buses, cars and tuktuks. Most tourists will hire a car for the trip with the driver following along the entire way. We went with YDSL (Your Driver Sri Lanka) and had a great experience with Mr. Chami (owner) and Mr. Shan (driver) who ensured that we arrived at our destinations safely.
One of the benefits of taking a car around Sri Lanka is that you can stop wherever and whenever you like to admire the scenery or to have a fresh coconut, something that we took advantage of several times along the journey.
The Galle Fort area is very beautiful and remarkably well preserved, especially considering that it was built in the 18th century. Today, the area remains mostly car-free and an excellent way to spend your days in Galle. There are numerous restaurants, cafes and even cute libraries to explore by foot or tuktuk.
Compared to Colombo where we had just driven from, Galle is a much more laid back place. You still have the ocean at your doorstep, but the mood is totally different. You see many more families walking on the fort wall, playing in the water, diving into the water, or just having some family time under a tree’s shade.
There are some fantastic historic hotels in Galle that I’d recommend looking into, even if it’s just to visit for lunch, dinner, coffee or a drink. We were unfortunately unable to book the two hotels we really wanted because they were sold out months in advance. These included The Fort Printers Hotel and the Galle Fort Hotel. We did however have excellent meals in both of these hotels and would love to stay there in a future visit.
Our inability to get the hotels we wanted in Galle turned into a positive outcome however. We booked a room at the Arabella on Boossa Villa. We originally were concerned about the location, being about 15 minutes away from the fort city walls, but this turned out to be a non-issue. Location overall ended up being a non-issue since we had a car booked the entire trip (you will likely do the same) that followed us from city to city.
The Arabella on Boossa Villa is beautiful with its own beach and large spacious rooms. Best of all, there are only eight units in the entire villa so it feels like your own vacation home. The staff were excellent and the food delicious. This hotel, along with the one we stayed at in Kandalama, were the best of the trip by far.
We learned an important lesson by staying at this villa. If you’re willing to sacrifice location, you can stay at extremely beautiful villas in Sri Lanka that provide much more value for the money and a unique experience that you cannot find in other countries. One of the travellers we met at the villa recommended a website to find other venues such as this around the world called Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We haven’t tried it yet, but we’ll give it a shot next time.
Something that we had not paid much attention to when watching videos and reading reviews about travel to Sri Lanka was something called Poya, which is on the same day as the full moon of each month. During Poya, there is no alcohol served or sold throughout the country. Even in the hotel, there was a zero tolerance policy. The only way to consume alcohol during Poya is inside your hotel room, and even that, needs to be done with the curtains closed. We decided to skip alcohol that night and enjoyed being out with the families.
We really enjoyed our stay in Galle and wished we had booked more than two nights. We loved walking around the Galle Fort’s streets, watching the sunsets from the high walls of the fortification, eating at small family run restaurants like Imals and having gelato at the excellent Isle of Gelato.
If you decide to visit Galle, we highly recommend staying for more than two nights. We could have easily traded our two nights in Negombo for two more nights in Galle.
For the next article in the series, we’ll be heading east to Matara, a beach stop on the way to Nuwara Eliya.
Stay tuned for more on Sri Lanka!
Other articles from the Sri Lanka series: