Cities

Batticaloa

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Batticaloa is a small rustic beach town situated next to one of the largest lagoons in the eastern region of country. It is the heart of a very fascinating culture as the Dutch invaders formed their first footprint here in 1602 and built a large fort in 1665, which is still visible near the vast lagoon. The area is famous for the musical sounds of the singing fish which can be heard in the lagoons when the light of a full moon shines on it. The sea is a beautiful, wide stretch of soft sand and shallow water which is safe for swimming and wading in to the distance of about 150 – 200 metres from the shore. The beach is also dotted with delightful rock pools inhabited by a variety of interesting sea creatures. Luxurious accommodation is not an option here as the area was right in the zone of the Sri Lankan Civil War which carried on for almost 20 years, and it was one of the worst hit areas of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. However it shows promising chances of being a successful touristic area due to its mysterious unfamiliarity and seclusion.

Things to do in Batticaloa

  • Take a walk down Kallady Beach
  • Visit the Batticaloa Fort
  • Visit the Batticaloa Lighthouse
  • Visit St. Mary’s Cathedral

Bandarawela

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Bandarawela is a picturesque mountain resort located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Due to a higher altitude, it has a cooler climate throughout the year. Linked to a royal and colonial past blended with a lush forestation has made this town a base for eco-tourism. The history of this area commences from the time of the great Sinhalese King Valagamba who fell back and regrouped in the Dhowa region to fight against Chola invaders of India. During British colonial era, the city rapidly developed due to the vast tea plantations and modern infrastructure. Many features belonging to this colonial period can still be seen as most of the buildings were built under British architectural influences. The pleasant climate and rich historical background has made this town a major tourist attraction.

Things to do in Bandarawela

  • Take a scenic train journey
  • Visit a tea factory
  • Visit a tea plantation

Badulla

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Badulla marks the southeast extremity of the picturesque Hill Country and is a gateway to the arid east coast. It is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest towns continuously covered in a pleasant humid mist and entwined by the Badulla Oya River, and has a local reputation as a base for black marketers. The Portuguese occupied it briefly developing it under European influence, and then torched it upon leaving. For the British it was an important and active social centre mainly for planters, although the teeming roads have changed the atmosphere quite drastically today. The economy of the district is mainly based on agricultural farming of tea, vegetables and paddy along with livestock. The major attractions of this unique town are the ample, beautiful waterfalls which cascade silkily down the green hills shrouded in romantic mist. Visits to Welimada, which specializes in potato farming, can also be organised for those interested in the agricultural practices of the country. Trekking and camping are enjoyable activities to partake in as the pristine environment offers the experience of utmost adventure on travel to Sri Lanka.

Things to do in Badulla

  • Visit the city of Welimada to agricultural practices
  • Trek through the scenic country side
  • Take a trek to see Dunhinda Falls
  • Visit Bogoda Bridge
  • Visit Dhowa Rock Temple
  • Visit Muthiyangana Raja Maha Viharaya
  • Visit St Mark’s Church

 

Arugam Bay

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Arugam Bay is a serene palm-rimmed village of simple restaurants and cabanas set in the untouched southeast coast, located in the dry zone part of the island. It is often referred to as a surfer’s paradise and has some of the cheapest holiday resorts in Sri Lanka. It is a great place to unwind, eat seafood and enjoy a mellow party scene. Even though most of the roads and buildings were destroyed after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Arugam Bay is being rebuilt and is developing at a fast pace due to its popularity among tourists both domestic and international. As the town was affected by the civil war, the roads may be guarded by army personnel stationed at military outposts, however this is only a post war essential and it would be unnecessary to feel threatened. Arugambay has the best surfing waves in Sri Lanka during the months of April to October. From November to April it is a tranquil place best for relaxation and swimming. At any time of year the surrounding region offers some superb opportunities for viewing birdlife, leopards, crocodiles and elephants as it is just a few kilometers away from Yala National Park.

Things to do in Arugam Bay

  • Go surfing during the surf season
  • Visit Kudumbigala Monastery
  • Visit Muhudu Maha Viharaya
  • Visit Whiskey Point beach
  • Take a safari in the Yala National Park

Anuradhapura

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, distinguished for its well-preserved ruins of ancient civilization. According to Mahawamsa, the great chronicle of the Sinhalese, the city of Anuradhapura was named after a minister called Anurada who found this area as a village settlement by the Malwatu Oya in the second half of the 6th century BC. It is said that King Pandukabhaya made it his capital in the 4th century BC.

In this sacred city, there are eight main places of worship known as Athamasthana. They are: Sri Maha Bodhiya, Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Abhayagiriya, Jetavanaramaya, Mirisawatiya and Lankaramaya. In the vicinity of Anuradhapura there are a large number of ruins consisting of three classes of buildings, dagobas, basic buildings, and pokunas (bathing-tanks). The dagobas are bell-shaped masses of stonework, altering from a few feet to over 1100 ft in circumference. The most famous is the Brazen Palace erected by King Dutugamunu about 164 BC. One of the best specimen of bathing tanks or pools in ancient Sri Lanka is the pair of pools known as “Kuttam pokuna” (Twin ponds). The city also contains a sacred Bo-Tree, Sri Mahabodhiya, it is said that Sanghamitta Their brought with her a branch of the Bodhi tree under which prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment. This is the oldest living tree in documented history.

Things to do in Anuradhapura

Ambewela

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Ambewela is one of the most beautiful places in Sri Lanka situated in the Nuwara Eliya district. It famously has highest and widest grass grounds in the country which is home to healthy pedigree cows and other farm life. It is said that the best milk produce comes from this area and there a quite a few milk factories dotted around the picturesque scenery. The cleanliness of the milking process is also of great importance with automatic milking parlors maintaining the highest levels of hygiene set by the Alfa Laval Company of Sweden. These measures ensure that the milk produced in the farms is of the very best quality.

Things to do in Ambewela

  • Visit the Ambewela dairy farm
  • Visit a tea factory
  • Visit sites close to Nuwara Eliya
  • Take a trek to visit the leading waterfalls
  • Visit the Kothmale Reservior

Ahungalla

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Ahungalla is clearly the most beautiful stretch of coast between Bentota and Galle on the west coast of the island. It is known for its swaying coconut palms, green vegetation, clear blue sea and golden sandy beach which all provide tourists with an atmosphere of utmost relaxation. Basket ware and handicrafts can be bought from local street side vendors and the area around Ahungalla is famous for its traditional hand carved masks made from light wood and painted with vegetable paints. The roadside stalls, attractive jewelry and seafood are typical of the other such tropical beaches in the west and prove to be a major attraction among tourists as they are interesting cultural lures. Accommodation is excellent here as the town plays host to some of the most luxurious hotels on the west, with breathtaking views of the vast Indian Ocean making it absolutely worthwhile to travel to Sri Lanka. It is an ideal location for swimming, turtle watching, sunbathing, snorkeling and a variety of other water sports. The variety of birds and elephants in the surrounding jungles also give a thrilling wildlife experience to the visitors.

Things to do in Ahungalla

  • Take a mangrove river safari
  • Visit the mask museum
  • Go turtle watching

Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada)

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) is Sri Lanka’s holy mountain, where people go on pilgrimage to worship the footprint of Lord Buddha. A sanctified place of worship to people of all faiths atop a 2, 243 metre high mountain in the southwest corner of the highlands. The Sri Pada Peak is the only mountain in the world, where four major religions gather to worship. Due to its historical significance to various people, the mountain, itself, is referred to by a variety of terms.

To the Buddhist, the imprint found on the summit of the mountain is the hallowed footprint of Lord Buddha. Shivanolipatha Malai is the Tamil name referred to the footprint as being that of the Hindu deity Shiva. To the Christians and Muslims, it is the foot print of Adam and they call it Adam’s Peak.

The Sinhala name of the mountain is Samanalakanda, which refers either to the deity Saman, who is said to live upon the mountain or to the butterflies (samanalaya) that recurrent the mountain during their annual migration to the region. Sri Lanka is the home of numerous species of magnificent butterflies and once a year they form into a long chain, sometimes consisting of hundreds of these creatures, and go through the countryside. Legend has it that butterflies were going to Sri Pada to pay homage to the Lord Buddha’s footprint.

Access to the mountain is possible by 6 trails (Ratnapura-Palabaddala, Hatton-Nallathanni, Kuruwita-Erathna, Murraywatte, Mookuwatte and Malimboda). Out of these the Nallathanni & Palabaddala routes are the most popular. Most of pilgrims use Hatton route due to journey on foot can be reduce by more than five kilometres even slope of this route is much greater than other routes. The pilgrim season is from December to May. Watching the sunrise from the summit is an unforgettable sight.

Colombo

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Colombo is the commercial capital of the country, but was once only a small sea port that catered to trading vessels. It came into the limelight with the arrival of the Portuguese and the Dutch who used it as a hub port and blossomed into what it is today with the British developing it as a major port and the centre of influence. Chaotic as it can be at times, Colombo has a strange mix of the old and the new, giving it a charm of its own. The old quarter of the city still retains its colonial style architecture and the grand old buildings look strangely out of place against the backdrop of the more modern multi- storey steel and glass structures. Similarly, its congested main roads lined with flashy name boards and bright neon signs are in stark contrast to the tree lined boulevards planted by the British. For a first-timer, it’s all a bit of shock but Colombo is the sort of place that grows on you, with its laid back character making the most harried traveller feel at ease immediately. Colombo has some of the most reasonably priced luxury accommodation and facilities for a capital city and the people are positively obliging, always willing to offer a helping hand to visitors.

Must Do List

  • Explore the Pettah Bazaar
  • Golf at the Royal Colombo Golf Club
  • Shop for tasteful homeware at Paradise Road and Gandhara
  • Antique buying at Saffron Villas and Sooriya
  • Bird watching in the Talangama and Attidiya wetlands
  • Colonial architecture in the Fort, Pettah and Mutwal districts
  • Evening stroll on the Galle Face promenade
  • The National Museum
  • The city’s historic temples, Kovils and churches

Colombo – In Focus

History
The port of Colombo, around which the city developed dates back to the 5th Century as Roman, Arabian and Chinese vessels visited here to trade food and spices in exchange for gems with the Kings of Sri Lanka. Thereafter, Colombo has had a battle scarred past with the Portuguese, Dutch and the British battling each other for dominance of this strategic port which finally fell to the British in 1796. British colonialism ended with the granting of independence in 1948, but Colombo’s colonial legacy is still very evident in the old quarter of the city with many buildings having architectural relation to the period under which they were built and many of the streets being named after famous colonial personalities. Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte on the outskirts of Colombo, is currently the administrative capital of the island and was once the ancient Royal capital as well under the Kotte Kingdom. The chequered history of Colombo contributes to a wide range of communities which include Sinhalese, Moors, Tamils, Burghers (people of Portuguese and Dutch descent), Chinese and Malay people.

Geography
Colombo has a typical tropical climate being warm and humid and has an average temperature of 27°C. Humidity varies from 70% during the day to 90% at night with bright and sunny days being the norm. The South-West monsoon between May and August brings most of the rainfall and temperatures are a little cooler at this time.

Colombo is located an hour south from the Bandaranaike International Airport and is the largest and most affluent city in the island. Arrival from the airport is by the Colombo-Puttalm road which is the main road that leads to the North and to the South lies the Galle Road. This central location makes Colombo a convenient stopover point on an all island tour, and is usually used in the middle of a tour.

Colombo to Bentota – 2 hours
Colombo to Galle – 3.5 hours
Colombo to Kandy – 3.5 hours
Colombo to Dambulla – 4 hours

AccommodationHotels in/around ColomboClick
Colombo being the capital and also the most affluent offers the plushest of accommodation options. 5 Star hotels offer excellent value for money and as a result property’s that are rated 4 Star and below struggle to find their place. By far the most luxurious is the Cinnamon Grand, which offers an excellent selection of dining options and a level of service that is hard to beat. The other 5 Star hotels like Hilton Colombo and TransAsia are not far behind though. For a colonial experience the Galle Face Hotel is excellent and overlooks the Galle Face promenade, and has recently seen the addition of a boutique wing. If you are looking for the beach then the only option is the Mount Lavinia Hotel at the outer city limits of Colombo, which used to be the Governor’s Residence in colonial times. An extensive range of boutique properties are also available all very tastefully designed and decorated.

Shopping
Shopping in Colombo offers a range of options for the bargain hunter right up to the most discerning of shoppers. Designer label clothing brands can be picked up at a fraction of the price you would pay back home at Odel and House of Fashion, which are the two main department style stores. Also very popular are the lifestyle stores like Gandhara, Paradise Road and Sooriya which feature chic homeware items in keeping with the latest global trends. For an inspiring experience visit Barefoot, which carries a good collection of handlooms and handmade silk clothing, has an art gallery and a quaint garden cafe at the back to cool off in. For the ultimate bargains take a trip to the Pettah Bazzaar, where you can pick up anything from electronics to curios…no warranties of course!

Attractions & Events

National Museum
Established in 1877, the National Museum in Colombo is best known for its collection of antiques and objects of art. The museum’s library carries a collection of over 500,000 publications on Sri Lanka and over 4,000 ola leaf manuscripts. Prominent exhibits are the regalia of the King of Kandy, ancient jewelry and a rare collection of demon masks and wood and ivory carvings. Depictions of temple frescoes and a vast collection of Buddhist and Hindu statues are also on display. Chinaware from the Dutch colonial period and numismatics from the earliest period to modern times feature prominently.

Natural History Museum
Located behind the National Museum in Colombo, this museum is dedicated to the bio-diversity of the country. The exhibits include birds, mammals, reptiles, sea-mammals, insects, botanical specimens, gems and geological specimens of Sri Lanka.

Dutch Museum
Located in the Pettah and housed in a 17th Century house from the Dutch colonial era, the Dutch Museum was recently completely restored with assistance from the Netherlands. The exhibits depict the political, social and economic conditions in the Maritime Provinces of the Island under the Dutch rule and give an idea of the culture of the Kandyan Kingdom during the Dutch period. Many items of period furniture and porcelain are also on display.

Nightlife
Colombo has an active nightlife with after-dark entertainment taking place around the Fort and Cinnamon Gardens area. If you plan to go dancing and clubbing, dress well and show up late as most of the action doesn’t get started until around midnight. There is some competition for admittance and it is not unusual for parties of single men to be turned away – once you’re in though, the party goes on all night. Known as the Paradise Isle of the Indian Ocean, it lives up to its reputation and even though nightclubs are few the fun provided is in abundance.

Kelaniya Raja Maha Temple
The Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is located on the outskirts of Colombo and is believed to be one of the earliest Buddhist dagobas in the country. According to the Mahavamsa, the paddy heap shape dagoba marks the spot where Lord Buddha sat on a gem studded throne and preached the Dhamma on his first visit to Sri Lanka 2,500 years ago on the invitation of the Naga King Maniakkika. History indicates that the temple was built in 3 BC by King Yatala Tissa but the dagoba existed prior to that. The temple has been destroyed by rival Kings and colonialists over time and has been rebuilt on numerous occasions, with the last time being in 1767 by Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe the King of Kandy, after the Portuguese invasion of the Maritime Provinces. Legend has it that the gem studded throne from which the Buddha preached the dhamma is enshrined in the main dagoba. In January, the Kelaniya Raja Maha Temple holds a colourful religious pageant to mark the first visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka.

Duruthu Perahera
The Duruthu Perahera in Kelaniya is a colorful and exciting pageant held in January to commemorate the first visit of Lord Buddha to Sri Lanka in the ninth month of his enlightenment. Conducted by the Kelaniya Raja Maha Temple, it is of the biggest pageants in the country, and is conducted over three days, with the final day being the most splendid and coinciding with the full moon. On the first day the relic casket is carried three times around the temple by the temple chiefs; the second day sees the parade takes place within the precincts of the temple with a group of drummers heralding the event. The third day is the Duruthu Full Moon Poya day when the main perahera takes to the streets around the Kelaniya temple in all its grandeur, where up to 100 elephants in colourful livery form the centre point of the event.

Navam Perahera
The Navam Perahera is another large and very popular three day Buddhist cultural pageant held in February at the Gangarama Buddhist Temple in Colombo. This Perahera revives ancient forms of dancing and traditional dance troupes from all parts of the country converge in Colombo for this spectacular event. Seating accommodation for a large number of persons is provided without charge and seats with a better vantage point are available for a fee.

Royal Colombo Golf Course
The Royal Colombo Golf Club is the oldest golfing institution in the country having been established in 1879. Its 18-hole course is flat with broad fairways featuring numerous water hazards, and at the sixth hole the hill country train line travels across the green. Despite being located in the heart of the city, the environment is quiet and relaxing and its clubhouse is an excellent example of a typical British Colonial Club.

Bellanwilla Temple
The Bellanwilla Temple is a one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Colombo as it has on its premises one of the 32 Bo trees grown from saplings from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhpura. Sangamitha Theri brought the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka as a sapling from the Bo tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya. The ancient temple features richly sculpted statues of the Buddha and many murals depicting his life.

Colonial Architecture
The 5km rampart extending from the Galle Face Hotel up to the entrance to the Port of Colombo was built by the Portuguese in the 16th Century, and later improved by the Dutch and is the best example of the monumental feats of colonial architecture in Colombo. Built to defend the Colombo Fort against a seaborne attack it had a row of heavy canons on the top of the fortified seawall. Within the Fort and Pettah region, typical early 19th Century British architecture can be found in almost every corner though the old buildings seem to be giving way to the more maintenance friendly glass and steel structures of modern engineering.

Churches of the Colonial Period
The Dutch and Portuguese colonialists were inveterate followers of Christianity and one their many goals in the colonies was to spread the religion by any means possible. In keeping with this philosophy, they built large and extremely ornate churches all over the island. In Colombo, the best examples of these churches are to found in the old quarter of the city like the Fort, Pettah, Woolvendaal and Mutwal areas.

Architecture of Geoffrey Bawa
Colombo is home to the most prestigious design of Geoffrey Bawa widely acclaimed as the father of modern Asian architecture. When the administrative capital of the country was moved to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, Bawa was commissioned by the Government of Sri Lanka and given the task of finding a location and designing the new House of Parliament. He chose to locate the new complex on the Diyawanna Oya, a lake in Kotte, which required the building of a manmade island in the middle of it on which the new Parliament would sit. Today the Parliament complex stands as a testament to his creative genius featuring a copper roof and large open spaces and the Chamber of the House features sculptures designed by him hanging from the vaulted ceilings. His studio in Colombo on Alfred House Gardens, also bears his signature style of courtyards, ponds and open walkways and has now been converted into the Paradise Road Gallery Café which is well worth a visit.

Hindu Kovils
Colombo abounds with Hindu Kovils and a visit to one will be an unforgettable experience, with their richly sculpted gopurams and statues providing a riot of colour. The best time to visit would be at the time of a festival to one of the many Hindu deities when all the priests take part in a ceremony which involves the ringing of bells and the chanting of prayers amidst a heady environment of sweet incense smoke and oil lamps. Colombo’s oldest Kovil is the Sri Kailawasanthan Swami Devasthanam in Fort is extremely ornate, but many other Kovils in areas where there is a predominant Tamil population like Wellawatte and Grandpass are just as spectacular.

Inland Wetlands
On the outskirts of Colombo lie several little known bird watching zones set amidst protected marshes and inland waterways. The Talangama Wetland and the Diyawanna Oya hold an abundance of water birds as do the Attidiya Marshes in the suburbs to the South of Colombo. Further South the Bolgoda Lake which is Sri Lanka’s largest natural freshwater basin, provides a rich habitat for larger water birds and birds of prey and also holds an abundance of amphibians and reptilian life.

Maligathenna Temple
Located outside of the Colombo city limits, an hour from its centre, the Maligathenna Temple is a forest hermitage located at the highest point within the Colombo District. With a recorded history dating back to over 2,000 years, Maligathenna is claimed to have been the site where King Walagambahu hid the Sacred Tooth Relic from the invading Portuguese forces when they captured the Maritime Provinces. Sitting on a two-tiered rock the temple has a commanding view of the surrounding countryside and around it lie 20 caves which can be explored.

Art Galleries
Colombo is the probably the best place to see the wide spread artistic talent in the country at a number of galleries. The Colombo Art Gallery on Green Path features some of biggest exhibitions of the better painters and photographers, but others such like the Barefoot Gallery and the Paradise Road Gallery also feature prominent artists in their small halls. On the weekends, amateur painters mostly from the outstations bring their artworks to the pavements outside the Victoria Park on Green Path and transform the drab concrete sidewalk into a celebration of colour.

Galle

Monday, September 17th, 2012

The historic garrison town of Galle is the capital of the Southern region. Galle combines a rich history with golden beaches and is arguably the country’s leading boutique hotel destination – a truly ‘Sri Lanka Tailormade’ hotspot! Its rich heritage is derived from the colonial influences of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British respectively, spanning four centuries. Galle was a key harbour city for centuries, hence its value to successive colonial superpowers. The town’s centrepiece is the World Heritage listed Dutch Fort, around which the city is built. The Fort was initiated and partially constructed by the Portuguese, which was then expanded upon quite significantly by the Dutch. The Fort remains a hive of activity and is one of the few World Heritage listed sites in which a bustling population continues to thrive. Galle possesses one of the best tourism infrastructures in the country with wide-ranging categories of accommodation catering to all budgets.

The boutique style high-end tourism concept in Sri Lanka, a relatively recent concept which is rapidly gaining in repute, had its genesis in this region with the Dutch Fort itself being host to some of the finest in this category. The Dutch influence remains predominant in Galle, with its distinctive architecture highly prevalent, much of it since lovingly restored! Galle has attracted a number of Europeans in the past decade who have made it their home, many of whom operate their delightfully restored properties as tourist guest houses and hotels. The beaches around Galle are among the very best that the coastline has to offer, contributing to this region being one of the most popular and favoured destinations in Sri Lanka. Lately, Galle has been quietly developing into a centre for the arts, with the city playing host to a highly acclaimed literary festival, and as of 2009, a film festival as well. In short, Galle has something to offer everyone and is a destination not to be missed.

Must Do List

  • Walk the ramparts of the Dutch Fort
  • Relax on the stunning Unawatuna beach
  • Catch a cricket match at the Galle International Stadium
  • Explore mangrove lined waterways
  • Visit museums and curio shops
  • Hot air balloon rides at dawn
  • Galle Literary Festival

Galle – In Focus

History
Galle has a long and tumultuous history mainly due to the fact that it is the best sea port on the southern seaboard of the island. Well established as a trading outpost along the Silk Route by the 6th Century, Galle was a regular port of call of the Romans, Chinese and Arabs who traded in gems and exotic animals with the Kings of Sri Lanka. A school of thought exists that Galle could have a history before this dating back to Biblical times, with it being the “Tarshish” of King Solomon. In 1505 Portuguese ships under Lourenço de Almeida were blown off course in a storm and landed on the shores of Galle, but the residents of the city refused entry to the shipwrecked mariners, resulting in the Portuguese entering the city by force and capturing Galle. They went on to construct a fortification around the city in 1587, as a means of defence against the Kings of Sri Lanka, but this did not stop the Dutch from ousting them from their emplacement in 1640.

The Dutch further improved the existing fort, building an imposing fortification around the city in 1663, but in 1796 the British laid siege to Galle from the sea and took Galle from the Dutch. Each era of colonial dominance left its mark on the cultures, traditions and architecture of Galle but the predominant influence seen today is that from the Dutch period. Galle’s demographic reflects this varied influence and though the majority of the population is Sinhalese, fair sized communities of Moors, Malays, Tamils exist. In recent times an increasing number of Europeans have been taking up residence in Galle lured by its character and charm.

Geography
Galle is typically warm and humid, with an average temperature of 28°C and relative humidity of 75%. A constant on-shore breeze makes conditions pleasant all year round, and the weather is noticeably cooler with the onset of the South-West monsoon between May and August with the area receiving an average of 500mm of rainfall over this period.

Galle is reached from Colombo by the Galle Road which hugs the Western Coast. The road is narrow and congested most of the time and the journey takes longer than it should, but offers a good opportunity to observe Sri Lanka’s vibrant culture. From the hill country the quickest way to Galle is through Deniyaya and Akuressa. Galle is also accessible by rail with trains running regularly between Galle and Colombo, but for the quickest transport opt for the air taxi which lands on the Koggala Lake 20 minutes South of Galle.

Colombo to Galle – 3.5 hours
Airport to Galle – 4.5 hours
Galle to Mirissa – 45 minutes
Galle to Tangalle – 2 hours
Tangalle to Yala – 2.5 hours
Kandy to Galle – 5.5 hours
Nuwara Eliya to Galle – 6 hours

AccommodationHotels in/around GalleClick
Accommodation within Galle reflects its rich heritage and offers a range of tasteful accommodation from budget guesthouses all the way up to luxury boutique villas. Properties like Amangalla, Galle Printers and the Galle Fort Hotel within the Galle Fort are grand Colonial era buildings meticulously renovated, tastefully decorated and provide an out of this world experience; boutique villas in the Fort include Orchard House and 41 Lighthouse Street. In and around the town of Galle luxurious accommodation abounds. Jetwing Lighthouse offers 5 Star accommodation and facilities that are unmatched in the area. The Fortress, just to the South of Galle is a retro-chic, imposing property offering the best of modern world conveniences coupled with gourmet cuisine. Other properties of note within the Galle area are Aditya, a boutique property which features some of the biggest room in the area, and the Apa Villas and Thambapanni chains. Numerous other villas and owner operated properties which maintain very high standards are available to suit a range of budgets.

Shopping
Galle and specifically the Galle Fort offer shoppers of all things artistic an unforgettable experience. Within the Galle Fort the Historical Mansion sells antique furniture from the Dutch Period and Elephant Walk has interesting creations by local artists, elephant dung stationary, curios and also sells spices and home-made chutneys. Barefoot Gallery, a branch of the popular main store in Colombo has a colourful range of handloom clothing and linen.
A few jewellery stores sell precious and semi-precious stones and fine pieces of jewellery within the Fort. But this is just a handful of the interesting shopping opportunities available within the Galle Fort so explore the area at leisure to discover your own favourite haunt. Outside the Fort and on the outskirts of the city there are many large antique shops selling pieces that range in size from the smallest boxes to large doors and pillars and most owners offer to ship the item overseas if it is too big to carry.

Attractions & Events

Dutch Fort in Galle
The city of Galle’s oldest landmark is the massive Fort, which was first built by the Portuguese but later captured and refortified by the Dutch. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the buildings within the Fort all have colonial architecture. Today, the 90-acre Galle Fort shows no evidence of the Portuguese founders, but the Dutch incorporated the Portuguese northern wall in a great rampart in 1663. A second, taller wall was built on the inside of it, and between these walls a covered passage connected the central bastion with the Fort’s two half bastions overlooking the sea. The Dutch also installed a sophisticated drainage system, complete with brick-lined underground sewers that were flushed twice a day by the high and low tides. The original entrance to the fort was by the harbor and still exists, marked by the British Coat-of-Arms on the outer side and the Dutch VOC (Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie) Coat-of-Arms with a rooster crest on the inner side of the Fort.

Unawatuna Beach
A stone’s throw away from the Galle city, Unawatuna Beach lies in a horseshoe shaped bay, and is considered is one of the finest beaches in Asia. Protected by a coral reef that joins the headlands of the bay, its crystal clear waters lap gently against the golden, coconut palm fringed beach. The shoreline is ringed with quaint guesthouses, restaurants and bars which practically lie on the water’s edge set amidst dense tropical foliage. A catamaran ride across the bay takes you over the reef where stunning reef fish, squid and the dreaded sea urchin can be spotted. Unawatuna also has a number of interesting dive sites just off its coast with a number of shipwrecks from the Dutch and Portuguese period lying on the shallow seabed.

Rumassala
A rocky jungle clad mountain lying at the headland off the Unawatuna Bay, Rumassala is cloaked in legend. Known in colonial times as Buona Vista, the Portuguese directed confusing light signals from its top to lure rival Arab trading ships onto the rocks below the headland. In the Ramayana legend its origins are mythical, with the story going that when Luxhmana was injured in a battle between his brother Rama and Rawana, Hanuman the Monkey God was sent to fetch medicinal herbs from the Himalayas to treat him. Forgetting the name of the required herb, Hanuman removed a chunk of the Himalayas but bringing it back it slipped from his grasp and broke into five pieces; legend has it that one of the five pieces is what forms Rumassala today. Legend aside though, the slopes of Rumassala are rich in ayurvedic medicinal plants and herbs. The peak offers splendid views of the Galle town to the North and has upon it a modern temple built by Japan featuring a huge stupa designed in traditional Zen style.

Galle National Museum
Lying within the confines of the Galle Fort, the Galle National Museum is housed in a building that dates back to 1671 and was built by the Dutch as a store. Opened in 1986, its aim was to preserve and display the heritage of the colonial town and prominently featured are heavily worked tortoise-shell artifacts and richly carved hard wood sculptures of animals.

Galle Maritime Museum
Galle’s history has mainly been influenced by its proximity to the sea, and the Galle Maritime Museum was established to highlight and display this heritage. The museum contains numerous artifacts from both the Portuguese and Dutch period but mostly houses depictions of the various historic moments in Galle’s maritime legacy in the form of murals and models of historic events. Also exhibited are a colourful array of corals and a good collection of seashells.

Koggala Folk Museum
This museum lies on the ancestral property of one of Sri Lanka’s most recognized literary fugures, the late Martin Wickremasinghe, who always wanted to establish a museum that would reflect the lifestyle and culture of the Sothern people, but was never able to accomplish this. Soon after his death, the Martin Wickrenmasinghe Trust built the museum on his ancestral property which initially consisted of items of folk art and handicrafts from his personal collection which he had personally gathered over the years. Though small at first, the popularity of the museum has seen the number of exhibits swell, and today the Koggala Folk Museum presents a good understanding of the culture and creativity of the people of the South, as well as pays tribute to the great man whose brainchild it was.

Yatagala Temple
Literally meaning temple under the rock, Yatagala Temple is a 1200 year old temple perched high on a rock overlooking a small village encircled by paddy fields. Surrounded by dense tropical vegetation, the temple is reached by a climb of 120 stone steps and at the top lies an ancient Bo tree, a beautiful image room and a meditation cave. The temple grounds also features two prominent statues of the Buddha, one standing and one seated.

Samakanda
Meaning “hill of peace” in Sinhala, Samakanda is a project by The Web of Hope Organisation who advocate alternatives for sustainable development and living. Developed on an abandoned tea estate, Samakanda is described by its Founder’s as a bio-versity, and is a role-model of a lifestyle with the least possible impact on the environment. The project has wide range of attractions which include organic farms and its rainforest habitat teeming with endemic species making it very popular with nature lovers. The property is split into seven zones with each one featuring a unique aspect of the project. Samakanda also offers accommodation and food and beverage facilities.

Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery
The Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery breeds and releases five species of turtles – Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta), Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). Eggs laid by adult females are collected by villagers and fishermen are purchased by the Kosgoda Hatchery and kept in sandy pens until they hatched, and then kept in seawater tanks and released to the sea at night. The Kosgoda Hatchery has released more than 1,750,000 young turtles to the sea and was established through an endowment by the Hasselblad Estate.

Kottawa Arboretum
The Kottawa Arboretum is a 150 hectare plot of managed natural rainforest located half an hour inland from Galle and is a part of the larger Kottawa-Kombala Forest Reserve. Within the arboretum all trees are named and their thick canopy holds a large number of endemic bird species. The gloomy forest floor is habitat to a host of mammals, amphibians and reptiles some of which can only be found in this region.

Dodanduwa Island Hermitage
The secluded monastic retreat in Dodanduwa was founded in 1911 and lies on the Ratgama Lake, a saltwater lagoon lined with mangroves. The hermitage spreads across the two islands of Polgasduwa and Metiduwa and it has been the retreat of a number of highly respected clergymen of Theravada Buddhism. In its early years it saw many monks from the West practice meditation and the Dhamma here, but currently the resident community comprises only Sri Lankan monks. Visitors who wish to see the hermitage are required to obtain written approval before taking a boat ride across the water to the island.

Koggala Lake
The Koggala Lake lies just to the South of Galle and is dotted with 16 islands. Rich in birdlife the lake and its islands are an important nesting area in the region for a wide variety of water birds and shore based birds of prey. Madolduwa is the most famous island on the lake with it being the home of the prolific Sinhala author the late Martin Wickremasinghe. Although little of the original house remains today it is from here that he penned some of his most captivating stories based on typical Southern Sri Lankan culture. Cinnamon Island is another interesting island on which a small community of village folk plant and harvest cinnamon in the traditional manner, based on an art passed down to them through the generations. The Koggala Lake is also used as a landing zone for the air taxi service into Galle.

River Safari
The Maha Modera Ganga which is a tributary of the Gin Oya offers a splendid opportunity for nature lovers to experience the rich bio-diversity of the inland wetlands around Galle. An early morning boat ride along its mangrove lined waterways offers sightings of reptiles and amphibians that are found in plenty along the banks, and the surrounding lush vegetation is home to a wide range of birds and butterflies.

Galle International Cricket Stadium
Described as one of the most picturesque cricket grounds to be found anywhere in the world, the Galle Stadium lies at the centre of the bustling city of Galle. With the Indian Ocean on one side of it and the imposing Dutch Fort forming a backdrop at one end of the grounds, it is no surprise that it has earned this reputation. Having borne the brunt of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which devastated most of the Galle area, in its aftermath the stadium looked very similar to a dumping ground and few thought it would ever see cricket played on it again. Assistance from the international cricketing community and hard work put in by the curator though saw the Galle Stadium being used as a test playing venue by 2007 and it is now in better shape than ever before.

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