Distance to reach from Colombo to Galle Fort : 146.4 Km via Southern express way which roughly 2 hours by car.
Recommended Time : 3 – 4 hours to walk around and explore.
Best Time to travel in the day : It’s best to start your walk early morning or late afternoon to get the most of it. Without getting exposed to high temperatures.
I recommend to walk and explore Galle Fort. I’m sure it will worth every step!
Galle Fort is the best place to visit if you are a lover of history and archaeology. It’s a historical city which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and south Asian traditions from 16th to the 19th centuries. Galle fort is the best preserved colonial sea fortress in Asia. Galle fort was named as an archeological reserve by the U. N in 1969. And also UNESCO declared as a world heritage site in December 1988.
The bay of Galle lies off the southern west coast of Sri Lanka, sheltered by a rocky peninsula. It has being an important link in sea routes between the east and the west. Not only traders and merchants visited the port but also legendary voyagers and travelers such as Ibn Battuta who lived in 14th century from Arab has passed through the port while visiting Sri pada and Tenavaram temple, Marco Polo from the west & Fa Hein from China. As per the records it has been a busy port trading with biggest powers at that time. It’s remarkable that this city was marked in the “Ptolemy’s” world map on 125 – 150 AD.
Galle Fort is also famous as Dutch fort, but its construction was initially started by Portuguese who first landed to Galle in 1505. They named it as “Ceilao” but the name did not last longer. The name was later changed to “Ceylon” when it became a British crown Colony. The famous Portuguese invader “Lorenzo de Almeida” succeeded to have a close connection with Sinhalese King Dharma Parakaramabahu and entered to an agreement to build a camp to ensure the safety of the country. With the increase of their influence to the country they had to move to Kotte but when Kotte was attacked by the King Raja Singha I (1581 – 1593), the Portuguese had to return back to Galle in 1588. Ultimately the camp which was built became a prison to Sinhalese who stood up against Portuguese rulers.
With the assistance of the Dutch the Sinhalese King Rajasinghe (ii) who was desperate to get rid of Portuguese captured the fort in 1640. As a form of thanks the Sinhalese king agreed to rebuild the fort according to Dutch specification. When they took over they found that the defenses are highly lacking and started to renovate and restructure the fort to prevent attacks from other colonial competitors from sea and land. The towering walls were built with coral and granite in 1663. The fortress was completed with 14 bastions which was built over an area of 130 acres. Few names of Bastions the Dutch built are Star, Moon, Sun, Aurora, Tremon, Kleipenberg and Emaloon. The town was well planned and built in grid layout. The roads which are near to the outer edge of the city was built parallel to the forts ramparts, allowing for easier access for defense in case of an attack or breach. Ultimately Dutch became enemies and Sinhalese took over the power and continued the construction of fort building by adding many administrative and military features. By 1729 the city reached full development.
In 1796 British took over the Galle fort and made it their southern headquarters. They have made many changes in the city such as the sealing of the moat, the addition of an entrance gate between the sun and moon bastions, constructions of houses and the most recognizable change is the lighthouse which you can see from various points in town. Many more additions were done by British to strengthen the fort during the Second World War.
Galle is a destination of its own which managed to hold its glory and history, it’s no wonder that it earned the name of UNESCO world heritage site.
Major places to visit in Galle Fort
- The Fort Gates
There are 2 main entrance to Galle Fort. The entrance which is opposite the roundabout is known as the British gate with coat of arms “Dieu et mon droit” which is the motto of the British Monarch in England. You will find this entrance between Sun Bastion and Moon Bastion. If you take Baladaksha Mawatha (Road) which is by the east side of the sun Bastion you will come to Portuguese gate. Inside you will find the Dutch East Indies Company VOC (Vereenigde Oost Indische Campagnie) symbol above the gate arch.
- The Lighthouse
This is one of the most tourist attracted place in Sri Lanka and the functional landmark of Galle Fort. Lighthouse in Galle is an offshore lighthouse framed by palm trees. The original lighthouse was destroyed by fire on 1934. The new light house was built in 1940 in the same street, it is about 92 feet above low water level. If you visit the Light house you can also see an ancient warehouse which was built in the year of 1782. Due to safety issues people are not allowed in but I’m sure you can enjoy the stunning view around and spend few moments in the lighthouse beach.
- National Maritime Archaeology Museum
It is one and only Maritime Archaeology museum in Sri Lanka located at the Dutch warehouse of the Galle Fort in Queen Street. It show case the exhibits of marine artifacts which was found during underwater exploration. You can also see the artifacts which was recovered from the ship wrecks in the southern coast. And some of them are nearly 800 years old. Among artifacts they also have ancient anchors, Maps, beer mugs, artillery guns and lot more. Interestingly they even got a huge whale skeleton. They charge an entrance fee of 300 Sri Lankan Rupees for adults and for children 150 Sri Lankan Rupees.
- Galle National Museum
Galle national Museum is constructed on 1656 and located in Old Dutch building of the Galle Fort. This Museum was developed especially to aware the public on traditional heritage in southern Sri Lanka. What interested me is the collection of colonial artifacts, ancient wood carvings and the Beeralu Collection exhibits in the museum. You will get to see many more if you visit the National Museum in Galle Fort. To visit this museum there is no entrance fee so don’t miss the chance. I’m sure you will not regret the time spent in the museum.
- Galle Fort Temple
This Buddhist temple is not very noticeable as nobody is planning to visit the temple at the Galle Fort. But if you spend a few moment you will feel the serenity of the temple, and that’s all you need! Make sure to take you shoes and hats off when you enter the temple. Also do not take photographs turning your back towards the Buddha statue as its considered offensive.
- All Saints Church
All Saints church stand out as one of the most beautiful Anglican churches in Sri Lanka. It was built on 1871.
- The Dutch Reformed Church – Groote Kerk.
It is located next to Amangalle Hotel, it is the oldest church in island which was built in 1640. As per the early records this church is paved with the grave stones from the Old Dutch Cemetery.
- The Meeran Jumma Mosque
Meeran Mosque was built on 1904 by the Arab traders of Sri Lanka. This area is also known as the Old Arab quarters and even the mosque is three hundred years old it’s still in use and still has its own architecture beauty of the building.
Want to spend your evening in a special way? Witness the most beautiful Sun Set from Galle Fort!
This is something that you should not miss if you visit Galle fort, It’s a must see! It’s one of my favorite experience, and something which I don’t feel enough seeing. You can witness the wonders of Mother Nature by relaxing at the Flag Rock Bastion or from Triton Bastion. It’s a great spot to relax and to experience the stunning sun set over the Indian Ocean.
Along the Rampart (Outer walls) of Galle Fort there are various other Bastions where you can enjoy your evening freely. You can try Sri Lankan street food on the way and have a good cup of Ceylon tea to energize your evening.
Galle Fort is a place where I never get fed up visiting, no matter how long you stay you will have no trouble enjoying your visit to Galle fort. The surrounding feels very festive and happy with children playing cricket on the grass, both locals and tourists gather at the walls to watch the sun set. Everything about Galle Fort is very loveable and exotic. Evenings at Galle Fort feels very special from all places we have visited in Sri Lanka. It’s truly the Wonder of Asia!