The ancient port town of Galle on Sri Lanka's southern coast was successively colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British beginning in the early 1500s. The well-preserved remnants of this diverse history, particularly the 17th-century Dutch fort and surrounding ramparts, helped the city gain UNESCO World Heritage protection.
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A great way to get an overview (literally) of Galle is to circumambulate the small historic center via the centuries-old Dutch ramparts that encircle the fort area.
Yatagala & Rhumasala Temples
Visit the temples of Yatagala and Rhumasala. Sitting atop a 120-step staircase, the 1,200- year-old Yatagala Temple, carved directly into the rock of a hillside, is one of the oldest in the region, and is set in a beautiful valley lined with rice terraces. On a lovely headland across from Galle fort, Rhumasala is a brand new temple, built as a gift from Japan, and boasts wonderful views across the water towards Galle.
To the north of Galle to visit the beautiful, untouched Hiyare rainforest, which surrounds a 51-acre lake. A wildlife guide from the reserve will accompany you and illuminate the many interesting species of animals and plants that are found there. Hiyare has established its own tree nursery, and it is possible to plant a tree as part of their carbon offset program.
Visit the nearby port town of Koggala. Take a cruise down the Koggala River and its estuaries with a naturalist who will tell you about the various types of bird and wildlife that make Koggala their home.
Mirissa Boat Trip
Spend the day on a boat trip out of Mirissa Harbor, a 40-minute drive to the east of Galle. The harbor is home to an Indonesian fishing trawler that has been restored for leisure cruising in Weligama Bay. Go swimming and snorkeling from the boat, and try fishing with a hand line.
If you are interested in game fishing, your boat will take you eight miles off the coast, where the continental shelf drops off and such fish as tuna, sailfish, marlin, and wahoo are common.
Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery
Visit the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery and witness how the newborn turtles are being cared for until they are ready to be released back to the ocean. The wide, sandy beaches that dot the coasts of Sri Lanka are utilized by several species of marine turtles as nesting sites.
Galle National Museum
Visit the Galle National Museum. Housed in an old Dutch building in the center of the fort, the museum features exhibits on colonial weaponry, including a collection of Portuguese and Dutch swords, stone cannon balls, and battle axes made of brass and iron. Native handicrafts like turtle-shell ornaments and decorative pieces are also on display.
Maritime Archaeology Museum
Explore the 40,000 square-foot Galle Maritime Archeology Museum. If one is available, meet with a curator. The original museum building was entirely destroyed by the 2004 tsunami, but its collection has been reestablished in the newly renovated Dutch warehouse in Galle Fort. The exhibits of artifacts discovered on the ocean floor around Sri Lanka include the Avondster, a Dutch ship that wrecked off Galle Fort in 1659.
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Located in the center of a preserved 17th-century Dutch Fort, the sumptuous Amangalla resort is also a beautifully restored UNESCO World Heritage site that perfectly captures the charm of the historic trading port of Galle. Amangalla has 17 rooms, eight suites and the Garden House, a two-story house with treetop views. Rooms are decorated in a style that blends luxurious contemporary amenities with a perfectly rendered colonial-era aesthetic. Sri Lankan curry and other traditional dishes are served in the dining room, and the Veranda is a cool spot to have a drink during the day; the fort's Zaal (Dutch for Great Hall) serves light meals and a classic afternoon tea. The pool is located in the resort's gardens and has five shaded pavilions where you can relax post-swim. A library with Internet access houses information on Sri Lanka and the history of the Fort. The Baths, Amangalla's spa, offers Ayurvedic massage, hydrotherapy pools, and a steam room and sauna, among other treatments. There is also a garden pavilion for yoga practice or meditation. There is no fitness center. The resort is roughly a four-hour drive from Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB).
Located on the golden southern coast of Sri Lanka, The Fortress is just minutes away from Galle. A modern take on the 17th-century Dutch fortress in Galle, the hotel melds Dutch and Portuguese architecture with Sri Lankan touches. The resort's walls enclose 49 exquisitely appointed rooms, lofts and residences, all of which have cutting-edge entertainment systems and designer fittings that include WiFi, a plasma screen TV, Bose DVD player and sound system, an espresso machine, private bar, day bed, in-room safe and an IDD telephone. The Fortress's sense of design extends to their fine dining establishments, which includes a restaurant that specializes in Sri Lankan and international cuisine, a Mediterranean restaurant, a wine bar housed in a glass cave, a lounge devoted to tea and an outdoor bar that serves Fortress cocktails. Additionally, private dining on the grounds or the beach can be arranged. The chic Lime Spa incorporates Sri Lankan culture through traditional Ayurvedic treatments and also has a menu of international spa therapies. Before and after treatments, guests can indulge in complimentary "Degrees" water therapies including sauna, steam and hydrobath. Other amenities at The Fortress include a yoga pavilion, fully equipped fitness center, free-flowing swimming pool, water sports center, business center, boutiques, an art gallery featuring local artists, a wedding pavilion, and a turtle hatchery.