Galle is famous for the breezy charm of its pretty fort area, a stonghold that’s outlasted colonisers and tsunamis, but it’s outside the fort where the real (fishing) action takes place.
After only a few days in Sri Lanka it became clear that there is a very definite hierarchy on the roads here – buses rule! The buses are driven at terrifying speeds and herald their presence with a horn that’s loud enough to wake the dead. The main purpose of the horn is to get anyone and everyone to move out of their way, so that they don’t have to slow down. We jumped on one of these terror buses to travel from Kosgoda to Galle. They’re not the most comfortable way to travel, the seats tend to be very narrow and you have to endure whatever music the bus driver decides to play at full volume that day. But, they are cheap, cover the whole island (unlike the trains) and there’s a never ending selection of snacks offered by the food and drink vendors jumping on and off the bus.
Arriving into Galle we found somewhere to stay outside of the pretty Fort Area (pretty = expensive) and headed into the town to look around. Nestled on the south western edge of Sri Lanka, Galle’s natural harbour and fort, left by the Portuguese and Dutch colonisers, add to the town’s breezy charm. The Fort was so well built that it even survived the 2004 Tsunami. This is a town very much on the tourist map and tuk tuk drivers were literally biting our hands off to get us to hire them.
Galle is a city of two halves. The World Heritage protected fort area is quaint and charming, filled with cafes, artisan shops, boutique hotels and characterful architecture. The spectacular city walls are surrounded on three sides by the ocean and the narrow cobbled lanes lined with colonial era buildings. It’s a delight to wander around and feels distinctly European in character.
As you venture out of the fort area you find the other half of Galle. The city gets busier and louder, a far cry from the tranquil calm contained beyond the fort walls. As an island nation the fishing industry is important to Sri Lanka and Galle is home to a large fishing community, the town’s natural harbour makes it ideal for ships going out to fish. Walking along the shore outside of the fort area we stopped to watch some fishermen setting off to sea and ended up helping them to push their boats off the beach and into the water. Further along the road they sell their catch at roadside stalls or in the fish market.
Galle is also blessed by being surrounded with beautiful beaches and coastline and we headed to Rumassala and the Jungle Beach viewpoint for sunset. Unfortunately we had underestimated the time taken to reach the viewpoint and so what ensued was a wacky races-esque ride in a tuk tuk up the steep, narrow road to catch the view before the sun disappeared. In the end we were rewarded with views of candy floss skies and a shimmering ocean.