Galle Fort – Converse With The Colonial Past Of Sri Lanka

Galle Fort Wall
Galle Fort Wall

Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the South Western Coast of Sri Lanka. It is a lovely fort town and my fondest memory of it is walking on the Fort Walls with a lovely lighthouse behind me.

Galle is an ancient port town – they used to export Cinnamon from here way back in 1400 BCE. There are records like Ptolemy’s maps that indicate ancient trade that happened from this port. The modern history of Galle though begins with the landing of Portuguese in early 16th CE. In the mid 17th, CE Dutch came and took over this port town. It is the Dutch who built this fort edging the Indian Ocean. In the late 18th CE and passed on to British – who did not change much in the fort.

Galle – The Walking Town of Sri Lanka

Arch and the tree at the entrance of Galle Fort
Arch and the tree at the entrance of Galle Fort

Galle is a perfect town to walk around – just pray that it does not rain the day you visit it. We entered the town through a lovely arch next to an ancient Banyan Tree. A coat of arms still decorates the top of the arch.

We entered the town through a lovely arch next to an ancient Banyan Tree. A coat of arms still decorates the top of the arch.

Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum - Galle
Maritime Museum – Galle

My first stop was Maritime Archaeology Museum. It was fascinating to see the world of sailing boats and sailors.

All Saints Church - Galle
All Saints Church – Galle

As soon as I stepped out of the museum I saw the All Saints Church on a street aptly called The Church Street. The church is quintessentially British in character. I walked in the church and could see the stained glass windows telling the stories of Christianity.

Church Street - Galle Fort
Church Street – Galle Fort

As I walked on the street further – it was a delight to see small cafes, antique shops and of course the Gem stores. You can spend some quiet time observing the tourists going in and out of these stores. I discovered some interesting stores like the one selling old Sri Lankan posters when it was still called Ceylon.

Read More – Top Sri Lanka Souvenirs to Buy

Opposite the Old Police Barracks is a fancy shopping complex with chic shops and cafes. It was raining heavily that day and I ventured into these shops more to kill time while waiting for the rain to stop. Probably the rain gods wanted me to see some fine jewelry made with gemstones of Sri Lanka. It prompted me to visit a moonstone mine the next day.

Coins at an Antique Shop - Galle Fort
Coins at an Antique Shop – Galle Fort

There was an old house converted into an art gallery. Antique shops had piles of interesting stuff – you can spend days untangling them in an attempt to uncover something interesting. Love Sri Lanka – a unit of Odel retail chain has lovely Sri Lankan Souvenirs to pick in all price ranges.

Vintage Cars at Galle Fort

Red Vintage Car in Galle
Red Vintage Car in Galle

Almost every street of Galle fort has a well-maintained vintage car parked in it. For a fee, you can take a ride in these cars. You can always click a picture with them in any case.

Galle Fort can also be done on a bicycle. Hire a cycle and go around the colonial fort.

Black Fort

Black Fort - the Oldest Part of Galle Fort
Black Fort – the Oldest Part of Galle Fort

The black fort is the oldest part of Galle Fort. It is the original fort built by the Portuguese way back in late 16th CE. They used Palm leaves, corals and mud to build it. They called it Santa Cruz. A name that we find in once Portuguese dominated areas in India as well, like Panaji. It is a small barrack-like construction surrounded by three small bastions. An underground path connects to the bay at the sea – which probably worked as a harbor in those days.

It is called Black Fort because it has become black with constant smoke from the firing of cannons. The name was given by the Dutch when they took it over in 1640 CE

Now it serves as Sri Lanka Police Museum.

Galle Fort Walls

Lighthouse at Galle Fort
Lighthouse at Galle Fort

Walking around I reached the famous lighthouse of Galle. I climbed the fort wall which was already full of tourists. I and my camera happily walked on the walls clicking pictures. There was the Indian Ocean on one side – trying to kiss the fort walls. On the other side was this quaint Galle Fort Town – seen from the vantage point.

Walking on the wall of Galle Fort
Walking on the wall of Galle Fort

At places, the Sri Lankan fishermen were fishing with the traditional fishing rod in their hands. I had till now seen them only in their wooden sculptures. It felt like the sculptures have come alive on those small rocks on the seashore.


View of Galle from a Fort Bastion
View of Galle from a Fort Bastion

As I walked away from the lighthouse, The landscape changed. Lighthouses receded and the wall took center stage. Bastions made their appearance at regular intervals. They made another great viewpoint – I only wish they were a bit better maintained. Many tourists sat on the turrets waiting for the iconic sunset. However, clouds had a field day that day in June. Sun had no choice but to go down quietly.

Porous Stones of Indian Ocean
Porous Stones of Indian Ocean

On the walls and closer to the shore, you can see the porous stones that I had also seen at Dhanushkodi near Rameshwaram in India. These are the same stones that are believed to be used by the Vaanar Sena of Ramayana to make a bridge to Lanka.

Clock Tower

Clock Tower at Galle Fort
Clock Tower at Galle Fort

On the other side of the Fort – there is a clock tower still standing tall but please do not depend on it to tell you the time. Close to it, are some lovely metal sculptures that clearly belong to the colonial times. The three bastions of the Galle Fort are called Sun, Moon, and Star.

The 2004 Tsunami hit the Galle town badly but it seems it did no major damage to the fort walls that stood strong against the mighty waves.

Galle Cricket Stadium

Galle Cricket Stadium
Galle Cricket Stadium

The Galle cricket stadium is the cutest cricket stadium you can see. It is like a large roundabout – in fact, it is a roundabout, you can see the traffic going around it.

From the Galle Fort walls, you can see whole of the stadium with its lush green ground. I tried to visualize the stands and was pointed to a small one at another end of the stadium.

Is it a small stadium? Apparently No.

Do they stop the traffic on the days of matches? Apparently No.

You can climb the walls of the fort and watch the match for free and apparently that is what many people do.

Unawatuna Beach

Unawatuna Beach near Galle, Sri Lanka
Unawatuna Beach near Galle, Sri Lanka

The Unawatuna is a touristy beach close to Galle City. It is a moon shaped beach – that makes it safer and more fun than most other rocky edges of the seashore in Sri Lanka.

You would find lots of activities like water sports here. Tourists love to swim on this beach. When I stood there for few minutes, it was like standing on Miramar Beach back home in Goa.

What I enjoyed doing was walking in the streets of Unawatuna. I ended up buying some funky jewelry there.

Unawatuna has a hippie vibe that you typically find in parts of the city or country that belong to tourists. People who come and live here for some time – all of them temporary citizens on the move.

Mirissa Beach

Fresh Fish being sold at Mirissa Beach - Galle
Fresh Fish being sold at Mirissa Beach – Galle

This is a beach that tourists visit for activities like surfing, whale watching, and boat trips. There are many tour companies that would take you on a whale watching trips deeper into the sea. I am told you can see a variety of whales if you are lucky.

It is a small beach though bigger than the Jungle beach. I could see a lot of rocky outgrowths, so you need to be careful when getting into the waters at Mirrisa beach. There are shacks like restaurants lining the beach, so you have ample to eat and drink. You can even see some fresh catch of seafood, choose the one you fancy and the guys will cook it for you.

There is a relaxed and fun vibe on the Mirissa beach. Perfect time to visit this beach is sunset when you can see the sun going down against the rocks standing in the blue waters of the Indian ocean.

Mirissa beach is about 30-45 minutes drive from Galle town.

Rumassala Forest

Rumassala Forest not too far from Galle Fort has an interesting Ramayana connect. It is said that when Hanuman brought the Himalaya Parvat to Sri Lanka for Sanjeevani Buti to revive Lakshmana, a piece of that forest fell here. Locals will tell you that Unawatuna means falling from in-between the fingers. They would also tell you that the herbs found on this piece of the jungle are the same as those found in the Himalayas. If it is true or not needs to be verified, but if it is, it is amazing as the climates at the Himalayas and Sri Lanka are poles apart

Read MoreRamayana Places to See in Sri Lanka

We drove through the steep hill to see two small monuments and a hidden beach in Rumassala forest.

Shanti Stupa

Shanti Stupa at Rimassala Forest in Sri Lanka
Shanti Stupa at Rimassala Forest in Sri Lanka

This is a standard Buddhist Stupa in white standing on a cliff by the bay. There is typical Japanese Peace Pagoda that you see here. I have seen similar ones in Leh, Rajgir and many other places.

In pristine white, this peace pagoda also called Shanti Stupa has four main images of Buddha in 4 cardinal directions. Images depict the 4 important milestones in Buddha’s life – Birth, Enlightenment, Turning the Wheel of Dharma and Mahaparinirvana. It feels peaceful to go around the Stupa and think of Buddha’s life and what it teaches us.

Read More – Sanchi Stupa and the Stories it Tells

There is a small Tsunami memorial that stands next to the Shanti Stupa ar Rumassala. A Buddhist temple nearby is where you can pray or meditate.

Hanuman Statue

Hanuman Statue at Rumassala Forest in Sri Lanka
Hanuman Statue at Rumassala Forest in Sri Lanka

Right next to the Shanti Stupa stands a Hanuman statue – holding the Himalaya Parvat in his hand. Point to note is that in India when we see Hanuman images with the mountain in his hand, we always see him flying. While in Sri Lanka he is standing as if announcing that he has brought the herbs needed. He is adorned with a garland of beetle leaves – a tradition that is followed in South India.

The image was erected in 2000 by a local businessman called Sisirchandra Weerakoddy.

When I looked at the trees around the Hanuman image, I saw some small cradles with toy babies hanging on the trees around. Later, I was found out that people believe that Hanuman can fulfill their wish of having a child if they tie a cradle to the tree around him. Faith – can take so many shapes.

Read More – Journey in the footsteps of Hanuman

Jungle Beach

Jungle beach near Galle Fort is one of those small hidden beaches next to a hill in a jungle. It is a tiny beach surrounded by rocks. However, it is a buzzing beach with many people lounging around.

You need to go down about 200-300 meters to reach the Jungle beach. Half of the way is unpaved and second half has stairs leading to the beach. There are monkeys waiting for you to offer them some food. Jungle beach is not really a secret beach as guidebooks would tell you. However, it is tucked away in the corner and you have to make some effort to reach it. There are basic shacks and beach beds.

A good place to spend some secluded time with the sea.

Travel Tips for Galle

Map of Galle City & Fort
Map of Galle City & Fort
  • Wear comfortable shoes and walk around. It is a small fort that you can easily walk around.
  • There are ample food outlets so you need not worry about food or water.
  • Entry is free.
  • Do walk on the walls for best views preferably at Sunset time.
  • Locals recommend Galle for antique shops – do check them out.
  • There are many hotels in Galle that you can stay at. I stayed at Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon at Hikkaduwa which is 15-20 mins drive from Galle. On my second visit, I stayed at Amari Galle. Check out more Hotels in Galle.
  • When I visited both the museums were closed for renovation, do check them when you visit Galle.


  1. This is so lovely, didn’t even know about it. How amazing it is that the whole area is so nicely preserved and it still has the same Portuguese feel to it. I’m a bit of a history buff, so this would be such an interesting site for me. Love it, thanks! 🙂

  2. Galle is high on our bucket list for Sri Lanka, so I was very pleased to read your article. We love to explore cities by food, so I’m happy you recommended it as a walking city 🙂 We’ll definitely make sure to visit the Unawatuna beach as well, it sounds like the perfect place to relax after a city day.

  3. Galle still has a very colonial feel to it, doesn’t it? The All Saints Church reminds me of the churches built by the English in South Africa, where you also have many Church Streets. This one looks so enticing, would love to stroll down it. Sri Lanka is on my travel bucket list, and now Galle too!

  4. There are so many fun areas of Sri Lanka to explore and Galle Fort is certainly one of them. I spent some time there a few years back, and was only able to see a small chunk of the island. I need to go back. I wouldn’t mind catching a cricket match in the stadium as well. Maybe then I could figure out how that sport works!

  5. Your post brought back so many memories of Galle. We visited all these except that museum. It was closed for some reason. You are right their gems are really beautiful and I too bought it for myself. The cafes within the fort too serve awesome food. Lovely pictures.

  6. I have nice memories about Galle, it was nice to enjoy the city and its colonial architecture for a couple of days. But I don’t remember anything about gemstones, too bad! My pictures have the same stormy ski than yours, we must have chosen the wrong season?

  7. I try to make a point of visiting as many World Heritage Sites as I can on my travels, and would love to visit Galle Fort in Sri Lanka. It sounds like it has quite the rich cultural heritage, having passed through the hands of many Empires over the decades. Walking the fort walls definitely sounds like a must – how amazing to see traditional fisherman operating from the shore.

    Unawatuna looks like a great place to cool off with a swim after a long day walking throughout the Fort. Thanks for the tip on visiting for sunset.

  8. I hadn’t heard of this city. Love the Banyan Tree and coat of arms at the city arch. I’m a fan of walking the city walls and that lighthouse make for a great back drop. Honestly though, you had me at beach and gem shops!

  9. I’ve only been to Columbo, will have to make a point to head to Galle Fort the next time I’m in Sri Lanka. Galle Fort looks like a nice place to spend the day. So many interesting things to see and do. The All Saints Church is such a cool looking building.

  10. I’d love to visit Sri Lanka and I’m now adding Galle to the list. What a fascinating perspective reading about the colonial heritage and Portuguese influence. The white Buddhist Stupa looks amazing. I look forward to exploring the area and food soon!

  11. Sri Lanka sounds more attractive by the day when I read posts like this one about Galle Fort. I didn’t expect the vintage cars, but I love them! I’m so glad the fort walls withstood the force of the tsunami.

  12. I love small towns like Galle where you can easily walk around to see the attractions. There are so many beaches nearby that add to the rich cultural background of the town, making an ideal destination. Another UNESCO world heritage site has been added on my list!

  13. I am still waiting for my first time to visit Sri Lanka, but once I go I will definitely be headed to Galle Fort. It looks like place of amazing history, and great place for long walks, too.

  14. You know what, your post has really fuelled my thoughts further as only yesterday I was exploring Srilanka virtually for my next overseas travel. Galle would be high on my wish list to cover for being a UNESCO site and great that it was mentioned in Ptolmy’s Map. Please confirm, if anyone offer a walking tour also to explore the town. That Arch is so inviting. I have to visit that Black fort for its heritage value. I am sure, you ahve gien a complete guide to explore Galle which actually looks so much an Indian Town. Would take your expert advice one I am done with my itinerary.

  15. I find it very interesting to visit places that have such a cultural mix. Seeing the different influences must have been really cool. I’d especially like to walk along the walls at sunset, thanks for that tip!


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