Of South Asia’s port cities, 116km south of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s Galle – pronounced “Gaul” – is remarkable due to its extensive maritime history, international trading links and three fold colonial domination, which led to a diverse and shifting ethnic composition. Unusually, one of the colonial powers – the Dutch – left a valuable legacy in the form of the best-preserved sea fort in South Asia, whose substantial ramparts and bastions largely protect it from the type of modernization and homogenization that has blighted most urban areas of the region.

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Galle owes its historic importance to its natural harbour and strategic location. It has long been a hub of trade and commerce with ships from all parts of the world docking at the ancient port to barter their goods for treasures from this island: precious gems, pearls, spices, and scented woods. Galle is even referred to as the Biblical `Tarshish’ where King Solomon’s ships called at port to take aboard treasures.

Today Galle is a bustling provincial capital where a kaleidoscope of ethnicities and religions live side by side. The majority of Galle’s population is Sinhalese but there are significant communities of Moors, Malays, Tamils and increasingly a scattering of Europeans, largely but not exclusively British, who have been attracted by the area’s rich cultural heritage, beautiful beaches and laidback lifestyles. Artists, designers and writers flock each year for rest and inspiration.

Don't Miss

  • Loll on Unawatuna’s horseshoe beach
  • Wander along the ramparts of Galle Fort
  • Visit Galle’s museums, arts and craft shops
  • Meander down mangrove-lined rivers.

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