A holiday in Galle and southern Sri Lanka uncovers a world of historic Dutch forts, beautiful beaches and fishermen fishing on stilts, where sleepy villages lie hidden in palms behind the wide sandy bays and sheltered coves. The further east you go, the less populated and the more naturally wild and remote the landscapes become. The lush inland forest reserves in the south-west contrast sharply with the arid south-eastern national parks of Yala, Uda Walave and Bundala, where wild elephants and migratory birds flock around the water ‘tanks’ and where leopards and sloth bear have been known to roam. Between December and April, the south coast is popular for whale and dolphin watching, in the waters off Weligama Bay. Galle, on the south-west tip of Sri Lanka, is a reminder of the Dutch presence on the island. The new town may have the usual urban bustle, but the Dutch Fort, built in 1663, retains a timeless air. Constructed by the Dutch East Indian Company as a fortified town, Galle Fort is a UNESCO world heritage site which is still intact with a thriving community living and working within its walls. You can walk along part of the ramparts with views out to sea on one side and the famous Galle cricket ground on the other. The region around Galle is fascinating and incredibly beautiful with its rainforest reserves and indigenous wildlife, as well as fishing villages and palm-fringed, sandy coves.We have selected hotels in Galle and along the South Coast which are ideally located to visit the many places of interest in the area. These hotels include Jetwing Lighthouse, a classy hotel designed by Geoffrey Bawa; The Fortress, an outstanding deluxe resort hotel; Amangalla, a splendid colonial-style hotel; Kahanda Kanda, a small and elegant countryside hotel; and Taprobane Island, a private island retreat.Click here to read more about the places of interest on the South Coast.
Climate: The average temperature on the South coast is 32C with 65% humidity, though it is cooler and more humid in the west, getting progressively hotter and less humid the further east you go, especially the east of Tangalle. The evenings are a little cooler and the coasts enjoy sea breezes. Rainfall is experienced mainly during the south-west monsoon from May to August. The ‘calm’ season is December to April, when the seas are general calm and there is little rainfall. Whilst the sea appears calm out of the monsoons, there are still undercurrents and riptides. Festivals and Events in the South January: The Galle Literary Festival - this 4-day festival brings together Sri Lankan and international authors from around the world for writing workshops, talks, exhibitions and more at various locations in Galle. Past guests have included Vickram Seth and Gore Vidal. July: Unuwatuna Perahera - a 7-day festival commencing on full moon day. Matara/Dondra Perahera - with dedications to Lord Vishnu. Kataragama Esala Festival - a 10-day festival when pilgrims give penance to the Hindu war god, Skanda. July to September: Kite flying on the ramparts of Galle
Festivals and Events in the South January: The Galle Literary Festival - this 4-day festival brings together Sri Lankan and international authors from around the world for writing workshops, talks, exhibitions and more at various locations in Galle. Past guests have included Vickram Seth and Gore Vidal. July: Unuwatuna Perahera - a 7-day festival commencing on full moon day. Matara/Dondra Perahera - with dedications to Lord Vishnu. Kataragama Esala Festival - a 10-day festival when pilgrims give penance to the Hindu war god, Skanda. July to September: Kite flying on the ramparts of Galle
There are many places to visit in Galle and the area along the south coast of Sri Lanka. In Galle itself, Galle Fort is home to a national museum housing Dutch and Singhalese exhibits of historical interest as well as a newly-opened Maritime Museum, a lighthouse and a 17th century Dutch Reform Church. The narrow streets within the Fort are fascinating for their architecture, lined with official buildings, shops and old town houses, some of which have been converted to stylish villas and boutique hotels. Outside the ramparts, Galle functions busily as a provincial town and port - brightly painted fishing boats line the shore and there is a lively market area with a whole pavilion dedicated to fish. Galle and the surrounding villages are full of artisans – lace makers, jewellers, woodcarvers, painters and people making things out of coir, rush and reed. The National Crafts Council has a centre by the old entrance to Galle Fort and there are plenty of small shops selling crafts, jewellery and antiques, as well as a few designer boutiques. Slightly further afield, there are numerous beautiful beaches and fishing villages including Thalpe, Unuwatuna, Matara, Koggala, Weligama Bay and Tangalle, as well as a number of National Parks with plenty of wildlife.
Fascinating Galle has plenty to offer the visitor: Galle Fort – UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the few living fort cities in the world; Walk around the ramparts of Galle at dawn or at sunset; Arts & crafts shopping – jewellery, lace, rush & reed, home décor, furniture, antiques, batik and boutiques; The Dutch Reformed Church; Galle Literary Festival in January; National Museum; Maritime Museum in the Dutch warehouses of Galle Fort, just re-opened; Galle Markets; Galle Cricket Stadium; Hot-air balloon ride (December to April); River boat trip. A little way inland from Galle/Koggala: Hiyare Nature Reserve (volunteering possible); Kottawe Nature Reserve; Kanneliya Forest; Samakanda (organic farm, visit, walks and lunches available upon request); Village life bike rides; Handicrafts in the villages e.g. lace-making, rush & reed, woodcarving; Yatagala Temple. On the way from Galle to Yala you can enjoy: Stilt Fishermen; Cinnamon plantations; Unuwatuna beach; Martin Wickramasinghe’s house – museum (literary and 20th century life); Koggala Lake; Hinduangoda White tea factory and estate; Lace-making – Weligama, Dickwella; Surfing – popular surfing beaches from Unuwatuna to Mirissa; Weligama Bay; Coastal villages and fishing harbours; Whale Watching and Dolphin Watching (from Mirissa); Diving (from Mirissa); Deep-sea fishing trips (from Mirissa); Provincial town of Matara (Dutch heritage – fort and church); Dondra Head and Dondra Lighthouse; Kudawala Blow Hole; Mulkirigala Buddhist temple (inland); Uda Walawe National Park and Elephant Transit Home (inland); Sea Turtles laying their eggs on the beach, usually February to July (Rekawa Turtle Project); Kalametiya bird sanctuary; Bundala Nature Reserve (bird-watching mainly); Yala National Park; Kataragama – centre for Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim pilgrimages; Tissamaharama - ancient ‘tank’ and dagobas.
Driving distances: Colombo International Airport to Galle – 3 hours (150 km), Colombo International Airport to Koggala – 3.5 hours (165 km), Colombo International Airport to Tangalle - 5 hours (230 km), Galle to Weligama – 30-40 minutes (25 km), Galle to Tangalle – 2 hours (80 km), Galle to Yala – 4 hours (180 km), Nuwara Eliya to Tangalle – 5 hours (210 km). A new Sri Lankan Airlines air taxi service (sea plane) operates daily between Colombo international airport, Bentota and Koggala. Private helicopter charter transfers can also be arranged.
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Find out more about Sri Lanka
CapitalSri Jayawardenapura-Kotte, with Colombo the commercial capital AirportBandaranaike International Airport is 1 hour from downtown Colombo CurrencySri Lankan Rupee (£1 = 208 Sri Lankan Rupees) Size268 miles long and 139 miles wide Population21 million Average temperatureThe climate varies dramatically between coast and interior year-round, and between the south-west and north-east according to time of year. Average coastal temperatures in areas we feature is 30 degrees whereas the temperature is much cooler in the hills, with hot water bottles needed (and provided) at most hotels. Rainy season in the south-west is September to October, and April to May in the north-east.
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