The 17th century Dutch fort within which the old quarter of Galle is a Unesco World Heritage Site lying on the south west coast of Sri Lanka around 170 kilometres away from Colombo, and is the best preserved sea fort in South Asia.

Standing since the early 16th century when the Portuguese seized the city from the Sinhalese Kings and erected a single wall fronted by a moat which stretched from the sea to the harbour. In 1640 sovereignty fell to the Dutch  after their defeat of the Portuguese and they converted the site into a walled fortress. It was under Dutch rule that the city enjoyed its heyday as a trading port between the East and Europe.

You can walk a whole circuit of the fort walls in under 2 hours – a trip best done near dusk as the heat of the day subsides – and watch children playing cricket in the long shadow of the lighthouse. Within the walls, time crosses centuries in the space of a moment as carts laden with goods are pulled through its narrow streets, past modern shops and trendy hotel verandahs. Many of the original Dutch houses still line narrow streets, some now renovated to their former colonial glory, others still preserved in their original state with many in desperate need of some TLC.

Buzz Trips Opinion

The walled city is a magnificent snapshot in time which withstood the 2004 tsunami that destroyed much of the town. There has been more change over the past ten years than for hundreds before, with Galle now the place for monied ex pats to spend their days in colonial luxury. But outside of the chic hotels and villas, the character, soul and romance of the city remains and couples still sit hand in hand beneath their parasols on the city walls.

Buzz Experience
Just along the coast from Galle is the beautiful beach of Unawatuna and the fascinating stilt fishermen who must surely fall off those poles with monotonous regularity. You’ll only see the fishermen if the current is going in the right direction, or if you point a camera towards the poles…the first will yield fish; the second a hand for some rupees.

(Galle header and montage images by Jacks Hillaby)

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