Favourite weekend destinations can ossify with time, but Sri Lanka is one such destination that never gets old. Thanks to the proximity, great connectivity from various Indian destinations and affordability, it now lies on top of mind for Indian travellers, even it means that one spends only a weekend’s worth of time. Here’s a practical guide to travel, transportation, shopping, eating and sight seeing spots for a weekend in December at the erstwhile Dutch stronghold, Galle.
Getting There: The main air node to the country is the Bandaranaike International Airport, 35km north of Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. Getting into the city takes about 1.5 hours in a cab and there are ample cab services available at the airport. A drop till Galle can cost anywhere from LKR 11250 upwards in a sedan car.
Top Tip: Peak hours of the city are traffic clogged so getting in and out take considerable time. Keep enough time for flights and planning road travel.
Best Season To Go: Being a tropical country, Sri Lanka never gets too cold. Coastal destinations have fluctuating weather patterns and may need better planning, but December until April are good months to visit Galle, with plenty of sunshine.
Galle Overview: Located 119km south of Colombo along the coast, Galle has not only charmed recent travellers but was on the circuit that 14th century traveller, Ibn Batuta traversed – he called it Qali. The fortified city was built by the Portuguese and further bolstered by the Dutch in 17th century. Ever since tourism opened in the country, Galle became the face of architectural pride and has never looked back. Boutique hotels, heritage walks, temples, colonial buildings, street side cafes and restaurants make it one of the hippest destinations with its soul intact despite the thousands that visit here.
Villa Templeberg: A 150-year-old restored villa located outside the fortified part of Galle. The home slips comfortably into the folds of coconut plantation, and adds a dash of homely comfort with Dutch antiques, a plunge pool, a library and comfy rooms. For more information visit the official website of Templeberg.
Amangalla: The former residence of the Dutch Governor, Amangalla has 200 years below its belt and assures a superior experience with high teas, swimming pool and an indulgent spa. The story goes that the resident ghost of the erstwhile owner selects only ‘good looking’ young men to unnerve in one particular room. Only the fearless take up the challenge. For more information visit the official website of Aman Resorts.
Weltevreden: One of the oldest Dutch homes within the fort city of Galle Fort, Weltevreden is ideal for guests who like a dash of history with their holiday. For that, one needs to spare some time for a personalized tour of the house by the owner, Mr. Piyasena. The most intriguing part of the house is the horse stable, now converted into an open sit out.
Pedlar Street; +94 91 222 2650
Cliff jumpers of Galle: Head to the Galle Fort at 8.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. in non-monsoon months (October-April), when the tide comes in and fills the cove with sufficient water for brave cliff jumpers to take a leap from the ramparts. What’s intriguing is that they take the 40 feet high jump and land in only 4 feet of water – a unique, but perilous skill. This takes place every morning at Flag Rock, between Point Utrecht Bastion and Triton Bastion on the ramparts of the fort.
Walks with Juliet Coombe:The best way to know the secret spots of Galle, is to trail Juliet Coombe in the wake of her fabulous storytelling. Culinary secrets, mask making, magic and myths dominate the themes. Having lived here for years, she knows the streets at the back of her hand and offers an exceptional overview of the social and cultural scape of the city.
Galle International Stadium: If you share the subcontinent’s love for cricket, you’re sure to appreciate the picturesque Galle International Stadium, which was once the local cricket club. It is now Sri Lanka’s pride on the cricketing front, and offers sports enthusiasts more than just edge of the seat games to see. There’s also the ocean view on two sides of the stadium.
National Museum of Galle: One of the oldest Dutch buildings in the fort area, the museum is an ideal window into the history of the city. It has fascinating exhibits from the Portuguese, Dutch and the British era, recapping the entire colonial rule in the island since the 16th century.
Fishing on stilts:Though marked as a ‘touristy’ thing to do, many travellers drive along the coast to the east till they hit the Polhenna Beach, where many of the pole fishermen still prop themselves patiently on it for a fresh catch.
Galle is known for boutique shops that store tasteful artifacts and other handmade products that make for great souvenirs. Orchid House, Barefoot, Exotic Roots, Stick No Bills and The Three by TPV are perfect to spend on something original.
From the affordable to the affluent, there is no dearth of places to eat and drink in Galle. Exceptionally prices value cafes by the road and plush starred restaurants both dot the streets of the city. A Minute by Tuk Tuk, The Fort Printers, Amangalla, Spoons and Crepe-ology are some of the popular haunts.
All images by: Supriya Sehgal