Jutting like a small peninsula into the Indian Ocean from Sri Lanka’s southwestern tip, Galle is a gorgeous, colonial-era fortified city acclaimed as the finest of its kind in Southeast Asia. Although it has been a port since ancient times, it expanded rapidly under the Portuguese and later, in the 18th century during the Dutch era, curtain walls, bastions linked by splendid ramparts and a pair of solid gateways were added. These can still be enjoyed today, and form a charismatic backdrop for easy ambles around the old town, which preserves an almost village-like atmosphere rather at odds with that of its modern avatar on its landward side.
Galle’s grid-planned streets are lined with lovely colonial-style houses and mansions, their arched verandahs and shuttered windows offering much-needed shade against the hot tropical sun. Among them lie a charming jumble of cafes, shops and guesthouses. In recent years, several of Galle’s old buildings have also been converted by foreigners for use as boutique hotels, complete with antique furniture and fixtures.
For lunch, try Poonie’s Kitchen on Pedlar Street, which serves organic salads, spicy squash fritters and to-die-for pumpkin, prawn and coconut soup in a stylishly decorated courtyard shaded by flowering plumeria trees.
The Terrace at the über-chic Amangalla boutique hotel is a great place to linger over a long drink or latté, soaking up the old colonial-era architecture.