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Galle and the southern beaches

Galle is a living time capsule, a melting pot of colonial grandeur and bohemian chic. Its massive fortified walls protectively enclose densely-packed streets lined with British and Dutch colonial buildings.

The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest fortified colonial city in Asia. But in truth, it’s not that big. Staying at one of the boutique hotels in Galle, you can easily walk to most places you want to visit and, take our word for it, a walk around the city ramparts at sunset is a mesmerising must.

And if the sound of willow on leather has a special place in your heart, Galle can justifiably claim to have the most spectacular test cricket ground in the world.

Close by your luxury hotel in Galle there are hidden rooftop restaurants serving delicious local food, elegant bars with extensive wine lists, creative boutiques and treasure-trove antique shops. And we’ve whiled away many a sun-drenched afternoon enjoying freshly-caught chili prawns and a cold glass of chardonnay (well, even the most dedicated explorer has to park the 4×4 and unwind occasionally!).

Hit the beach!

The southern beaches to the east of Galle are amongst the best in Sri Lanka. Unawatuna, Thalpe and Koggala are the main areas, with a few smaller bays in between. Although the sea is generally not exactly placid, there are a few lagoons protected by reefs which make swimming safe. And if you stick to the beach, you will find the sand to be heavenly and the views to die for.

Throw in some excellent beach hotels in Galle that sit close by beachside restaurants and bars, and you have a vibrant and laid-back beach scene which fortunately lacks the hawkers and hassle that can be part of other Sri Lankan beach areas.

Eating and drinking

Galle has an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. Wonderful, honest Sri Lankan food is plentiful, as well as some more mainstream restaurants serving Western food. Combined with the recent opening of the old Dutch Hospital where some of Colombo’s best restaurants have set up shop, you’ll find that it’s all rather cosmopolitan. You’ll find anything from traditional Sri Lanka roti and dahl to succulent lamb imported from New Zealand. And it can be washed down with superb fresh fruit juices, local Lion beer, New World wines (European wines are fairly rare) or expertly mixed arrack cocktails. (Arrack is a spirit widespread in South-East Asia, usually distilled from coconuts in Sri Lanka.)

And by the way, do not believe a word of the local legend that unlike a hangover, an arrack-over is actually good for you. We’ve been there and it certainly doesn’t feel that way!

Galle is a large fishing town and we’ve enjoyed some of the best seafood in Sri Lanka both inside the city walls and with the sand between our toes on some of the surrounding beaches (most are a 15-minute taxi or tuk-tuk ride). It’s worth the cheap ride. The local food is superb and very reasonably priced.

And if you fancy a change from rice and curry, the best pizza is found in a beachside restaurant which sports its own wood-fired oven.

If you are after hard-core partying, you’ve probably come to the wrong place. But if you want to see a bit of laid-back life, while sipping a few cocktails in style, the beaches to the east of Galle offer the perfect locations.

Finally, there is a small handful of upmarket bars and restaurants in Galle which make for a fun evening should you tire of your hotel’s familiar surroundings.

Out and about

We would never suggest going to Galle and doing nothing. There’s a bounty of other places in Sri Lanka for blissful idleness. Galle is about discovery and being inquisitive in the old fort. The new city, home to approx. 100,000 people, is modern and unremarkable. That said, the fish market along the seafront outside the old city walls is well worth a visit. We are always staggered at the variety on offer.

Inside the old city, there are intriguing museums, churches and landmarks. In fact, there is so much to do and see in the old fort, flip-flop rub is a serious danger. The splendid colonial architecture is the chief hallmark of Galle and there is no shortage of local books and information guides recounting fascinating stories from the past.

For us, probably the most extraordinary experience in Galle was seeing the law courts in full swing on weekdays. The municipal courts are still located on Magistrates Square. The scene – the square is buzzing with people – is a genuine part of local life and captivating in its very authenticity.

Galle is a city. There aren’t really any beaches or swimming areas in the immediate vicinity (although you will almost certainly see local children hurling themselves off the city ramparts into the blue sea below). The best long sandy beaches lie about 15 minutes by tuk-tuk to the south-east and getting the sand between your toes is an experience not to miss.

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Whether you are looking for the perfect hotel stay or to create an exciting itinerary tailored just for you, every last detail of your trip with Yonder is carefully crafted, including hand-picked hotels that we adore ourselves

Hills and Thrills

Hills and Thrills

11 Days | From £3,700pp (Inc. Flights)

Visiting: Tea Country, Galle and the southern beaches, Yala National Park, Colombo

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Treasure Island

Treasure Island

23 Days | From £4,700pp (Inc. Flights)

Visiting: Tea Country, Galle and the southern beaches, Cultural Triangle, Yala National Park, Uda Walawe National Park

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Sensational Ceylon

Sensational Ceylon

14 Days | From £4,200pp (Inc. Flights)

Visiting: Tea Country, Galle and the southern beaches, Cultural Triangle, Tangalle, Yala National Park

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Sri Lanka Wildlife Wonders

Sri Lanka Wildlife Wonders

21 Days | From £3,800pp (Inc. Flights)

Visiting: Gal Oya National Park, Galle and the southern beaches, Wilpattu National Park, Tangalle, Yala National Park

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Honeymoons in Sri Lanka

Honeymoons in Sri Lanka

10 Days | From £3,300pp (Inc. Flights)

Visiting: Galle and the southern beaches, Kandy

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Sri Lanka Megamoon

Sri Lanka Megamoon

15 Days | From £3,900pp (Inc. Flights)

Visiting: Gal Oya National Park, Tea Country, Galle and the southern beaches, Cultural Triangle, Kandy

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Winter Sun Family Holiday to Sri Lanka

Winter Sun Family Holiday to Sri Lanka

14 Days | From £3,400pp (Inc. Flights)

Visiting: Tea Country, Galle and the southern beaches, Cultural Triangle, Yala National Park

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Postcards from our previous clients

David Edwards

We booked our India holiday through Yonder and they delivered from start to finish. From their choice of hotels (all great,...

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Used Yonder recently for a holiday to Sri Lanka for my girlfriend and I and I have nothing but positive feedback for them.<...


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Our Recommended Accommodation In Galle and the southern beaches


Formerly the fabled New Oriental Hotel, now magnificently reborn as an Aman hotel, the Amangalla Galle is a sumptuous blend of colonial opulence with contemporary minimalism. Teak floors, antiques, views of the fort and tranqui... View this hotel

The Fortress

The Fortress, on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, is a firm favourite for returning visitors year after year. The spectacular oceanfront location, the long sandy beach off to the west and the reliable service have helped it mainta... View this hotel

Kahanda Kanda

Occupying a hillside tea plantation of 12 acres with stunning views, Suites are a striking blend of antiques, contemporary fashion and custom-designed fabrics. The Kahanda Kanda resort restaurant is amongst the best on the Sout... View this hotel

Frangipani Tree

Occupying one of the best spots on Thalpe beach, on SL’s South Coast, with a seascape to die for. Sleek and minimalist interiors and just nine suites with four-posters and rich linens. Amazing fusion food completes a formula ... View this hotel

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