Oh, Sri Lanka, how you have stolen my heart! I know, I sound a bit pathetic and you may laugh at me, that’s alright. But honestly, this country…
I just returned from my second trip there and while it was a bit taxing due to some very personal issues, I still love it dearly.
Part of the charm was a picture perfect first destination to ease into: Galle.
Galle is a historical fort town down in the south of Sri Lanka and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like so many others, think Hoi An or Paraty, it is utterly charming if a little touristy. I honestly didn’t mind. Crooked buildings, paint peeling, kittens and tuk-tuks all mixed with a fresh sea breeze and I was sold.
I stayed in Galle for a total of five nights which to me was the perfect amount of time to wander the streets and get acclimatized with hoppers and tuk-tuk bartering. As we hit it off the first time around I was excited to return now and spend another week there. All I wanted was a nice location to put my head down and get some work done while eating a lot of hoppers.

I did just that and even discovered some new gems. With that – the updated Elephant Guide to Galle.

How to get There

You have four option to get from Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital to Galle: by private car, train, bus or plane. I tried two of the options, so I am going to focus on these.

Private Car

Needless to say, that is the most comfortable option. Walk outside the airport and turn left until you hit the taxi counters. I ignored all other advances as I wanted a reputable taxi company. Costs were about $65, and that got me a whole air-conditioned minivan on my own. No need to book or worry, just pay at the counter, get your slip and they will take you to your driver. I paid the driver a bit extra for the toll for the expressway which is a great option if you don’t care about the scenic route (I didn’t, it was 5 am!). That got me to Galle in a little over two hours.

Train

Sri Lanka is famous for its trains. While the most scenic route runs to Ella, I still wanted to give it a go, so I decided to take the train from Galle back to Colombo on my first trip and from Colombo to Galle on my last one.
The first time was great as they still had private trains with first class compartments that while not fancy by any means were perfect value for money for $10. Unfortunately, those are suspended for the time being so I had to cram into third class with no assigned seats, no wiggle room, no nothing. Well, there was a snack person coming through but he was more annoying than anything else as he had to elbow people to even get through.
If you are still keen to try it, you can find the schedule online. Just go to the train station and buy your tickets there. Once the train arrives remember – just because it looks full doesn’t mean it is.

Bus & Plane

Another easy way which I would have considered is taking the bus. Just keep in mind that local buses don’t leave directly from the airport so you will need to get to the Maharagama Bus Station in the southeast of Colombo first. Someone told me that you always get a seat on the bus because the bus will just leave when it’s full. I was keen to give it a go but in the end opted for another private car drive so I could get work done on the way.

If you want to fly, Cinnamon Air offers flights to Koggala and from there you can take a tuk-tuk to Galle.

Where to Sleep

I had the best hotels in Sri Lanka. Some of them had such comfy beds that I could have stayed in all day long. My favorites for all tastes and budgets in the south still remain the same.

Amangalla

If you want to splurge even just for a night, the Amangalla is the place to be. Otherwise, make sure to pop in for a cocktail during sunset or a dinner – the restaurant is so good you will even find it in the guidebooks of all the other hotels.

One of Sri Lanka's highlights is the historical town of Galle. What to do in Galle, where to sleep, what to eat & how to get there in this guide!

 

Fort Bazaar

Sri Lankan design is quite wonderful but give it a hint of modern day Morocco, and you see me swooning. Swoon I did when I walked into the Fort Bazaar just a few houses down from the Amangalla. I didn’t want to leave the latter but arriving at Fort Bazaar made it a lot better.
It has modern, clean lines that are set in a 17th-century townhouse providing the perfect mix of old and new. Think four-poster bed without the frills, subway tile in the bathroom, and giant bouquets of flowers.
The highlight is their bar/restaurant The Social that extends to the veranda, perfect for people watching (and kitten feeding).
They don’t have a liquor license, but they make some great virgin cocktails or will organize a tuk-tuk driver to get you beer from the kiosk at night. The menu offers anything from Sri Lankan curries (and of course, hoppers for breakfast) to classics like Fish ‘n Chips and some excellent tuna sashimi.
The only thing that could make this place any better would be a gift shop; because I was sorely tempted to fill my pockets with all their accessories.

Book your room at Fort Bazaar here – kitten not inclusive!

Villa Amma Erna

I randomly found Villa Amma Erna on Booking.com of all places, and it was a complete hit. A 20-minute tuk-tuk drive from Galle takes you deep into the countryside and a steep hill up to the villa. Amma Erna has only three rooms for now, and they are completely open to one side (yes, there are mosquito screens).
The ventilation is fantastic though and you get the wonderful feeling of sleeping outside while snug in yet another four-poster bed. Enjoy the view over the adjacent village while you take a shower and hope for a thunderstorm – it doesn’t get any more romantic!
You get Sri Lankan village life and a modern, eco setting rolled all into one little guesthouse.

 

Where to Eat

Pedlar’s Inn Cafe

Pedlar’s Inn is actually quite famous and as I was staying just down the road this time, I checked it out. I was in the mood for some good old pasta and I was quite impressed. Not amazing but for a pasta freak like me definitely decent enough.
They also make good coffee and I liked their gelateria.

Sugar Bistro

Man, I was upset that I only discovered this gem on my last night. Not only do they sell drinks (not a given in Galle), it is reasonably priced and the mojitos are rather yum.
I also ate a seafood quesadilla and while the combination sounded odd, to say the least, it was delicious. I was almost upset that it was so good because I knew wasn’t going to be able to return.

Wijaya Beach

Take a tuk-tuk to Wijaya Beach, an institution close to Unawatuna beach. Stuff your face with the freshest, most inexpensive tuna sashimi, followed by prawn curry or pizza. And again – mojitos!

Poonies

Right opposite Pedlars you will find another institution: Poonies. Come here for some backyard tranquility, coconut water and some super healthy dishes. I loved their breakfast bowl and the mixed salad platter.
With renewed energy, you can then explore the little boutique up front with Sri Lankan designers or head upstairs for a nap massage at the spa.

Fort Hotel

I didn’t eat at the Fort Hotel but it became my go to bar. I loved the colonial setting, the bar snacks, and the staff. Even if you are not staying there it is definitely worth the visit for a cocktail in a grand ol’ setting.

Galle Things Roti

That name…oh no, it does not work. However, the concept is incredibly clever and the food is delicious. Choose your type of roti, your curry, and your toppings and then tuck into deliciousness. Cutlery is strictly optional here!

History Lesson

Galle is a historical fort town with lots to see albeit being quite small. The old town can easily be discovered on foot or by tuk-tuk if you are really lazy/tired.
You can see the buildings that Portuguese, Dutch and finally the English left over time and learn quite a bit about the country’s colonial history. Check out the Maritime Museum, take a stroll along the ramparts and to the lighthouse, and gaze at the mosque standing peacefully next to the local temple.History Lesson
Galle is a historical fort town with lots to see albeit being quite small. The old town can easily be discovered on foot or by tuk-tuk if you are really lazy/tired.
You can see the buildings that Portuguese, Dutch and finally the English left over time and learn quite a bit about the country’s colonial history. Check out the Maritime Museum, take a stroll along the ramparts and to the lighthouse, and gaze at the mosque standing peacefully next to the local temple.

Stick no Bills

That shop is also part of the furniture in town and an event in itself. Go here to browse through vintage posters, mainly old advertisements for pretty much anything you can imagine.
You can get most prints from full sized framed versions to postcards. Get stamps too and mail some postcards right then and there from their old-fashioned red mailbox.

Cricket

Unfortunately, there was no game on while I was in town but when I return I am very keen to see a cricket match at the stadium adjacent to the fort. After all, Sri Lanka is famous for its team and seats in the nosebleed section (do you call them that in a cricket stadium??) are as cheap as they get.

Life’s a Beach

Galle Fort does have its own beach though I dare say there are nicer beaches in the vicinity. Just take yourself a tuk-tuk and head to Unawatuna beach where the surf’s up and the tan is on.

Have you been to Galle and have any tips to add?

One of Sri Lanka's highlights is the historical town of Galle. What to do, where to sleep, what to eat & how to get there in this guide!
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