There’s a reason why Galle features so prominently in the tales of ancient travellers. Ptolemy (AD 100 – c. 170) thought it important enough to feature near the centre of his map of the world. Over the centuries it became a popular port of call on any voyage to this part of the world. Chinese, Indian, Javanese, Arab and European sailors came calling in droves. Many of them never left. So while Sri Lanka became home to many nationalities and cultures that visited its shores, Galle cemented its place as the island’s melting pot.
When the Portuguese arrived in the early 1500’s Galle was already a bustling place of commerce and trade. Through diplomacy, treachery and a bit of force they wrested control of the area and fortified it with a small wooden fort. Along came the Dutch in 1640 and threw the Portuguese out. It is they who turned the fort into the spectacle it is today. Up went the ramparts of stone. So too did a grand church, an armory, barracks, grand residential quarters, administrative buildings and places of business. In came the governors, soldiers, builders and traders to form the microcosm that is the Galle fort. When the British took over the fort about 150 years later, they found themselves in possession of one of the finest examples of colonial architecture.
The fort is indeed the focal point of Galle. But look a bit further and you’ll find many more attractions that woo the traveller. There’s the beach of course; miles and miles of it in either direction with wonderful spots for safe swimming, snorkeling, surfing as well as wrecks and reefs to explore further off shore. Galle has long catered to a world-wide audience and it reflects in the many restaurant offerings. There are shops selling everything from curios to clothes and if you’re in the mood, you can find some groovy tunes playing till the break of dawn and beyond.