has the attractions of the West – some beautiful beaches,
diving and snorkeling opportunities, historic and interesting sights
without the crowds. There is easy access to several National Parks
– Bundala, Yala- and the old town of Galle is one of the most
interesting in Sri Lanka.
Once a major port, Galle shows its colonial Dutch and Portuguese history. Most imposing is the Fort (a walled town and Heritage site) which houses the national Maritime Museum, the National museum and the more recent (1938) lighthouse. The Fort ramparts allow an hour or two’s gentle stroll, best taken at dusk to enjoy the sensational sunsets from the Western Bastions.
Previously occupied by many Muslim families, the Fort is now being taken over by wealthy ex-patriate investors. Old derelict buildings are being bought for small sums of money and renovated to exquisite interior design standards. Many of these private villas and some larger commercial boutique Hotels like the Galle Face Hotel are opening in 2004 and we will keep you informed. The New Oriental Hotel- neither new (1864) nor Oriental is undergoing refurbishment by the Amman group and should be interesting when completed. A more traditionally run yet well maintained guesthouse on the ramparts and overlooking the sea is Ocean View.
Galle is the center for craftspeople and particularly famous for its lace. Hawkers are a nuisance here so don’t be taken in by any plausible or heart wrenching stories told. Jewellery, ceramics, Dutch period furniture and religious statues and brass work can be purchased. Sri Lanka is also the home to many superb artists, and Galle’s private galleries display some of the best.
Surrounding the harbour, Galle town climbs high with winding residential streets. Lawyers, businessmen and diplomats can be found in abundance, making this City, albeit rather ugly and dirty, a focal point of the up-and-coming socialites. Along the ramparts and in the parks you will see "coy courting couples" take hiding.
Unless you are an avid historian, Galle is only really worthy of a 1-3 days stay but some of the best boutique hotels ensure that it is the most luxurious visit. The Sun House and neighbouring Dutch House come with high acclaim and are just a 15min stroll from the Fort. A liitle further out of Galle, you can takeover If Villa, a super colonial residence fully staffed.
A very wide curving bay and clear waters but sadly very narrow beaches. The off-shore reef can be reached easily and gives sheltered and safe swimming. It also boasts more species of fish than the great Barrier Reef. An excellent center for families to mix beach fun, diving, snorkeling and swimming with day trips to Yala or Hambantota Bird Sancturary. Stay at Secret Garden and enjoy the colonial villa and its meditation and yoga Pagoda in the garden. Thambapanni Retreat is a new family hotel with great bungalows carved into the mountain rocks and boasts a swimming pool.
Couples may prefer Dream House - a very small boutique hotel but the Italian restaurant equals any found in Rome. Alternatively the Pink House is a fully staffed private villa where you can party or relax to your heart’s content.
Just 10 mins from Unawatuna on the coastal road lies the small villiage of Thalpe. The beaches here are more secluded and private and have become a favourite spot for Western weddings/honeymoons. Apa Villa and Victoria Villa have prime positions and welcome families and couple alike. Just 15 mins in-land is Illuketia Villa, a charming woodland residence, ideal for groups, bird lovers and privacy.
The temples on Koggala Lake’s island provide a most romantic setting for that important day.
A small village but an ideal base for day trips and new beach discoveries. It is popular for surfing and swimming spots with narrow clean beaches. The beaches are deserted and the only faint noise is from the occasional express bus on the Galle Road as they compete for passengers. Villa Samsara is an excellent value boutique hotel.
Translated as Sandy Village, Welligama is actually a busy fishing village with a stretch of beach and small picturesque coves. Sadly the water is not clean enough for swimming. Stilt fishermen can be seen at dawn and dusk when the tides are right, balancing on their long poles in locations jealously passed from father to son. If you covet your own tropical paradise, Taprobane Island is yours for the rental. The island and villa are privately owned and can be reached on foot at low tide.
In shore reef, great surf, and swimming are all options at Dickwella. Sun bathing can be enjoyed in the privacy of gardens and private bays like those at Claughton House.
Hoo-aanyia Blowhole is a spectacular natural phenomenon and day trip. From May to July, high seas force water 23m high through the rock chimney, then a further 20m into the air.
Dickwella region is also home to the tallest Buddha in Sri Lanka. Wewurukannala Vihara (temple) and Dondra‘s 50 m Buddha will attract processions of dancers and elephants on November and December Poya days
Tangalle has stunning pink beaches for sun worshippers which look inviting but steep drops and rip tides can make the sea dangerous. Go East to where the off-shore reef breaks the surf and provides calm water and safe diving.
The town is very unsophisticated and tourism has had little effect. Whilst this is good to see, simple amentities are very difficult to find. Set on the beach, enjoy the eco beach cabanas of Palm Paradise Village and visit Yala, or Uda Walawe safari parks and the turtle conservation project at Rekawa. Or for something rather more luxurious, rent The Beach House or Mahawella Villa.
Bundala Bird Sancturary, Hambantota
Neighbouring Tangalle is the home to thousands of flamingoes. Bird watchers will thrive on the migrant birds which visit this point of the island. For further details see our review of Bundala and birdwatching locations.
Yala is on the South East corner of the island but lies within the Uva Province. The 4WD safaris make for an exciting day trip from the South beach resorts and if you are lucky you will see a leopard. In October, as the park reopens after mating season, you can also catch many cubs as they follow mother to water and shelter from the rain.
For a detailed list of contacts, telephone numbers and opening times for: