Galle, Sri Lanka: Coastal tranquillity
A scenic 1.5-hour drive from Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, will take you to the coastal city of Galle, set on the southwestern coast of ‘the pearl island’. The main draw is the walled Dutch-era fortress town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site constructed in the 17th century. Sprawling over 3 kilometres and covering around 130 acres, the fort features sturdy stone walls, broken by 14 bastions, stretching along the coastline. The walled town is a walkers’ delight with its winding alleys, ancient churches and repurposed colonial spaces. You can spend hours exploring the historical charms of the Old Dutch Hospital, uncovering seafaring tales at the National Maritime Museum, studying artefacts at the Historical Mansion Museum and raking up the past at the Maritime Archeology Museum.
Eye candy is everywhere, with rows of colonial-style mansions converted into boutique hotels or private residences. The blend of Dutch and British architectural influences is particularly striking in the Amangalla and the Galle Fort Hotel. Wander around antique shops, hip boutiques and art galleries. Pick up gemstone jewellery, traditional handwoven textiles, Ceylon tea, spices, and vintage postcards. Taste string hoppers and fiery sambal curries in chic eateries. In the evening, walk along the steadfast bastions to soak up panoramic vistas of the ocean till you reach the iconic Galle Fort Lighthouse to catch a spectacular sunset against the Indian Ocean.