Southern Comfort Galle

Galle is a major city situated on the southwestern tip, 119 km from Colombo. Galle was known as Gimhathiththa (although Ibn Batuta in the 14th century refers to it as Qali) before the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, when it was the main port on the island. Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, during the Dutch colonial period. Galle is the best example of a fortified city built by the Portuguese in South and Southeast Asia, showing the interaction between Portuguese architectural styles and native traditions. The city was extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century from 1649 onwards. The Galle fort is a world heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers.

Other prominent landmarks in Galle include the city’s natural harbour, the National Maritime Museum, St. Mary’s Cathedral founded by Jesuit priests, one of the main Shiva temples on the island, and Amangalla, the historic luxury hotel. On 26 December 2004, the city was devastated by the massive tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which occurred off the coast of Indonesia a thousand miles away. Thousands were killed in the city alone. Galle is home to the Galle International Stadium, which is considered to be one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world. The ground, which was severely damaged by the tsunami, was rebuilt and test matches resumed there in 2007.

Important natural geographical features in Galle include Rumassala in Unawatuna, a large mound-like hill that forms the eastern protective barrier to Galle Harbour. Local tradition associates this hill with some events of Ramayana, one of the great Hindu epics. The major river in the area is the Gin River (Gin Ganga).


Galle was known as Gimhathitha in ancient times. The term is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhalese term meaning “port near the river Gin”. It is believed that the town got its name as Gaalla in the native tongue as a result of the large number of bullock carts that took shelter in the area, following the long slow journeys from remote areas of the island. “Gaala” in Sinhala means the place where cattle are herded together; hence the Sinhalese name for Galle, ගාල්ල, is a development from ‘Gaala’.

According to James Emerson Tennent, Galle was the ancient seaport of Tarshish, from which King Solomon drew ivory, peacocks and other valuables. Cinnamon was exported from Sri Lanka as early as 1400 BC, and as the root of the word itself is Hebrew, Galle may have been a main entrepot for the spice.


Ancient Greek and Roman geographers may have known about Galle, which they might have called the Cape of Birds. Ptolemy might also have known about the port in which he referred to as Odoka. Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta visited Galle (or Qali as he called it) in 1342. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Sinhalese refugees fleeing from Tamil armies from the north began to settle in Galle and other nearby areas.

In 1502, when a small fleet of Portuguese ships, under the command of Lourenço de Almeida, on their way to the Maldives, were blown off course by a storm. Realising that the king resided in Kotte close to Colombo, Lourenço proceeded there after a brief stop in Galle

Galle had been a prominent seaport long before western rule in the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians, and Chinese were doing business through Galle port. In 1411, the Galle Trilingual Inscription, a stone tablet inscription in three languages, Chinese, Tamil and Persian, was erected in Galle to commemorate the second visit to Sri Lanka by the Chinese admiral Zheng He. In 1502, when a small fleet of Portuguese ships, under the command of Lourenço de Almeida, on their way to the Maldives, were blown off course by a storm. Realising that the king resided in Kotte close to Colombo, Lourenço proceeded there after a brief stop in Galle.

In 1640, the Portuguese were forced to surrender to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch built the present fort in 1663. They built a fortified solid granite wall and three bastions, known as “Sun”, “Moon” and “Star”.

After the British took over the country from the Dutch in 1796, the British preserved the fort unchanged and used it as the administrative centre of the district.

Things to do in Galle

Galle Fort

Galle International Stadium


Pilana Raja Maha Vihara


Groote Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church)

All Saints’ Church

National Maritime Museum

Old Dutch Hospital

Galle Lighthouse

Galle Clock Tower

New Orient Hotel (Amangalla)

Galle Fort Hotel

Galle Fort

The fort has a colourful history, and today has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. The Sri Lankan government and many Dutch people who still own some of the properties inside the fort are looking at making this one of the modern wonders of the world. The heritage value of the fort has been recognized by the UNESCO and the site has been inscribed as a cultural heritage UNESCO World Heritage Site under criteria iv, for its unique exposition of “an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries.”


Hikkaduwa is a seaside resort town in southwestern Sri Lanka. It’s known for its strong surf and beaches, including palm-dotted Hikkaduwa Beach, lined with restaurants and bars. The shallow waters opposite Hikkaduwa Beach shelter the Hikkaduwa National Park, which is a coral sanctuary and home to marine turtles and exotic fish

Pilana Raja Maha Viharaya

The Pilana Raja Maha Vihara or Pilana Temple is a Buddhist temple in Galle, Sri Lanka. The Chief Incumbent (Chief Priest) is Meepe Wagira Thera. The temple is well known in the southern part of the island for its historical Perahera festival.


Unawatuna is a town in southern Sri Lanka. It’s known for its coral reef and its palm-lined beaches, like Unawatuna Beach. Nestled in nearby jungle, the Japanese Peace Pagoda has a stupa with ocean views. The Sea Turtle Farm and Hatchery south of town protects endangered species

Groote Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church)

The Groote Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) was built in 1640. However, it was remodeled between 1752 and 1755. The church is paved with grave stones from the old Dutch cemetery. There is an old organ of 1760 vintage in the church where services are held and a pulpit made of calamander wood from Malaysia is used.

The Dutch Reformed Church actuated on 04th July,1752  is an important historical construction situated in Galle Fort. The construction work of this building was carried on under the supervision of Mr. Abraham Antonius the superintendent of the carpenters who were engaged in ship building at the Galle harbour. This Church bas built at the expense of Mr. Casparis Jong,  Galle Commandeer as a thanks offering to God in celebration of the birth of a daughter to his daughter who had that child after a long time. His daughter Adriana Johana was christened in this Church on 24th August, 1755.This Church is built on a cross shaped base according to the architecture in building Dutch Churches. Therefore, this church in known as “Cross Church” (Kruiskerk in Dutch). The gable at the front of this building made in a pattern, which is not seen in any other synchronous building, is a salient feature.

The death bodies of officers attached to Dutch East India Company and their family members were deposited in small cabins underground the Church premises. Details  of deceased are written on those numerous plaques laid flat on the floor, inside the Church. Dutch considered important that the bodies of dead reformed be buried in the Reformed Churches or within those premises believed as closer places to heaven. The last burial inside the Church is said to have taken place in 1863. Mostly the high officers had the privilege of placing a monumental plaque inside the Church. The old organ in the Church is one brought from Denmark in early 18th century. The organ was operated with air pumped in manually by Portuguese servants. The last operator was Frederik Pieter Schools who operated the organ in 1930 decade.

All Saint's Church (Anglican Church)

This church had been constructed under the guidance of Anglican Sector of Christian Religion and therefore is known as Anglican Church. The construction of his massive , impressive church was completed on 21st February,1871 according to a plan made by famous architect Mr. James A Smither , Architect for the Public Works Department during 19th century. This land considered the “Queen’s Garden” had been donated to Church of England by the then Government.

National Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum in Galle functions under the Department of National Museums.  This museum was established on 09.05.1992.  This museum displays exhibits on the lives of all living beings in the marine environment, ranging from tiny single-cell life forms to the largest living being, the blue whale.  It displays the habitats of all these beings, including mangroves, salty wetlands, sand dunes, beach, sea grass and coral, and the eco systems sustaining all these living creatures and their inter-relationships, impacting on the bio-diversity of the entire globe.

This museum was almost totally destroyed by the tsunami of 26th December 2004.  It was re-opened for public viewing on 18.05.2009.  It is open to the public on all days from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, except on Sundays, Mondays, and public holidays.

Adults Children School Children Teachers
Locals Rs. 20/- Rs. 10/- Rs. 5/- Rs. 15/-
Foreigners Rs. 300/- Rs. 150/-
Old Dutch Hospital

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Galle Lighthouse

The Galle Lighthouse (also known as Pointe de Galle Light) is an onshore Lighthouse in Galle, operated and maintained by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority it is Sri Lanka’s oldest light station

Galle Clock Tower

The Galle Clock Tower (or Anthonisz Memorial Clock Tower) is located within the Galle Fort in Galle, Sri Lanka. The Clock Tower is a popular landmark and overlooks the central Moon Bastion, on the site of the former guard room

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