Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Holiday: Galle and Unawatuna Beach Holiday

Part of the travelling through Sri Lanka series by Jessica E:
Galle is one of the true jewels of Sri Lanka and one of the places I was most excited to visit on my Sri Lanka holiday. The peninsula is a great destination to explore with a beautiful, historic city, picturesque countryside and some great beaches. The old part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: it is an old trading port full of Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient religious sites, informative museums and grandiose colonial mansions. The old fort was built by the Dutch in 1663 and is a walled enclave enclosed by the ocean on three sides. Galle is a very popular destination when traveling around Sri Lanka.


I had booked myself into the elegant Amangalla Resort in Galle. The large grounds of Galle Lighthouse, Sri LankaAmangalla were very grand. Adding to the grandeur was the colonial style finishings that had been maintained and restored to perfection. The rooms had high ceilings and featured original Burmese teak hardwood floors. I had selected the Verandah chamber that overlooked the two-hundred-year-old garden.  My room had a majestic four-poster king-sized bed and other unique antiques. The best part of the room was the twin porch. I travel too much to keep my own garden at home so I always enjoy seeing them while abroad. The garden was very beautiful and dated back to the 1860s. I spent a few hours each morning reading a book on the porch.


I had also opted to experience Ayurveda at Amangalla. I have always been fascinated with Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in India. Sri Lanka had developed its own Ayurvedic system by the 3rd century AD with the aim of preventing illnesses and promoting holistic wellness. My three-night stay included a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor who diagnosed by Dosha. Doshas are one of the central concepts of Ayurvedic medicine and it is believed that there is a balance between the three Doshas. Mine was diagnosed as Vata, which apparently meant I was full of energy and creativity! I found the entire process very interesting and it increased my self-awareness.


In addition to a customized treatment plan, I also was treated to an Ayurvedic breakfast each morning with a steaming cup of herbal tea. I attended a daily Hatha yoga class to start each day. I also received a Shirodhara, a head massage with warm oils, and an Abhyanga, a body massage, and steam bath. It was a lovely experience. In addition to the spa treatments, I used the hydrotherapy pools, steam room, and sauna. I would highly recommend the Ayurveda Amangalla experience to anyone who is looking to connect with themselves and restore their sense of wellbeing beyond a good night’s sleep.


On my first day in the old town of Galle, I explored the old Fort. The entrance to the fort is marked by an old gate that is thoroughly branded with the region’s history. It is decorated with a lion, unicorn and British coat-of-arms above the archway. On the inside of the gate, there is the monogram of the Dutch East India Company. Galle was handed over by the Dutch to the British in 1796.


After exploring the grounds of the Old Fort I ventured all the way out to Flag Rock at the southernmost end of the Fort, which once served as a Portuguese bastion. The rock had been dubbed ‘Flag Rock’ during the Dutch period as it was used to signal oncoming ships that there were dangerous rocks ahead. While some of the locals were leaping off the rock into the ocean I had not packed a swimsuit.  I grabbed some papaya dusted with chili powder from a local vendor and watched the locals have their fun.


The historic city was very easy to explore on foot. I really enjoyed wandering through the lanes lined with chic cafes, unique boutiques, and beautifully restored hotels. The area is very popular among foreign artists, writers, photographers, and designers. I spent several hours shopping for gifts to bring back home. I also really loved walking past all of the old colonial mansions in the area. My favorite was Closenburg because I was actually able to get a closer look at it and explore the grounds.


The following day I went to Unawatuna Bay to visit its stunning tropical beach.  The Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lankabay is famous for its pristine, calm waters and snorkeling as it protected by a reef and is a popular location for Sri Lanka beach holidays. I really enjoyed seeing all of the exoticly colorful fish in the peaceful waters. The beach is a lovely crescent shape spanning around a kilometer in length with a white Buddhist stupa sitting on a hill at one end.


After swimming and sunbathing, I trekked up Rumassala Hill to get a better view of the bay. I strolled over the rocks at the west end of the beach and climbed up the hillside. The climb was not too strenuous and served as an excellent vantage point to view Galle Harbour and the Dutch Fort. I watched the sunset from the summit. The sky turned every shade of pink and gold imaginable before fading into dusky blues. I made my descent in the twilight and returned to the Amangalla Resort.


The next morning I packed up my bags and checked out before heading to the train station. Galle had been my last destination in southern Sri Lanka and it was time to head north to Anuradhapura for the next part of my Sri Lanka tour. I enjoyed my final Ayurvedic breakfast at the Amangalla and a coffee at one of Galle’s cafes before catching my train. Galle had been a perfect balance of Sri Lankan history, natural beauty, and relaxation. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time in southern Sri Lanka and was ready to see what the north had in store for me for the rest of my holiday.

For more information on Sri Lanka holidays have a look at our comprehensive Sri Lanka Travel Guide.