Captivated by the ambiance of Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

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School children at Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

It’s late on a Friday afternoon in historic Galle,  and there’s hundreds of school children out in their tidy, white uniforms. Teachers keep a watchful eye on the youngsters as they walk hand-in-hand along the fort walls and play on the beaches. Their youth is an irresistible foil to this exotic old trading port in southern Sri Lanka. We are captivated by Galle’s ambiance. Come along as we a stroll atop the 17th century, Dutch-built fortification and explore the atmospheric walled town.

The Indian Ocean gently laps against the 400-year-old walls, the lighthouse stands elegantly under a darkening sky, palm trees sway, and whitewashed mosques, temples and churches dot the low-slung townscape. There are few things more romantic than a sunset walk on the Galle ramparts.

What is it about a walled town that takes the imagination back to times gone by? Persians, Arabs, Malays, Chinese…they all passed through this seaport long before the Europeans arrived. The Portuguese, who ruled Sri Lanka from 1505 to 1658, first put Galle on the map and built a rudimentary fort. Only small portions of the Portuguese structure survived after the Dutch took Galle in 1640 and constructed the large fortification that stands today. When Galle passed to British rule in 1796, the city’s prominence soon declined as Colombo was established as the capital and main port. But the British too, left their mark with, among other things, the construction of a lighthouse and expansion of the main gate leading into the fortified city. They’ve all contributed to the allure and multi-ethnic, multi-religious mix of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Galle Lighthouse and Meeran Mosque

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A splendid sky showcases Meeran Mosque

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One of many sunset viewpoints on the ramparts

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Galle Fort Walls

Sunset at Galle Fort is a vibrant scene. School kids, courting couples, local families, and tourists fill the benches, lookouts, and beaches. It’s a delightful display and we find ourselves taking far more photos of people (mostly the kids) than the actual sunset.

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While sunset is the quintessential Galle experience, the fort walls bring unexpected pleasures at other hours. I’m not usually an early bird, but jetlag has my wide awake for sunrise. I take advantage of the situation and quietly slip out of our quaint guesthouse.

1 (2)The ramparts are deserted excepted for the occasional jogger. The lookouts are gloriously peaceful, so unlike the sunset frenzy.

1 (5).jpgBy the time I’ve circumnavigated the approximately 3 km of walls and perimeter of the old town, the Muslim dawn prayers have finished. The men have gathered outside, under the soft glow of the early morning sun. I find this unhurried scene so soothing.

1 (96)Later in the day, I venture out again with Mike. We wonder why there are so many young men gathered on the walls by the giant clocktower. It’s Saturday and there’s a big cricket match at the Galle stadium. It turns out that the fort walls provide the perfect perch to watch the action in the stadium below.

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Inside the fort walls, the rambling lanes are home to boutique hotels, bohemian shops, spas, cafes, and restaurants. It’s touristy, but not in a bad way. I admire how many of the Colonial building have been lovingly restored. I like that tourist infrastructure, local homes, businesses, and places of worship sit side-by-side.  I’m intrigued to find Dutch-period churches, Buddhist temples, and mosques standing mere blocks apart.

1 (81)When the sun sets, twinkle lights span the main tourist streets inside the walled town.

1 (82)Wandering through old Galle, we are charmed by many pretty artistic displays.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe locals running this spice shop have their priorities straight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe see lots of laid back police officers riding through town on their bikes and chatting with residents.

1 (91)The Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1752, is one of Sri Lanka’s oldest Protestant churches still in use.


Right next to the Dutch Reformed Church is the Galle Library, originally built by the Dutch and established as a library in 1832. It houses many historical books and documents.

1 (95)Just down the road, the imposing All Saints Anglican Church was built in 1868 under British rule.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe can’t resist peering into Meeran Mosque, the centre of Galle Fort’s large Muslim population, during evening prayers.

1 (83)Just a few hundred meters from the churches and mosque, we find Sudharmalaya Buddhist Temple with its exquisitely painted walls and statues.


1 (114)There are plenty of quirky reminders of the British influence.1 (111)

Galle is a gem and like no other place in Sri Lanka. Its historic sites are impressive, but it’s Galle’s ambiance—the seamless blend of old and new, chic and shabby, tourist spot and resident community— that I find most endearing.

What have I been up to? You may have noticed, I’ve had an even longer than usual blogging hiatus. We’ve just spent an amazing month cycling and touring in France’s Normandy and Brittany. I will eventually get to writing about this experience, but I’m determined to do more posts about Sri Lanka first and catch up on what new with you.

If you’re interested in finding out more about our 3 1/2 weeks in Sri Lanka, check out my highlights and links to previous posts. My next post will likely be about Ella.






Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , , , | 33 Comments

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33 thoughts on “Captivated by the ambiance of Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

  1. I love all the different architectural styles existing side by side and, of course, the views from the ramparts. It seems like to perfect place to observe the intersections of culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember seeing the emblem of the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) at the National Maritime Museum inside Galle Fort which reminded me of a period of time when Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) were controlled by this powerful multinational company who ran a monopoly on spice trade in the region (with the British EIC as its main competitor). I love the ambiance of Galle Fort in your photos, Caroline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Bama. I’m sure your visit to Galle Fort and the museum must have had special resonance for you given your interest in history and your country’s past ties with the Dutch. You’ve woken up my school day memories of history class and learning about the Dutch East India Company.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. trishehunt

    Loved Galle, one of our favourites a few years ago. You captured it exquisitely Caroline.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Galle looks and sounds fantastic, and they have one of the most beautiful lighthouses that I have ever seen! Reading your post, I had to think about the devastating Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka, looking at the photos of their stunning beaches terror attacks aren’t a first thing that springs to mind, isn’t. And even though there is heavy military presence now in Sri Lanka, my dream of exploring it is put on hold. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s hard not to think about the horrible Easter Sunday attacks when we see/read something about Sri Lanka. I’ve been trying to keep up with the news—I read such sad stories about all the people who are directly and indirectly employed in the tourism industry (tuktuk drivers, guides, hotel workers, restaurants…) and are struggling terribly with the lack of visitors. I hope that my posts will show readers the wonderful things Sri Lanka has to offer and describe the warm, friendly welcomes we received throughout the country. Like you, many people have put their plans on hold, and I totally understand this. I hope that peace will prevail and you and others will return to Sri Lanka.


  5. What a beautifully written descriptive post with some terrific photos of Fort Galle. One of our favorite places especially in off seasons when there are less tourists. One of the best things about Galle is how different religions live peacefully side by side, even when other parts of the country are experiencing conflict. Particularly like the photo with the men gathered outside the mosque…. After our first time here we decided that if we ever live in Sri Lanka it would be near the fort. And so it was…


    Liked by 1 person

    • Every time I write a post about Sri Lanka, I think about you guys and your relationship with Sri Lanka.I’m finding it hard not to picture you there. I can totally see how Galle influenced your decision on where to live. I was wondering whether the spring violence may have negatively impacted what we saw as the peaceful coexistence of the various religions in Galle. I’m glad to read your comment on this.
      All the best to you and Ben.


  6. Really lovely and calming. I was zipping through posts today to try and catch up, but yours stopped me for a bit longer as I soaked in the soft light and the many beautiful people shots. Makes the violence there in the spring seem even sadder (and more inexplicable).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lexie. As I was putting this post together, I was thinking about the spring violence too. It’s just so incongruous with what we experienced in Galle and the entire country. I’m glad I was able to impart some of the calmness and easy-going feel of Galle.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Galle looks quite charming. I can see why everyone, including the locals, are all enthralled with the setting sun. Beautiful. Looking forward to hearing about your cycling adventures in France.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charming is definitely the right word. The sunsets from the ramparts were some of the prettiest and most exotic I’ve ever experienced. I’m looking forward to writing about France. It was so fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You make it sound so enticing! And I love all the photos, especially of the people. I think Sri Lanka has to go on our list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Alison. I think you guys would enjoy Sri Lanka. It’s an easy country to travel in and there are so many interesting and diverse sights within a relatively small area. And the people….so lovely!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mike Hohmann

    Thanks for the wonderful post describing your trip to Galle Fort, Caroline. Looks like an exciting place to visit -I especially like the historic aspects you mention and document in photos, along with the diverse religious representation throughout town, the colorful buildings, and the residents -especially the school kids! I’ve been on a blogging hiatus, but will soon return.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was thinking that I hadn’t “seen” you around Mike. I hope you had a good summer and got in some more hiking. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s a really fascinating place and I think back on it often.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Brian Foster

    Walled cities are super interesting. Love walking around the laneways and discovering the paths of yester years. You capture the innocent charm well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So nice to hear from you Brian! I hope you’re back on your feet and got to enjoy the summer. There’s something particularly interesting about walled cities and Galle is no exception. We both really enjoyed our time there.


      • Anonymous

        Yes back at it thanks. Planning next 3 month trip to SA again; Chile, Uruguay and Colombia.


  11. Love Galle… love the pics… such a beautiful place…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You’ve capture the feel of Galle very well. Love the pics of the cricket fans watching from the fort wall – I’d wondered if that happens when I was there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Meghan. I suspect those cricket games in the stadium are a regular occurrence. It was really fun seeing the enthusiasm of the fans perched on those historic walls. My husband was getting into the game with some of the young guys.


  13. pam@ichoosethis

    Great pics! I’d like to get there someday!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Brought me right back. We love Galle for all that you mentioned. Can’t wait to hear about France too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m happy to hear that the post brought you back to Galle. I’m pretty sure you told me to spend at least one night within the fort walls…good advice Maggie.
      Cycling along the Normandy/Brittany coasts was a real treat. It will take a bit before I get to posting, but if you need info earlier, just send me an email.


  15. Pingback: Happy days in Sri Lanka: Highlights of a 3 1/2 week trip | Writes of Passage

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