20 Incredible Things To Do In Galle

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Mention Galle in Sri Lanka and the first thing that comes to mind is the historic Galle Fort, which is an impressive UNESCO World Heritage site. As a seaside destination, there are plenty of other things to do in Galle to make it a worthwhile base when visiting Sri Lanka. 

History aside, Galle has a range of attractions, from wildlife watching to shopping, eating and enjoying the benefits of an Ayurvedic spa. With the number of cool things to do in Galle, it’s a good idea to put this place on your Sri Lanka itinerary

20 Things To Do In Galle

1- Discover History in Galle Fort

galle fort
Exploring Galle Fort is the top thing to do in Galle.

The UNESCO World Heritage Galle Fort was constructed by Portuguese conquerors in 1588, who later lost the fort to the Dutch during the 17th century.

Compared to other Sri Lankan UNESCO sites such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla Caves, Galle Fort is a much younger attraction.

Even so, it’s still a historic treasure to be cherished.

The best way to explore the fort is on a walking tour, where local guides reveal historical gems as you wander past stunning ocean views and around the streets with Dutch names.

The Dutch were prolific buildings and left Galle with a legacy of architecturally attractive buildings.

Galle’s colonial architecture can be seen in its old warehouses, churches and other historic buildings.

There are many Dutch words used in the Sri Lankan language and cuisine too.  

2- Learn the secrets of the Dutch Reform Church

what to do in galle
One of the interesting things to do in Galle is to visit the Dutch Reform Church.

The Dutch Reform Church in Galle was built in 1640 and it might look rather dull and austere but take a closer look as this church holds many secrets.

An area of the church’s floor is paved with Dutch gravestones, and they say there are human remains hidden beneath the floor and in the walls.

The original church was reconstructed during the 18th century and is home to a calamander wood pulpit and an antique organ.

3- Explore the National Maritime Archaeology Museum

galle lighthouse
Exploring maritime history is one of the top things to do in Galle.

There was a time when Galle was Sri Lanka’s main port, so visiting the National Maritime Archaeology Museum is one of the things to do in Sri Lanka that will enlighten you about the country’s maritime history.

Inside are marine artefacts discovered by divers.

Although the 2004 Tsunami damaged many of the displays, there are plenty of interesting maps, naval craft, ropes, earthenware and artillery guns.

Some were saved from shipwrecks and up to 800 years old.

4- Discover history at the Galle National Museum

The Galle National Museum is an excellent place to go to brush up on Galle’s history and culture.

You’ll soon realise the city has a fascinating archaeological and anthropological background.

5- Watch the cliff jumpers at Flag Rock

galle cliff divers
Watching the cliff divers jump is one of the exciting things to do in Galle.

Galle’s cliff divers are daredevils who jump off the ramparts of the fort, plunging into the ocean between crops of rocky outcrops in the sea.

These fit young men usually hang around Flag Rock at the southern end of the Fort where Dutch marine officers once signalled ships to alert them of the dangerous rocks.

The jumpers earn their living diving for $10 a jump.

6- Go to a cricket game

Galle International Stadium was once a racecourse for the British, but that was more than 100 years ago.

These days, it’s the city’s cricket grounds. Since the first Test match (between Sri Lanka and New Zealand) in 1998, these cricket grounds have hosted a who’s who of international cricket including Shane Warne who took his 500th Test wicket in Galle.

If you want to see cricket the local way, join the folks of Galle at the top of the Moon and Star bastions for a free-of-charge view of the game, city and ocean.

7- Shop at the Dutch market

thing to do galle
Shopping is a fun activity in Galle.

Like most other Sri Lankan cities, Galle has a vibrant market culture.

The city’s famous market is the Dutch Market, which is in a 300-year-old building that has been the centre of trade since 1861.

Soak up the atmosphere as you wander past fruit and vegetable stores and spice shops.

Make sure you get into the local groove by haggling for the best price.

8- Go on a wildlife cruise

galle things to do
Another of the top Galle things to do is to join a whale-watching cruise.

Go on a cruise to see all kinds of whales including sperm, blue and humpback whales.

If you’re lucky enough to see a 30m-long Blue Whale, you will be amazed.

The narrow continental shelf beneath the Indian Ocean near Galle encourages whales to swim close to the shore during their annual migration.

The best places along the coastline in all of Sri Lanka to go whale watching are close to Galle – Mirissa and Dondra Point.

9- Go Surfing

things to do galle
The beaches around Galle are a surfer’s paradise and surfing is a top Galle attraction.

Sri Lanka is a popular place for surfers, and Galle is particularly suitable for beginners.

Experienced surfers will find more challenges at Hikkaduwa (about 30 minutes from Galle) or Arugam Bay, which receives the Antarctic winter swells that also hit Indonesia’s southern shores.

When to go surfing? Plan to hit the waves between May and November.

10- Find your zen at Rumassala medicinal forest

Rumassala medicinal forest is an enchanted forest where medicinal plants grow wild.
If you go with a guide, you’ll hear all about the mysteries and legends attached to this forest.

One of the famous tales is that the forest was where the mythical monkey king, Hanuman, used to hang out.

Japanese monks built the Buddhist dagoba high on the hill, and it has stunning views across Galle Bay.

11- Party at Unawatuna

Five kilometres Galle’s south-east is the landing spot where the Dutch army set foot before marching to Galle in 1640.

It’s also where their officers lived in grand mansions.

These days, Unawatuna is a vibrant and fun party town with lots of hotels, bars and cafes.
Swim, surf and go sunbaking here and when you need some time off the beach join a cooking class or a yoga lesson.

12- Go Scuba Diving

With a treasure trove of sunken ships of its coastline, Galle is an intriguing destination for scuba divers.

There are coral reefs and eight shipwrecks around the region, including an old wooden English ship called “The Rangoon” in 30 m of the ocean.

Popular diving sites are Napoleon Reef and Galapiteala Reef.

13-Visit the Handungoda Tea Museum

Most people visit Handungoda Tea Museum is for its white tea, which has anti-oxidant properties.

At the museum, you can learn how white tea is harvested, cut and processed.

One of the fascinating things about processing white tea is stalks are not touched anytime during the whole process.

In China, where white tea came from, only Emperors were allowed to drink it.
The museum part of a family estate, which also has cinnamon, rubber and coconut plantations.

14- See the Fishermen at Koggala Beach

galle attractions
Another thing to do in Galle is to stop to watch the stilt fishermen.

Best known for its fishermen on stilts, perching on poles with bamboo rods, Koggala Beach is one of Galle’s famous landmarks.

Stilt fishing was a practice that began in World War II when many fishing spots were crowded with fishermen.

So, the enterprising ones created a way to fish on the water.

The practise took off, and generations of Sri Lankan fishermen have caught fish this way since.

Also in Koggala, look for the Kathaluwa Buddhist temple, which is some lovely murals and is home to the first printing press brought to Sri Lanka by the Dutch.

15-Save a turtle at Habaraduwa Turtle Hatchery

galle turtles
Wildlife warriors should visit the turtle hatchery in Galle for something cool to do.

There are all kinds of turtles at Habaraduwa Turtle Hatchery. The tanks are full of the little critters.

Sri Lanka’s coastline is a haven for turtles, and you’ll find five out of seven of turtle species in the world here.

Local fishermen forage for turtle eggs to sell in the markets.

The mission of the hatchery is to save turtles by buying turtle eggs from the locals.

Once they’re taken to the hatchery, the eggs are incubated a

nd when they hatch the baby turtles are released back into the ocean.

The hatchery has been operating since 1986 and incubates thousands of eggs monthly, as well as caring for sick or injured turtles.

16- Go craft shopping

When in Galle, look for wood carvings, lace and gems. Galleries to visit are:

  • The Old Railway – Housed in a historic railway storehouse, this shopping and dining venue in Galle has a studio, cafĂ© and shop where you can buy unique hand-made clothing, crafts and jewellery.
  • Shoba Gallery – Local women are taught traditional Sri Lankan crafts like lace-making, dying, paper-making and toy-making. Join a class or have a bite in the cafe.
  • Barefoot – Barefoot has a range of jewellery, clothing and decorations.
  • Elephant Walk Arcade – Check out the collection of shops here for souvenirs and crafts.

17- Hike in Hiyare forest reserve

17km from Galle (on Udugama road) lies a lovely rainforest escape.

The Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle operates a wildlife rescue programme at Hiyare forest reserve, which is a lush green patch of jungle that’s home to Sri Lankan animals.

You might see the Sri Lankan green pigeon, Sri Lankan green pit viper or the Sri Lanka purple-faced leaf monkey.

18- See the animals at Yala National Park

galle day trip
A day trip from Galle to Yala National Park will get you close to elephants.

A trip to Yala National Park is a chance to see elephants, sloth bears, wild boars, antelopes and crocodiles.

The woodlands and freshwater areas of the park attracts a variety of birds (some visitors have seen 100’s of different kinds of birds in a day), and if you’re lucky, you might see a leopard.

You can visit Yala National Park as a day trip from Galle.

19-Indulge in a Sri Lankan massage

beautiful flower petals in a hand in galle
An Ayurvedic massage is one of the top things to try in Galle.

When in Sri Lanka, make sure to experience a Sri Lankan herbal massage.

Based on Ayurvedic principles with the use of natural local ingredients, this ancient system of relaxation will help you feel renewed.

For luxury lovers, book yourself into a resort spa and begin your treatment by consulting an Ayurvedic doctor.

The doctor will first ascertain if your body type is Vata, Pitta or Kapha and suggest the appropriate treatment.

Spa Naturel at The Fortress or The Baths at Amangalla are two top spas. 

20- Taste Sri Lankan Food

food in galle
The food in Galle is delicious and trying different eateries is one of the attractions in Galle.

The food in Galle is tasty and cheap, with many restaurants and eateries to choose from.

Being a coastal city, fresh seafood is abundant, and there are plenty of local Sri Lankan curry places as well as some cool cafes in Galle Fort.

The restaurant in the Rampart Hotel has a good view of the fort’s walls and the ocean.

More Things To Do In The Region:

Galle Things To Do

Galle Things To Do

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Christina Pfeiffer Travel Writer
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.