Galle is a beautiful historic city in the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Most of the south coast consists of what were a string of traditional fishing villages and remain so beneath the pandemonium of daily life you see. The beaches in Galle and nearby villages have always been popular with Sri Lankans themselves. As such, it’s common for southern beaches to be filled with merry local holiday-goers at weekends and public holidays.
During the Dutch and Portuguese occupation of Ceylon, Galle was a fiercely guarded port. Architectural styles from this bygone era have remained unscathed since the 16th century and to me, at least, when combined with Sri Lankan traditions it is the most magnetic facet of Galle’s charm.
I have been enjoying the beaches here since my childhood and always anticipate my arrival with excitement. Fortunately, getting here has become a great deal quicker than I remember. Since the construction of the highway in 2014 the south coast has become far more accessible and the time it takes to drive here from Colombo has reduced from four hours to just 45 minutes.
I arrived in Galle, early in the new year, for a long awaited stay at Amari Galle. Amari sits away from the bustling centre which makes for a refreshing arrival. As Galle railway station sits in the centre of the town it can get very busy during peak season from December to March. We drove away and left the town behind past sleepy houses, fields of coconut trees and time-worn buildings to arrive at the small village of Ginthota where Amari sits.
The hotel certainly makes an impression. With more than a hint of Miami Modernist architecture, undisturbed views across the Indian Ocean, a colossal pool served by a poolside bar Shoreline Beach Club, restaurant Ahara Gourmet Gallery and roof top bar Bommu it’s a wonderfully complete experience.The hotel’s gorgeous cool, open lobby was a welcome reprieve from the midday heat and I was honoured to receive the most incredible southern Sri Lankan welcome – a gorgeous tropical flower garland tied with a pink ribbon. The bar has been raised and I’m hoping all other hotels take note!
Comfort of the rooms was nothing short of what I have come to expect from Amari hospitality; The most comfortable beds, softest sheets and feather down pillows guarantees the best night of sleep. Every room also has uninterrupted view across the sea which simply means that guests do not pay a premium for a great view. It is given. Amari Galle appears to be changing the game in this sense and I for one, welcome it.
Food and Drink
If breakfast is your thing then you will certainly be in the right place. I was spoilt for choice between warm, freshly baked muffins and soft as air doughnuts with the the best cup of coffee in Galle. I opted for the healthy option of fresh granola and yoghurt with Earl Grey tea on the second day and had two helpings of all of it. The yoghurt was creamy and rich and the granola was packed full of fresh nuts and oats. Chefs are also on hand to whip up a hearty cooked breakfast if you so wish.
Dinner was a similar affair with an astounding variety of world cuisine available. The Sri Lankan dishes appeared a hit with most guests as they queued up for the sumptuous coconut flavoured curries. I was also happy to discover a wonderful dessert – coconut pudding. A steamed sponge infused with real coconut. It was a phenomenal discovery.
Pool and Beach
The pool at Amari is absolute bliss. You can relax on the deck chairs all afternoon or dip in for a swim across to the pool bar Shoreline Beach Club for a light snack and a cool drink. There are also two smaller pools for children. It must be said that the hotel caters well for families with small children; A kids’ club runs every day from 9am to 6pm.
Eight Good Reasons Why You Must Visit Galle
1. Because THE BEACH
The beaches on the southern coast of Sri Lanka are renowned for their natural beauty. When you walk along them look down at your feet and you will find sea shells and sea glass, in the sand, which have been carried ashore through the day. Palm trees line almost every beach and lean naturally towards the sun. It’s common to find the husks of their fallen fruit on the beaches. There will also be fishing boats wherever you look and as long as you ask for permission most owners are happy for you to sit in them for a photograph.
As well as the tranquil beach at Amari Galle you can also explore the more frequented beaches nearby in Unawatuna, Midigama, Hikkaduwa, Weligama and a little further down in Mirissa. They are extremely commercial beaches with surf schools, boat rides, whale watching and bars and are all within 10 – 20 minute taxi ride of the hotel.
2. AND the Sunset
Whatever you do, watch the sunset in Galle. You will never experience such an all encompassing pleasure. Walk along the beach at dusk and let the waves splash gently against your feet. THIS is paradise at its best. The Southern Sri Lankan sunset is what will make you forget that long haul flight and keep brining you back to this dazzling island.
3. Then There’s the Indestructible Fort
Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest remaining fortress in Asia constructed by European occupiers. It’s surrounded by the sea on three sides and yet withstood the Boxing Day tsunami which hit the region in 2004. The preservation of the fort is a credit to the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka who has ensured that it will be around for many generations to enjoy.
As there is no longer a need for a fortress in Galle, you will now find gorgeous boutiques with quintessential Sri Lankan souverniers, art galleries, jewellery stores and pretty things you will want to pack in to your suitcase immediately. The best part of it is that the city remains a working community with offices, courts, local businesses and schools. Follow the maze of the cobbled streets and they will take you to restaurants, coffee shops and five star hotels all sitting side by side. All of it simply adds to the subtle grace of the fort. As you may have well guessed, it’s my favourite place in Galle. On a separate note, wear sunscreen, hat and cover your arms. It gets very hot within the walls.
4. Must Step Inside Groote Kerk or the Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church sits at the entrance to the Fort and is unmissable due to it’s architecture and faded grandeur. It was built in 1755 by, you guessed it! The Dutch. It is believed that it was built on the site of a Portuguese Capuchin convent. The British period saw the addition of stained glass windows and a communion rail. It remains a place of worship to the present day and is a remarkable step back in time.
5. Picture Yourself at the Light House
This Instagram famous light house is Sri Lanka’s oldest and dates back to 1848. A fire in 1934 destroyed the original light station which sat 100 meters from where it now stands. It was rebuilt in the current site in 1938. Picture yourself here and join the legions who have hashtagged this landmark and made it world famous. Use #gallelighthouse
6. Take a Walk Down to the Fish Market
A mere 10 minute taxi ride from Amari Galle will bring you to the local fish market. Every afternoon catch of the day is unloaded off the fishing boats and sold all along the beach. Fresh tropical fish of every size and colour is sold here along with gigantic prawns and flamingo coloured squid. It’s common to hear customers bargain as they shop for their supper; A priceless experience in Sri Lankan culture. Although, do watch out for the fishermen regularly splashing water on the fish – local shoppers seem to know when and how to avoid it. I didn’t.
7. Eat Seasonal Fruit
Across from the fish market along the road there will be fruit sellers selling any number of varieties of fruit from mangoes, rambutans, water melons and king coconuts. They are sold off the back of trucks or make shift tables on the side of the busy main road. They will be the freshest, juiciest and cheapest fruit you will ever eat. Enjoy the fruit!
8. End the Day with Sundownders at Bommu Bar
When you’ve had a whole day of exploring and it’s time to unwind and exchange stories find your way up to Amari Galle’s roof top bar Bommu. Bommu translates to let’s drink in Sinhalese and it really is the perfect place for it. It has grand views over the sea and a long bar serving marvellous cocktails as the sun goes down. The lounge is elegantly candle lit and I couldn’t think of a better way to end my day.
In collaboration with Amari Gall, Sri Lanka.
Overnight stays at Amari Galle, Sri Lanka start from approximately £160 per night (bed and breakfast basis) for a Deluxe Ocean View Room. Price is exclusive of VAT and service charge and based on season and availability.
For more information or reservations, visit www.amari.com/galle-srilanka.