How to Spend One Day in Galle
Galle is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist destinations, and is located on the southern tip of the island’s coastline. With a blend of architectural styles from past and present, and a rich mix of culture and religion, Galle is a great place to spend a day exploring. From the quaintly cobbled streets of the Old Town to the still waters of Mahamodara Lake, the atmosphere of Galle is as romantic as it gets. Here are some ways to spend your day in the city.
Explore Galle Fort and the Old Town
The Galle Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is arguably the most popular tourist attraction in the city. The fort was built by the Portuguese in 1588, before being fortified by the Dutch in the 17th century. The fort has retained its structure and charm for more than 400 years, and has been hailed as one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka. Inside, you’ll find attractions such as the Galle Lighthouse, two national museums, a shopping precinct contained within the Old Galle Dutch Hospital, and the Groote Kerk, one of the oldest Protestant churches in Sri Lanka.
There are also activities that you can participate in within the fort, such as crafting traditional Sri Lankan masks with local experts, or heading to one of the many bastions that border the fort to catch the stunning sunset over the horizon. Walking through the Galle Fort is like walking through a slice of history – an experience you won’t want to miss.
Visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda
Around 5 kilometres south of Galle’s city centre, you’ll find the Japanese Peace Pagoda: a symbol of peace intended to unite all faiths and cultures. Its existence is the result of efforts by a Japanese Buddhist monk named Nichidatsu Fujii, who had dedicated his life to building these Peace Pagodas around the world since 1947. He is responsible for building more than 80 Peace Pagodas all over the world, including in Europe, Asia, and the United States.
There are four Japanese Peace Pagodas in Sri Lanka. The one near Galle is hidden between the trees of Unawatuna on Rumasalla Hill, and was built with the help of Japanese Buddhist monks in 2005. The Buddhist faith was thought to have been weakening at the time, and the pagoda was erected to help rectify this; its design is also intended to represent harmony between all people, under a praiseworthy ambition for world peace.
The Peace Pagoda is a temple, so make sure that you are dressed respectfully when entering; your legs and shoulders should be covered. The white stupa of the temple is surrounded by golden statues, and there is a flight of stairs that will take you up to breathtaking views of the surrounding jungle, sea, and Galle Fort.
Take a Safari along Mahamodara Lake
If you’re tired of walking, you could always opt for a romantic boat safari along Mahamodara Lake (also known as the Mahamodara River). It is the best bird-watching area in Galle, and there’s plenty of other animals and reptiles that can be spotted here. It’s best to take a guide with you to help point out the wildlife that you might miss otherwise. Birds that can be spotted here include kingfishers, cormorants, hawks, and herons. The trees that edge the river droop over the water, and if you look closely, you’ll be able to spot monkeys playing within their branches.
It’s best to visit during the wee hours of the morning, before the sun is very high – you’re bound to be serenaded by the chirps of early birds and spot some amazing wildlife!