Visit Every Ancient Fort In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka was centrally located in the Silk Route, and because of its strategic location, the island gained significant importance. The country was consecutively colonised for about 500 years by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, and with each rule, forts were either built or further fortified to preserve their dominance. Being an island nation there are a fair amount of ancient forts, and here are the ones you and your friends must visit.
Galle Fort is the most well known out of all of Sri Lanka’s forts, and it is one of the best-preserved sea forts in South Asia– a living heritage site. Interestingly, unlike the other forts, the ramparts of Galle Fort resemble those of Portuguese coastal towns, while the interior is full of Dutch-style buildings. The fort is sprawled across 222 acres, which is full of cafes and restaurants; while you’re there you and your friends should visit the Galle Lighthouse which dates back to 1848 and one of the most picturesque places in the fort.
Dutch Fort, Batticaloa
Deemed the most picturesque fort, the Dutch Fort in Batticaloa has withstood the test of time. Like most forts in Sri Lanka, this was initially built by the Portuguese in 1628, but then later taken over by the Dutch who heavily fortified it, and then finally adopted by British. On an islet off the main town of Batticaloa, the Fort overlooks the Batticaloa Lagoon on one side and the ocean on the other. The fort is well preserved with its structure still standing, and inside the Fort, you will still find a few canons which have the insignia of the Dutch East India Company.
Kalpitiya was a popular hub for Arab merchants, and in 1544 it was invaded by the Portuguese. The King of Kandy, King Rajasinha II sought out assistance from the Dutch to drive out the Portuguese in 1659. However, the King never regained control of the land, and instead, the Dutch commenced construction of the Kalpitiya Fort in 1667. This Fort was an important one to the Dutch, as the surrounding Puttalam area was a major location for cinnamon cultivation, and there was a canal that transported cinnamon to Colombo via Negombo. Also, the fort ensured that the Dutch could control the external trade of the Kingdom of Kandy.
The Jaffna Fort was rebuilt by the Dutch in 1680, and it was designed in the shape of a pentagon which housed five bastions that were named after provinces in the Netherlands. Apart from a belfry that is believed to be from Dutch Reformed Church, not much of the Fort’s interior remains, however, its coral and limestone outer walls and moat still remain.
Matara Dutch Fort
The Matara Dutch Fort was built in 1645 and then handed over to the British in 1796. Despite being about 400 years old, the Fort still stands, having been constructed from a mixture of granite, coral and limestone; the inside of the Fort remains much of the same, but a few modifications have been done to keep up with modern times. As you explore the fort, make sure to visit the Dutch Reformatory Church which is the oldest building in the fortification and has gravestones dating back to the 1600s!
The Hambantota Fort was built by the Dutch in 1760 to protect salt pans, however, when the British took over they used the site for the Martello Tower. The Martello Tower is a small circular tower inspired by its namesake in Corsica. The tower was built to protect the harbour and settlement in Hambantota after an unsuccessful attack by the Kandyan Kingdom. The tower is well kept and you can visit it, as it presently houses a fisheries museum.
The Mannar Fort was first built by the Portuguese in 1560 and was later taken over by the Dutch and then finally by the British in 1795. This fort is built on Mannar Island which is also where Mannar town is located. It is a square-shaped fort with four bastions, and it now has a new bridge which connects it to the mainland.