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Visiting Galle? Do Not Miss These 5 Attraction Sites

in Culture/Destinations/Recreation by

Galle in Sri Lanka is a perfect example of the fusion of European and Asian styles. Its natural beauty, superb archaeological location and rich heritage have made it an outstanding coastal city of Sri Lanka.

It is hard to believe that a city that is buzzing with business activities has managed to successfully preserve ancient heritage in such an amazing manner. If you are travelling to Galle for the first time, include these 5 attraction sites into your list of must-visits.

The UNESCO-Listed Galle Fort

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The Galle Dutch Fort is a rare historical jewel protected by dark, thick stone walls – with the endless ocean on one side. It was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese, then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th-century from 1649 onwards. Even after more than 428 years, the roads inside the Galle Fort have hardly changed, like the squares on a chess board crisscrossing in regular patches. Straight and narrow lanes branch in and out inviting the visitor to a delightful walk into the 17th century. The fort is big enough to feel a tiny bit lost at times, but small enough to explore on foot.

No.39 Galle Fort is tucked along Lighthouse Street in Galle Fort. The historic heritage house is airy, spacious and charming. Ideal for families and a group of friends looking for an easy access to the many iconic attractions on this historic locale – Galle Fort’s iconic landmarks are only footsteps away.

1Galle Fort Lighthouse

Another fantastic landmark is the Galle Lighthouse, Sri Lanka’s oldest light station, dating back to 1848. The original 24.5-metre-high lighthouse (built by the British) was destroyed by fire in 1934. Standing tall at 26.5-metre-high, the current lighthouse was erected in 1939 to replace it.

Come here early morning and you might catch the fishermen on their stilts, or late afternoon to see the sunset. A relaxing walk on the fortification along the sea is highly recommended.

4Japanese Peace Pagoda

Built by Nipponzan Myohoji monks, the Japanese Peace Pagoda is one of the most tranquil attractions of the city and exudes a sense of calm. If you came to Galle seeking for spirituality and inner peace, this is the place to be.

The Pagoda is only a short walk to Jungle Beach.

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Ayurvedic Massage in Sri Lanka

in Destinations/Wellness by
Villa Pooja Kanda setting for ayurvedic massage

As well as its wealth of historic temples and rich culture, Sri Lanka’s wellness traditions are a feast to discover on a trip to its picturesque shores. Among them is the ancient healing system of Ayurveda, which is still practiced widely in Sri Lanka and neighbouring India.

Ayurvedic traditions are thousands of years old; some estimate they have been passed from master to disciple for more than 5,000 years and that Ayurveda is the oldest healing methodology in the world. The beliefs and practices central to Ayurveda have given birth to other natural healing methods, such as homeopathy and polarity therapy, while Sri Lankan massage therapies use the age-old healing techniques of Ayurveda to restore the body and balance the mind.

Indeed, Ayurveda means ‘knowledge of life’, and the core philosophy of the Ayurvedic system is that the key to health is a balance of your three doshas – energies we all have in our bodies, known as Vata, Pitta and Kappa.

As a form of traditional medicine, Ayurveda uses plant-based treatments to heal and boost physical and mental strength to prevent illness. For many locals in Sri Lanka, Ayurveda is a total way of life that incorporates diet, daily yoga practice and regular meditation. But you don’t have to go the whole hog to appreciate the benefits of Ayurveda. Massage therapies are an important part of Ayurvedic medicine, and as well as having many reputed health benefits, they are also deeply relaxing.

We’ve got the low down on ayurvedic massage treatments and what to expect.

Ayurvedic Body Massage

Ayurvedic massage is a great introduction to the ancient practice of Ayurveda. Aficionados believe massage plays an important role in healthcare, helping to detoxify the skin and body, and improve digestion. Hard-core Ayurveda purists will have a full body massage – known as abhyana in Sanskrit – everyday, for general mind/body support.

We’re not saying a daily massage is de rigueur (although there’s no reason why you shouldn’t –you’re on holiday after all, so why not treat yourself?). One will be enough to give you a taste of the traditions that are interwoven in Sri Lankan culture, plus it’s a wonderful way to relax on vacation. That said, once you’ve tried it, chances are you’ll soon be booking another.

WHAT TO EXPECT: You may start with a consultation about your health,

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Sri Lanka National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries

in Destinations/Families/Recreation by
Birds at Kalametiya Park

Famed for the historic Galle Fort district, tea industry and pristine family-friendly beaches, Sri Lanka is also known for its several national parks, animal reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

When holidaying on the south coast, don’t miss the chance to visit at least one of the protected wetlands or other animal habitats. Day trips are fun for the whole family and easy to arrange ahead. Road trips around the country require a bit more planning. Why not start now? Here are a few of the most popular animal attractions in Sri Lanka.

 Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Established in 1938, this is one of the oldest protected wildlife parks in Sri Lanka and is celebrated as one of the best eco-birdwatching destinations in the entire world.

Heron birdwatching at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

THINGS TO DO Birdwatching, photography, kid-friendly rock climbing, early morning or afternoon paddle boat cruise

WILDLIFE Over 150 bird species including Indian Reef Heron, Sri Lankan black-capped purple Kingfisher, Glossy Ibis, Jungle Fowl, Black Bittern, Slatybreasted Crake, Watercock, 20 mammal species, 40 types of fish, 40 exotic reptiles

BEST TIME TO VISIT Kalametiya is home to several local bird species, and more migrant birds come to roost and nest each year between November and March

LOCATION 20 km from Tangalle city, the sanctuary is near the village of Hungama on the south coast of Sri Lanka

GETTING THERE Via train or private transportation, the exit for the sanctuary is clearly marked on the A2 near the 214 and 218 km posts

WEBSITE kalametiyabirds.lk

Minneriya National Park

The site of The Gathering, a world-famous elephant spectacle, Minneriya is a protected 8,890-hectare reserve within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle. Critical to the biodiversity in this habitat are its natural wetlands, water tanks and irrigation systems.

The Gathering at Minneriya National Park

THINGS TO DO Jeep tours; Wildlife photography

WILDLIFE Approximately 200 wild (Asian) elephants, various migratory and aquatic bird species, wetland mammals

BEST TIME TO VISIT The dry season, usually late August to October is when groups of elephants congregate here

LOCATION Less than 10 km from Habarana on the Colombo Polonnaruwa road

GETTING THERE Entrance requires a permit from the Ambagaswewa wild life conservation office, so guided tours are the way to go

Bundala National Park

Made up of brackish lagoons,

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Sri Lanka Surfing Gems

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Along Sri Lanka’s beautiful southern coastline, famed for its underwater marine life and wetland reserves, what surfers most admire at Sri Lanka’s family beaches are the world-class waves. No surfer can resist palm fringed shores and the opportunity to surf in calm blue waters with sea turtles. Read on for my insider tips about surfing in southern Sri Lanka, whether it’s for a dedicated surf trip or just a day trip from Galle.

I flew into Colombo, jumped straight into a taxi with my board and zero prior knowledge about the paradise that awaited me. I did what any surfer would: I headed south to the sea! Okay, I wasn’t quite that aimless. Luckily, a dear friend was there to meet me and show me the ropes. My expectations of this surfers’ paradise were blown out of the water, exceeded dramatically.

Sri Lanka map

Take Me To Paradise  

Let’s start with the village of Midigama, where nights are spent dreaming of the next wave. This surfer Heaven is outside of Weligama Bay, just 40 minutes from Galle by car or taxi, or the more local options, a bus or tuk-tuk. If you’re planning on bringing your own surfboard to Sri Lanka the options are slightly more limited as they’re not allowed on the buses. But most tuk-tuk’s have a roof rack and proper straps and will usually be a cheaper (and more exciting) ride than a taxi.

You’ll pass by many small villages, each with their own hidden surf gems, but Midigama has the magic. In less than two kilometers you can find five breaks that cater to surfers from beginner to advanced. Whether you want to grab a longboard and surf a ‘mellow’ right over deep soft reef or are a bit more experienced and want to get barrelled at Ram’s – it’s all within walking distance.

midigama sri lanka

Midigama Surfing Spots

Lazy Right at Midigama Beach is exactly what it sounds like – probably the most mellow, soft, right hand wave in the South Coast area. This break can pick up some bigger swell that makes it fun for more advanced surfers, too. On average it’s the safest reef break you’ll find in South Sri Lanka, great for beginner and intermediate surfers to improve confidence and surfing skills.

Lazy Left is a bit more challenging as it’s shallower near the take off and a bit quicker but also can hang outside to catch the few fun ones that get missed.

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Blissful and Beguiling Sri Lanka

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation/Tips by

The first time I visited Sri Lanka there was a war on. Twenty-plus years, 40-plus visits and a beach house later, how things have changed! In 1997, tourists were restricted to the southwest corner of the island – from Bentota through Galle round to Yala National Park. Now the whole of this aptly named “island of serendipity”, is open for business, and what a delight it is to explore.

“Journeys are long although the distances are short,” was the mantra of my loyal driver, Lucky, back then. And he wasn’t wrong.

To get to Colombo from the UNESCO-listed Fort at Galle (only 125km) you had to endure a 4 to 5-hour journey of hair-raising overtaking along an inadequate coast road. Traffic would grind to a halt on the approaches to Colombo, and crossing the capital to reach the airport was a war of attrition.

Now, a sparkling dual carriageway whisks you from the airport to downtown Colombo in 30 minutes and Galle can be reached in just over the hour. The delightful south-coast bays of Weligama, Dikwella, Matara and Mirissa (of whale-watching fame) are in easy reach. The Cultural Triangle, with its ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, and the historic centres of Dambulla and Sigiriya, are also much more accessible.

The hill stations of Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Horton Plains are still not easy to reach by road, although the train is a popular, more relaxing alternative. But once there, the stunning tea plantations and panoramic trekking country make for a magical setting. Sit back in a planter’s chair, sip a G&T and enjoy the colonial splendour.

Pasikudah, Trincomalee and the Jaffna Peninsula were pretty much off limits to all but the brave and/or foolhardy until 2009, so visiting the stunning beaches of the east coast was nearly impossible. Gravel tracks, frequent check points, mine sappers and curfews made travel long and arduous – our worst east-to-west-coast road trip took staggering 17 hours at the height of the conflict. Today, seeing 300 wild elephants watering at dusk in Minneriya National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list, as should the spice gardens around Kandy and the crystal clear waters of Nilaveli Beach running up to Pigeon Island. 

Wilupattu National Park was closed during the war to prevent Tamil insurgents reaching Colombo and Bandaranaike International Airport.

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