This winter, #TravelWithRehan takes my friends and me to Galle - a charming city on the southern tip of gorgeous Sri Lanka. History buffs will enjoy Galle's Old Town and its fortifications that make it a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Dutch-Portuguese colonial heritage is evident even today in its forts, grand mansions, churches and museums, and Galle's many stunning beaches, lovely weather, stylish cafes and delicious coastal food create the perfect holiday mood for us. Take a walk through the historic city, go whale watching, take surfing lessons or just soak in the sun lounging on the beach. However you choose to spend your time, it's a trip you'll definitely enjoy.
Where to stay:
Galle offers a host of choices for travellers when it comes to accommodation from simple home stays to plush eco retreats, villas and charming boutique hotels. We chose the spectacularly located Le Grand Galle, a luxurious property by Asia Leisure.
Nestled upon a majestic cliff edge, right next to the iconic Galle Fort, the hotel's rooms open on to spacious verandas with breath-taking views of the Indian Ocean and the Galle Fort. Wooden floors enhance the resort vibe of the rooms while a plush bath area with Ayurveda amenities, a bath and shower, and a Japanese Toto washlet add to the atmosphere of relaxed luxury. Warm service, good food and rooms equipped with ultra-modern facilities ensure a very comfortable and welcoming stay. A pool, gym and spa, along with two F&B outlets make it a comfortable retreat. Steps from the poolside lead to a beach strip which although very small in size, is replete with natural rock formations that create beautiful backdrops for many Instagram worthy photos! Le Grande Galle is definitely a great place to discover the glory of colourful Galle.
What to do:
Golf: Sri Lanka has a long history of golf with several lovely golf courses. In Galle I played at the Catalina Golf Course, which is a 9 hole course located by the sea, and is good for novice games. The course is located on the air force base, and for those seeking more thrills, 20 USD gets you a joyride on a biplane that lands and takes off from an airstrip on the course, so you can enjoy aerial views of the pretty city and ocean. I’ve also always enjoyed the Royal Colombo Golf Course which is one of the 4 larger courses of the island country. The 140 year old course is an 18 hole championship course that prides itself on being the 2nd oldest Royal Golf Club outside the UK and it will test even a seasoned professional. Check before you book as many clubs in India offer reciprocal memberships.
Whale Watching: We were tentative about this activity, as reviews online seemed very mixed, but our experience was truly fabulous. We went with #RajaandtheWhales after reading TripAdvisor reviews and it was a definitely a good choice. The crew was fabulous, ensuring we saw what seemed like hundreds of dolphins, several blue whales and sperm whales and even three whale sharks! Seeing the biggest mammal and the biggest fish on the same day, in the wild, was definitely a big hit with the gang! Plus the F&B service was surprisingly good, including a hearty breakfast with fruit, eggs, sausages, bread and coffee, juice and even chocolate log rolls! The crew took time to explain the characteristics of the marine life we encountered and were helpful and hospitable. Cost: 54 USD per adult and 27 USD per child all-inclusive and additionally for transfers from the hotel.
Surfing: If you are looking to do more than lounge by the ocean or take selfies with the sunset, then why not try surfing. Sri Lanka's seasonal patterns mean that when one coast is choppy, the other is calm, making it great for surfing all year round. In the South, the best time is November to May, and beaches like Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa and Weligama are popular surf spots. Galle has many beaches that are great for surfing, especially for beginners, as they don't have rip tides and rocks. We learnt to ride the waves at a beach close to Unawatuna called Dewata, with the #DreamLankaSurfHouse. It's USD 25 per person for a lesson for an hour and a half, and approximately USD 5 an hour for board rentals. A team of local instructors were available to teach us the basics of board handling, positioning, paddling, and technique on getting to your feet, surfing etiquette, ocean knowledge, and water safety. Beach shacks dot the fringe of the beach, with great food and drinks, and are a good place to chill when you want a break from the sun and surf.
A tryst with history: Sri Lanka's fourth largest city traces its history as a port back to the 1400s, with trade in exotic spices, ivory, gems and jewels flourishing with the Middle East and with Europe by the 17th century. The imposing Galle Fort spreads luxuriously over 52 hectares. Visiting this monument is a tryst with medieval Europe, with classic colonial brick ramparts, cobbled streets and Dutch styled buildings. Our concierge advised us to go in the evening, so we miss the scorching mid-day heat, and catch the beautiful sunset from near the lighthouse. The advice is spot on! The colonial theme continues into the rows of grand mansions and stylish cafes, gem stores, art galleries, resort wear, local craft and spice shops that line the labyrinth of Galle's streets creating an Instagram heaven for rookies and pro-photographer's alike. Another spot worth visiting is the fully restored Dutch Hospital, a colonial landmark dates from the 18th century, that now houses a melange of upmarket boutiques and restaurants and offers sweeping views of the bay. Take a tuk tuk, book an Uber ride for one on a motorcycle to get around or just explore on foot.
Where to eat:
Galle has delicious food. And it's served in a wide range of fine dining restaurants, pavement eateries and beach shacks. From spicy chicken, meat and fish curries, innovative variations on traditional hoppers and fusion foods, the choice is endless. We take a cooking demonstration at the beautifully restored Tamarind Hill Hotel, a beautifully restored colonial house, with 12 rooms, making authentic Srilankan chicken curry, dhal fry and roti. There are tables set up in the long corridors of this lovely property, and you can choose to eat your meals overlooking the central courtyard.
There's so much to discover in Galle, we certainly have to visit again to do it justice. Soon.
This blog is authored by Gitika Taraporewala.