There is no such thing as a bad holiday, with the exception of something catastrophic happening, of course. But staying in a cockroach-infested hotel room, having an unpleasant run-in with a taxi driver, or even getting food poisoning from eating a tiny unwashed grape whilst your untainted partner eats copious amounts of street food, is all part of the adventure, right?
That’s exactly how I felt about our trip to Sri Lanka. We had managed to get caught up in the tropical storm and due to torrential rain leaving the hotel, let alone the room, was a no no. I think seeing a cockroach zip past me in the restaurant bathroom was the highlight of my trip. But it was all good fun and amazing to discover a completely new country and culture! So without further ado, here is my guide to Galle, Sri Lanka.
Getting to Galle, Sri Lanka
As I had a stopover in Mumbai, our flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB) was approximately four hours via Jet Airways. Although rare to find, you can opt for a direct flight from London to Colombo via SriLankan airlines, which will take up to 10.5 hours.
Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka, and although a fantastic location (especially for foodies), it wasn’t our final stop. Galle, located on the South coast, was where we were heading and entailed a 2.5-hour drive down the highway in the treacherous weather in a rickety minibus!
Where to Stay
Most of the hotels in Galle, Sri Lanka, are chic, boutique establishments that have a colonial feel to them and sit along the beachside. They usually have a small number of rooms, so you can expect a more tailored service. If you prefer a proper hotel with all the amenities, Galle is not short of these either.
What to Do
→ Yala National Park
We took a trip up to Yala National Park, known to be Sri Lanka’s biggest safari park. Fun fact: did you know it has the richest density of leopards in the world? Well, we managed to see everything – elephants, crocodiles, a ridiculous number of peacocks, and buffalos – everything except the leopard! The ride is a little bumpy and can be long, so be sure to pack some food beforehand! The national park is 2-hour drive from Galle.
As we were staying in a surfer’s town (and had planned to go surfing!), the waters can be quite rough. Like “Omg-I-almost-drowned” kinda rough. HOWEVER, this does not mean you can’t enjoy relaxing on the clean, soft sand as well as the warm water near the shore. If you enjoy surfing or are keen to learn, Galle, Sri Lanka, is ideal for you!
→ Galle Fort
Galle Fort has been recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site with a heavy Dutch colonial feel to it and can be covered in under three hours. It is home to Meera mosque, the Dutch reformed church, Galle Clock Tower, and also the Galle Lighthouse, all of which are worth seeing. You’ll also find antique and jewellery shops, as well as local restaurants, inside the fort.
→ Handunugoda Tea Plantation
I was sad that we missed out on an iconic tour, but the weather just did not permit us to leave! Sri Lanka is known for their tea plantations, and if you’re a tea lover, from masala to green, it is well worth a visit to see how it is made. The Handunugoda plantation is just under an hour away from Galle.
What to Eat
The Sri Lankan food culture is known for the following things: fish curry, jackfruit curry, kothus, and hoppers. Oh, and a lot of coconut too. We may not have covered all the foodie items out there, but we managed a good amount.
→ STREET FOOD
A popular street food kiosk that you’ll see on almost every corner is a roti/kottu stall. Stand next to the window and watch one of the cooks work his magic on the roti dough. He’ll then stuff the dough with your chosen ingredients (garlic and cheese for me), before folding and frying in a mini pool of butter. It was to DIE for, especially with the chilli sauce, and by far, the best thing I ate on that trip.
Halal Restaurants in Galle, Sri Lanka
In terms of halal food, it isn’t that easy, BUT the hotels are incredibly accommodating if you ask them in advance. You may also get lucky by asking the locals for halal restaurants in Galle, especially near the mosque in Galle Forte.
Situated above a boutique indie shop, we almost missed Crêpe-ology, the number one restaurant in Galle, on our walk in Galle Forte. All the meats served here are halal, plus they have gluten free options too!
→ OTHER HALAL RESTAURANTS TO CHECK OUT:
Although the trip wasn’t perfect (tropical storms, cockroaches [omg kill me now], terrible wifi), I had a fantastic time and was in awe of how beautiful Galle Sri Lanka really was. Lush rainforests surround every roadside, friendly people everywhere you go, chilled out beaches; it is the ideal place to unwind.
Hotels in Galle, Sri Lanka
Tips for Galle, Sri Lanka
→ Do not underestimate the current; I would only enter the water if there is a lifeguard on duty – speaking from experience having been wiped out twice and almost drowned.
→ The best time to visit would be February – we got caught in a tropical storm at the end of November!
→ Stay a few nights in Colombo as a breather before driving down to the coast.
→ Be sure to bargain with the shopkeepers for any antiques, jewellery, or clothing that you buy.