On the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, you’ll find the fortified town, Galle. It’s located 145kms from the capital Colombo and for most travellers the first destination they visit in Sri Lanka after spending a night in Colombo or Negombo.
If you want to visit this beautiful town, you can book your stay within the fort or stay in the closeby beach town Unawatuna. This more chilled town is only a short 15-minute drive from Galle.
How to get to Galle
As most travellers make their journey to Galle from Colombo or Negombo, we created detailed step-by-step guides specifically for these routes:
The train is the most popular and comfortable way to reach Galle.
Galle’s railway station is located next to the walls of the fort, so you can either walk or take a short tuk-tuk ride to your hotel. See here the exact location of the Galle’s railway station on Google Maps.
Note that it is not always possible to take direct trains from every city. If you are coming from Negombo or Kandy, you will first have to make a transfer in Colombo. In this case, we recommend you ask your hotel for advice on whether it would be easier to take the bus instead.
If you booked your stay in Unawatuna instead of Galle, we have good news for you. Unawatuna has its own railways station which is only 2 stops, or a few minutes, away from Galle.
The bus is also cheap and runs more frequently than the train. Although not as comfortable as the train, there are many direct buses bound for Galle and it is often a faster way to reach this historic town.
If coming from northern cities like Colombo, you will enjoy the bus ride to Galle as it will take a road overlooking the ocean. Coming from Kandy? Buses from Kandy take the expressway with AC bus tickets already being sold for only 800 Rs ($4.40). You can find these purple buses at Goods Shed Bus Station. Note that there are limited trips from Kandy to Galle so check their departure times at the bus station beforehand.
If you’re coming from other central towns like Nuwara Eliya and Ella, you can book direct tourist buses via 12go.asia. Note that these operate only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Getting to Galle by Taxi
Direct taxi transfers are easy to find when heading to Galle. Taxis are often much more expensive, but your best bet if travelling for example with the family or kids.
We recommend to book with trusted taxi apps like Uber or Pickme as they often offer safe services and affordable rates. If coming from Colombo, taxi fares start from 6,700 Rs ($37).
Note that booking with the mentioned taxi apps is not always possible. If you want to assure yourself of a taxi, we recommend booking one through your hotel or in advance with BookAway or 12go.asia.
Getting to Galle by Flight
There is also an option to take a flight to the nearest airport which is Koggala Airport, 15km away from Galle.
However, we strongly discourage taking flights in Sri Lanka. Short distance flights are extremely harmful to the environment and also very expensive. You already have 3 good options to reach Galle by land.
4 Awesome Things to Do in Galle
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle is most popularly known for its Dutch Fort. This features archaeological and architectural gems, some of which are considered among the most important European monuments in Southeast Asia.
It is composed of colonial buildings, old mosques and churches, imposing mansions, and restored hotels and boutique cafes. Strolling around this historic city feels like travelling back in time. And when you get tired of all the walking, you can head to Unawatuna for some chill time at the beach.
Travel back in time at the Galle Fort, a 430-year-old fortress first built by the Portuguese and then strengthened by the Dutch. You can easily explore this small town by foot.
See here a little guide to plan the best way to explore this Unesco World Heritage Site:
You can start exploring the 4-story high Galle Clock Tower, one of the Fort’s newer attractions built in the 19th century. Then head west to Church Street, which leads to the All Saints’ Church, inspired by the British Victorian era.
At Queens Street, you will find the National Maritime Museum. Located inside a 17th-century Dutch warehouse, it showcases a collection of boats, artillery, maps, and century-old items from shipwrecks.
You might be feeling hungry after all the sightseeing, so just follow the road along the sea and you will find the Old Dutch Hospital. It is one of Galle’s oldest buildings, which is now a shopping center and restaurant.
A great last stop would be the Galle Lighthouse, the oldest light station in Sri Lanka, and one of the most iconic attractions in Galle.
#2 Visiting one of Galle’s boutique shops
When you’re making a trip back in time, it is important to go home with a few souvenirs. Galle Fort has a long list of boutique shops that will keep you busy for several hours.
Barefoot, Orchid House, and The Three by TPV are just a few examples of boutique shops, selling beautiful handmade craftwork.
#3 Beach Time in Unawatuna
Only a 15min drive from Galle Fort is Unawatuna Beach. This popular beach town has the ability of being crowded but not rowdy. Come here for swimming and rope swinging or just lounging by the beach.
Unawatuna also offers a number of good accommodations, so you might want to stay here instead of Galle town.
PRO-TIP: If you stay in Unawatuna, we recommend to stay between the main road and the beach, and not behind it. The main road is very loud and busy with polluting buses passing by non-stop.
#4 Learn how to cook Sri Lankan dishes in Unawatuna
One more thing you shouldn’t miss, are one of the cooking classes offered in Unawatuna. Learn how to prepare traditional Sri Lankan dishes and learn how to make your own coconut milk from a raw coconut.
Once you return back home, you can share all your travel stories, while letting your friends immerse in the best Sri Lankan dishes you cooked for them.
The class starts with a market tour, where the chef will show you how to find the best ingredients (vegetables, fish, etc.) for your dish. Once the shopping is done, you will head to the back to Unawatuna town, where the cooking lesson will start. The class takes at least 3 hours.