After a few days of nature based experiences, we bid farewell to the Udawalawe region on Day 5, and headed off in the direction of Sri Lanka’s famed southern coastline. Our first stop for the day was Galle, a coastal city renown for its Dutch colonial architecture. We had an hour and a half to explore the city, which was obviously nowhere near long enough to fully experience the rich history of the area, but it was just enough time to walk around the Fort and take photos of the old streets and buildings, as well as the beautiful Indian Ocean which surrounds three sides of the city.
Galle played an important role in the ancient trading routes between the east and west, and the Fort, which is such a key feature of the appearance of the city today, was first built by the Portuguese in 1588. However, from 1649 onwards, it was the Dutch who set about on an extensive fortification of the city. Today it is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by Europeans, as well as being recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are a number of additional interesting architectural features around the city, aside from the impressive fort structure. These include the clock tower, constructed in 1883; the Dutch Reformed Church, a Protestant church constructed in 1755; All Saints Church, an Anglican church constructed in 1868; and the lighthouse, which stands 26.5m tall at the southern end of the city. It was constructed in 1939 after a fire destroyed the original structure which the British had built in 1848.
After Galle, we made a brief pit stop in the popular beach town of Hikkaduwa, as it is where we were originally meant to stay. There were many water activities available, but we only had time for a short stroll along the beach. It is one of the coastal areas that was badly affected by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, in which over 30,000 Sri Lankan people died.
There were certainly no complaints about the change to a new beachside destination when we drove down the long paved entrance to Heritance Ahungalla, and realised this luxury five star hotel was our accommodation for the night. Everyone’s jaws dropped when we walked into the hotel lobby and saw the view below.
Once we’d checked in, most of the group headed straight down to the beach, which was much less crowded than in Hikkaduwa. I, however, had got sunburnt in Galle, and wanted to avoid the sun for the rest of the afternoon. Instead, I started planning for my solo week of travelling around Sri Lanka. I did make it down to the beach for a stunning sunset, though. There’s no denying life is good when you’re treated to this sort of beauty.