Galle is the capital of the south and one of Sri Lanka's most cosmopolitan areas. With a spectacular setting on the southwestern tip of the island, Galle is surrounded by palm-fringed beaches and forest-clad hills towards the interior.
The city has had a chequered and varied history, with many influences and cultures crossing over the centuries, leaving a vibrant and diverse way of life. Famous for its 17th century Dutch Fort, the old part of the city is home to some of the island's best small hotels, craft shops, restaurants and bars.
A little further down the coast is the cool traveller hang out of Unawatuna. Regarded as one of the best beaches on the 70’s hippie trail, it retains a laid back vibe that has survived a battering in the tsunami. The beach undeniably retains a certain buzz with its restaurants and bars, and there are inexpensive hotels and places to stay in the vicinity. It also has pretty much year-round safe swimming, which is highly unusual in Sri Lanka. For those with dreams of deserted Indian Ocean beaches, it might be wise to look elsewhere.
Further down the coast, it gets a little more upmarket; Thalpe has many gorgeous villas and hotels and several lovely beach hangouts. The swimming here isn't as good with a reef just offshore, though there is usually somewhere to be found, and the general vibe is very laid back and quiet.
Inland in the Galle region, there are peaceful temples with saffron-clad monks, dreamy lakes, low tea-clad hills, colourful jungle and paddies. There are several gorgeous inland hotels, too, for those who enjoy their peace and quiet but with easy access to the beach. It is a very beautiful region indeed.
Galle is also the home of the Galle Literary Festival, which takes place at the end of January each year. The festival is known internationally as one of the most popular and friendly on the circuit and is an added reason to visit the city.
As Sri Lanka develops into a new era of peace and prosperity, expect Galle to flourish.
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