Situated nearly 50-minute drive North of Weligama, Galle was once Sri Lanka’s main trading port and a trading hub for luxury goods including gems, ivory, spices and exotic animals.
Traders from around the world visited the port in search of gems, pearls, spices and ivory for centuries. So vast was its historical splendor that Sir James Emerson Tennent, writing an account of the island wondered whether Galle could be the mythical port of Tarshish, mentioned in the Bible as the port where King Solomon obtained his elephants, peacocks and gemstones.
The ramparts and the fort at Galle were built by the Portuguese but was later reinforced and expanded by the Dutch, who used the fort as a military and administrative center for centuries until it was taken over by the British.
Surrounded by the Indian Ocean on three sides, the fort was a safe haven for colonials and their precious trading goods collected from the four corners of the country. This cornerstone of the Dutch and British rule is now a potpourri of cultures and races.
Most of its Dutch era buildings have now been converted into chic boutiques which trade gems, jewellery, antiques, Dutch Lace, and silk while the Old Dutch Hospital is now a restored dining and shopping complex, where people from countries across the globe wine, dine and trade with the locals just as they did a few centuries back.
The National Maritime Museum near the Old Gate of the Galle Fort is located in a renovated Old Dutch warehouse and is home to over 21 historical shipwrecks some as old as 800 years, as well as maps, naval crafts, ropes, earthenware, beer mugs, smoking pipes, barrels, and vast amount of articles including artillery guns and sailor shoes.
With most of the Fort’s structure standing intact as a witness to the colonial powers and prowess it once held within, a walk or a bike ride around the Fort is a journey back in time.