City of Galle (ගාල්ල)

RATE THIS LOCATION :1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 3.33 out of 5)

Centuries ago when Lanka was ruled by the Sinhalese Kings, ‘Gaalla’ or Galle was the old world’s romantic city that owed its glory to its natural harbor. This picturesque seaside resort was the center of trade in the olden days, because of its strategic position, where sailing vessels laden with merchandise from the Western countries of Egypt, Persia, Arabia, Eastern China, Malaysia, and Singapore converged.

The traders bartered their goods with the produce of this country, which was reputed for its spices, gems, and pearls. In the markets of the city, there were gems comprising of Saffires, rubies, cat’s eye, and semi-precious gems such as tourmaline, amethysts, and moon stones. The people of Galle prospered with the sale of exquisite curios made of tortoise shells, ebony, porcupine quills, and elephants’ tusks.

Even today a semblance of this trade is found attracting tourists. Besides traders and entrepreneurs, there are records of visits by important personages, such as Ibn Batuta, the Arabic traveler from Morocco, Fa Hein from China, and Marco Polo from the West. This town got its name as ‘Gaalla’ in the native tongue due to the large number of bullock carts that entered there and were stalled in one place. The locality where there were more numbers of carts and bulls stationed was called ‘Maagalla’ or Magalle.

dutch period buildings inside the fort
dutch period buildings inside the fort

In 1505, Lorenzo De Almeida, the son of the Viceroy of Goa set foot in Galle accidentally when his fleet of ships on the way to the Maldive islands caught in a great storm at sea was compelled to take refuge in this harbour. Thereafter he wrested the Galle harbour from the Sinhalese and were the first Europeans to set foot on the island and make extensive contact with the Sri Lankans. They constructed a barricade enclosing the projection of the land towards the sea and fortified it with a moat to avoid attack from the mainland. However by and by they conquered the whole of the sea coast border and finally established their government except in the Hill Country. They forced their religion, Catholicism on the innocent natives and ruled with an iron hand until the Dutch defeated them in 1640 and took over reigns of government. The long conquest of the island by the Portuguese and the intervention between them and the Sri Lankans has left several socio-cultural imprints on this country. The Portuguese stamp is particularly strong in the language, religion, education, administration, food, dress, names, music, and drama. The surnames Perera, Silva, and Peiris and personal names Peduru, Francisco, Juvan, Singho, Don, and Dona are some of them. Baila music was first introduced here by the Portuguese.

coconut and palmyrah trees infront of the Clossenberg Hotel
coconut and palmyrah trees infront of the Clossenberg Hotel

The Dutch drew away the Portuguese and persecuted them until they left these shores. The Dutch constructed huge ramparts and an enchanting Fort which forms a landmark in Galle that gives splendour to the town. They planned a township inside the fort with crisscross roads and low-roofed houses with massive walls and large doors and windows. They constructed an underground system of brick paved sewers, which was flushed by the action of the tides in the sea that surrounded the walls of the fort. They built a large church, which is called The Dutch Reformed Church that stands well even up to this day. It was after 140 years of rule that the Dutch ceded the country to the British in 1876. The British inaugurated a pipe-borne water service from Hiyare with a reservoir at Beke to supply the town with water. But electricity was introduced to the town only in 1926 with a power station at Talbot Town in China Garden. The Law Courts and the Kachcheri are situated within the fort while the Civil Hospital is at Mahamodera. A modern Hospital was constructed by the Sri Lankan government at Karapitiya to supplement the Mahamodera Hospital as it was difficult to maintain the equipment and the Theatres in good use due to the effect of the sea opposite.

View of the sea from Clossenberg
View of the sea from Clossenberg

Galle is fortunate that nature has gifted it with enchanting natural features in the form of a safe harbour, the mountain of Rumassala, called Bouna Vista by the British, and the promontory called Clossenberg jutting out into the sea at Magalle. Bouna Vista affords a magnificent view of the Galle harbour, the Fort, and the surrounding area. According to legend, Rumassala is a chunk of the Himalayan mountain brought by Hanuman, the monkey General of Rama. When Rama was at war with Rawana, the Raksha king of Lanka after the latter’s abduction of Sita Devi, wife of Rama, introduced a poisonous gas to the battlefield which caused Rama to faint and fall. When Rama fell unconscious, Hanuman remembered that on the Himalayan mountain, there grew a herb that was an efficacious remedy to revive the stricken.

dutch period buildings inside the fort
dutch period buildings inside the fort

Thither he forthwith flew but unable to locate the herb in his impatient hurry tore off a large slice of ground from the Himalayas, which he was sure contained the herb, and flew with it post haste to Lanka. After locating the herb it was quickly administered to the sufferer who was immediately revived. Thereafter the chunk of the mountain was thrown away and ultimately fell off Galle harbour and this promontory is now known as Rumassala, where a variety of medicinal plants is still believed to be extant.

Clossenberg is an area of high ground projecting into the sea at Magalle. A British sea faring officer called Captain Bailey in taking a fancy for this delightful promontory bought it from the government in 1859. He built a beautiful house there with spacious rooms and large doors and windows where the lintels are in the shape of a half moon, and with a low roof covered with local tiles.

In front of this house is a large garden lined with coconut and palmyrah trees and elegantly laid out seats and resting places. Clossenberg faces the open sea and Bouna Vista on the East. From here could be seen the Galle Fort with the towering Light House and Clock Tower and the spire of the Anglican Church. The sea around affords safe sea bathing. After Captain Baily relinquished this house, a local businessman and planter, Simon Perera Abeywardena, son-in-law of the Moratuwa Philanthropist C. H. de Soysa bought this residence where he lived until his demise. The present owner is his grandson who runs the place as a popular Guest House. The locals still call this place ‘Baly Kanda’.

From The Island,

Also See

Map of  Galle

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)

The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Driving Directions to Galle

Travel time from Colombo to Galle is approx 1.5 to 2 hours if the new Southern highway is used. For a picturesque drive you can take the A2 route along the coast line. This trip would take 2.5-3 hours from Colombo. The best time to visit the fort is in the evening.

Route from Colombo to Galle
distance :120 km
Travel time : 2.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map


0-09 m (87) 10-19 m (76) 20-29 m (43) 30-39 m (50) 40-49 m (24) 50-99 m (49) Ambalama (155) Ancient Anicuts (31) Articles (0) Asanaghara (8) Ashtapala Bodhi (5) Attraction Articles (3) Attractions (218) Beaches (9) Biosphere Reserves (3) Botanical Gardens (4) Bridges (34) Cave Art (6) Caving (7) Churches (17) Cities (9) Destinations (15) Dethis Pala Bodhi (15) Devalaya (41) Events Articles (2) Flora and Fauna (48) Forts (49) Heritage (1608) Heritage Articles (28) Historic Events (5) History (7) Hot Springs (9) Hydro Heritage (85) Irrigation Articles (4) Islands (15) Kovils (25) Kuludage (11) Lighthouses (27) Memorials (50) Mile Posts (6) Mosques (3) Museums (8) National Parks (22) over 100 m (20) Pabbatha Vihara (11) Personalities (7) Pillar/Slab Inscriptions (35) Pre Historic Burial Sites (19) Prehistory (38) Prehistory Articles (2) RAMSAR sites (6) Ravana (12) Reservoirs (46) Rock Inscriptions (1) Ruins in Wilpattu (5) Ruins in Yala (25) Santuaries (7) Sluice Gates (11) Stone Bridges (18) Strict Nature Reserves (3) Sumaithangi (3) Survey Towers (13) Tampita Vihara (239) Travel (3) View Points (16) Walawwa (12) War Memorials (23) Waterfalls (375) Wildlife Articles (24) Yathuru Pokuna (4)

Abhayagiri Monastery (21) Ampara District (193) Anuradhapura District (202) Badulla District (113) Batticaloa District (20) Colombo District (73) Galle District (62) Gampaha District (57) Hambantota District (103) India (1) Jaffna District (72) Kalutara District (50) Kandy District (187) Kegalle District (151) Kilinochchi District (13) Kingdom of Anuradhapura (80) Kingdom of Kandy (14) Kingdom of Kotte (9) Kingdom of Polonnaruwa (55) Kurunegala District (168) Maha Vihara (14) Mannar District (47) Mannar Island (10) Matale District (83) Matara District (41) Mihintale (22) Monaragala District (93) Mullaitivu District (20) Negombo (6) Nuwara Eliya District (117) Polonnaruwa District (113) Puttalam District (33) Ratnapura District (156) Trincomalee District (47) Vavuniya District (30) waterfalls in Sinharaja (3) z Delft 1 (5) z Jaffna 1 (20) z Jaffna 2 (24) z Jaffna 3 (12)

Leave a Reply