Galle is the capital of the south and one of Sri Lanka's most cosmopolitan towns. With a spectacular setting on the south western 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 a plethora of influences and cultures crossing over the centuries, leaving a vibrant and diverse way of life. Famous for it's UNESCO protected 17th century Dutch Fort, the old part of the city is enjoying an artistic renaissance with the town and the beautiful beaches around it dotted with luxurious villas and classy boutique hotels.
The Sun House is set in a peaceful spot on the hill above the town of Galle with lovely views across the palm trees and out to sea. An old colonial house with quirky rooms and a cocktail bar with a formal drawing room and a lovely terrace over looking the pool. It has a colonial feeling with everything white and crisp and simple and a lovely relaxed atmosphere with excellent service. The food is delicious with homemade jams, chutneys, juices and the best Sri Lankan curries and breakfast hoppas. There are 7 very comfortable suites but the cinnamon suite is a must for honeymooners or romantics taking the whole of the top floor and with an outdoor roll top bath. It’s a short stroll down into the town and to the fort and you can always take a tuk tuk back up the hill.
Next door to the Sun House is the magnificent Dutch House. Formally a boys orphanage it has been beautifully restored with only 4 suites arranged in a horseshoe formation surrounding a courtyard where breakfast and lunch are served. The four luxurious suites are filled with antiques and local artefacts, with 4 poster beds adorned with silk cushions and drapes and bathrooms with Victorian roll top baths. Across the croquet lawn is the lovely freeform swimming pool and dinner is taken across in the sister hotel at the Sun House.
Amangalla takes pride of place within the ramparts of the 17th century Galle Fort. It consists of an amalgamation of buildings dating back over 400 years, used as an HQ for the Dutch commander and his officers in the 17th century and later as a billet for British soldiers. In 1865, the New Oriental Hotel was born and in its heyday was the place for a shindig. But the hotel suffered dwindling funds until the arrival of Aman Resorts. The Zaal (Great Hall) is the entry point and has a colonial feel with high ceilings, overhead fans and chandeliers and beautifully sets the overall tone of the property. The in-house spa is exquisite. Fine dining and cocktails are available and the library is extensive. There is a large pool in the garden surrounded by pavilions for a quiet moment and book. Amangalla has 29 rooms split into four categories - Bedroom, Chamber, Suite & Garden House. The rooms are decorated in tasteful colonial style with glorious antiques. Amangalla combines high-end luxury with authentic old world charm in a spectacular location and can be considered one of the most up-market properties in Sri Lanka.
The Galle Fort Hotel began life as an 18th century Dutch villa and was designed by Channa Daswatte, protégé of the celebrated Geoffrey Bawa. Set in the heart of the Galle Fort history oozes from its pores. There are 12 distinctive suites which open onto the courtyard and lovely swimming pool. The rooms are elegantly furnished with minimalist style blending the old with the new. The lively bar on the terrace is the place to be and there is an excellent though rather expensive restaurant. It’s a beautiful hotel and with the same high standards of the Amangalla but smaller and a bit more relaxed.
The location of The Fort Bazaar, right in the heart of atmospheric Galle Fort allows you to immerse yourself in the heritage of the 17th century fortress. This brand new hotel has beautiful rooms decorated with an Arabic influence either overlooking the fort or the courtyard, each with its own en-suite bathroom. The front of the hotel, home to a restaurant and bar, dates back over a century and is characterised by deeply recessed arches and a long veranda. With its own luxurious spa and private cinema and large pool, there are plenty of places you can relax after a day of exploring the fort. The hotel is famous for its restaurant with both traditional eastern as well as western dishes drawing in visitors from all over the island.
The Last House is a private and luxurious seaside escape, with just six rooms it is the perfect place to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. So called because it was Geoffrey Bawa’s architectural swansong, it is positioned on an idyllic strip of land with a lagoon on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. With unique, colourful en-suite rooms each with a view of the sea or lagoon set in lush tropical gardens and a swimming pool it is a tropical paradise. Enjoy delicious freshly caught seafood, strolls along the beach or visits to the famous Galle Fort, there is plenty to do and see from the hotel.
Apa Villas is a small seaside boutique hotel consisting of three separate villas. It is set in palm shaded gardens on an idyllic stretch of beach just eight kilometres from the historic town of Galle. The villas incorporate typical southern architectural features of columns and verandas, courtyards and open spaces that let the ocean breeze and fresh air in. The three villas consist of seven spacious suites, and are sold in whole or part, the interiors are minimalist and contemporary. Each of the suites is open-plan with sleeping and lounging areas and ensuite bathroom with showers. Six of the suites open out to the front garden and the ocean beyond. One suite opens out to an enclosed private garden. Cinnamon Villa has three spacious suites and a lounge area with a library. Cardamom Villa has two suites overlooking the central infinity pool, and Saffron Villa has two romantic suites separated by a soothing carp pond with a stepping-stone walkway. Apa Villas is a great place to relax after a tour of the country and to explore the historic town of Galle.
Kikili Beach is a beautiful one bedroomed stone cottage right on the beach, set in a large garden with swimming pool and a chill out garden pagoda where you can watch the sunset with cocktail in hand. The cottage itself is small but all you will need in this beautiful setting. Its bright and colourful with comfy sofas, cushions, books and games and lots of special touches to make it a home from home. There is a small kitchen where you can cook or be cooked for by the charming house boy who will look after your every need. This is a place for couples and romantics where you could stay put all week but close to Galle Town and Wijeya beach and all their activities.
Villa Spicy is a two bedroomed villa a stones throw from the lively Wijeya Beach with great swimming and an excellent restaurant, and only 5 minutes from Unawatuna’s bars and restaurants. The villa is set back from the beach and like many of the villas along the coast has the road and railway line between it and the beach. It’s a lovely villa with 2 bedrooms on the top floor and a sitting room down stairs opening onto a large terrace and small garden.
True to its name, the luxurious and tastefully designed Fortress unfolds inside tall solid walls. Inspired by the historic 17C Dutch Fort in Galle, the building design and the interior furnishings successfully blend traditional Dutch, Portuguese and Sri Lankan architecture with contemporary avant garde design. The Fortress is a member of the `Small Luxury Hotels of the World’. There are 54 rooms so quite a big hotel and all very comfortable, the best ones are the beach and ocean rooms which face the sea and there are also some lovely suites. The fortress rooms are cheaper if you are happy not having a view. There are a number of areas where you can dine and have drinks and a beautiful free form swimming pool set in the gardens and looking out to sea. There is a lovely spa and all the activities in the area are on offer.
Kahanda Kanda is simply a stunning, luxury boutique villa set on a 10 acre tea estate, 15 minutes inland from the Galle coast. The place exudes peace and tranquillity and is set on a hill top over looking the tea plantations, paddy fields, jungle and Koggala Lake below. The central living area is an airy peaceful space and like everywhere in the villa a glorious place to sit and relax. On each side of the Living Pavilion are lily ponds, with stepping stones to reach the Dining Pavilion. Beyond the Dining Pavilion is the infinity edged pool, 20 meters in length with dark green polished cement sides. Beside the pool is a recessed area, shaded by white bougainvillea, where breakfast or dinner may be taken. The seven suites dotted through the gardens are all individual and luxurious with huge 4 poster beds. This is a beautiful hotel and even though you are not on the beach you get the best of both worlds.
Illukeita is a magnificent old plantation estate, lovingly restored in 1992, by the same owner as the Apa Villas. It is set inland but only 15 minutes drive from Galle. There are 10 acres of beautiful gardens to explore with exotic tropical blossoms and ferns, and an amazing variety of plants. The gardens are surrounded by organic paddy fields and much of the delicious food served here (and at Apa Villas) is grown in the gardens or around. Hidden at the end of the garden is a huge swimming pool. On the top of the hill in the middle of the estate, the house has been both restored and recreated, the huge hallways, cool veranda and inner courtyard with its center piece pool. The central hall is surrounded by nine antique carved wooden temple doors. Off the inner courtyard are four large double bedrooms. A little further away is the pool house, with a further two rooms, with its own dining area and butler service the perfect place for a family or friends.