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The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle in Sri Lanka is a colonial town with a picturesque harbour and idyllic beaches. Inside the walls of the town's fort are winding lanes of painted houses, built in architectural styles of the British, Dutch and Portuguese who settled here. Among these you'll find museums of shipwrecks and ritual masks, and an 18th-century church next to cool coffee shops and quirky jewellery boutiques. Across the bay, the golden beaches and clear sea call out to sun worshippers and keen divers.
At the hostels in Galle, you can expect essentials like free Wi-Fi and air con, with some also including a free breakfast. Have an authentic experience with a stay in a house that's over 100 years old featuring the area's traditional architecture and encircled by a luscious garden filled with palm trees, or pick a Galle hostel with a refreshing outdoor pool. To get to know other travellers, choose a hostel with an on-site restaurant that cooks up pizza and curries, and serves ice-cold beer.
The coastal city centres around its historic Dutch colonial Galle Fort that juts out into the town's bay. Surrounded by 17th-century walls, the Galle Fort has narrow streets with rustic houses alongside shops selling souvenirs of Sri Lankan jewellery and handwoven sarongs. Unawatuna Beach, which is lapped by turquoise waters, is just beyond the bay. It's palm-lined, as is Jungle Beach – which is a little further out – and both are busy with scuba divers by day and night, when the nearby bars serve drinks long past sunset.
While in Galle there's lots to see and do from shopping in the old Dutch fort to munching on steaming kottu roti made with vegetables, meat and spices. To learn about the working port's history, head to the National Maritime Museum, which is within a former spices warehouse or find the National Museum of Galle inside the town's oldest building – dating back to 1686. Across the water, visit the serene hilltop Japanese Peace Pagoda for views of the bay or unwind on the beaches below.
As most of Galle is car-free, the easiest way to get around is on foot. To travel along the coast, there are local buses linking the town to Colombo, Hikkaduwa, Matara and Weligama, which depart from Galle Central Bus Station. There's also a bus that runs to and from Bandaranaike International Airport and takes about 2.5 hours. If you're travelling from Colombo Fort to Galle, catch the train for a scenic route that can take between 2 and 3.5 hours.