The Old Dutch Fort in Galle: A Window to Sri Lanka’s Colonial Past

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Sri Lanka, a small island nation located in the Indian Ocean, has a rich history that dates back over 2500 years. Over the centuries, Sri Lanka has been ruled by various kingdoms and empires, including the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. The Old Dutch Fort in Galle is a testament to Sri Lanka’s colonial past and a must-see destination for history buffs and travelers alike.

History of the Old Dutch Fort

The Old Dutch Fort was built by the Dutch in the late 17th century when they occupied Sri Lanka. The fort is located in the southern coastal town of Galle and was initially constructed to protect the Dutch trading post in the area. The fort was built on a rocky peninsula that juts out into the Indian Ocean, providing a natural defense against invaders.

The fort is made up of a series of ramparts, bastions, and gates, with a lighthouse at one end. The ramparts stretch for over three kilometers and encircle the old town of Galle. Inside the fort, there are several buildings that have been preserved from the Dutch colonial period, including a Dutch Reformed Church, a Governor’s House, and a prison.

In the late 18th century, the British took control of Sri Lanka from the Dutch and used the fort as their administrative center. The British made several modifications to the fort, including the addition of a clock tower and the conversion of the Dutch Reformed Church into an Anglican church. Today, the Old Dutch Fort in Galle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the best-preserved colonial forts in Asia.

Exploring the Old Dutch Fort

Walking along the ramparts of the Old Dutch Fort is an excellent way to explore the area and take in the stunning views of the Indian Ocean. From the ramparts, visitors can see the lighthouse, which was built in 1939 and is still in use today. The lighthouse is open to visitors, and climbing to the top provides panoramic views of the fort and the surrounding area.

Inside the fort, visitors can explore the narrow streets lined with colonial-era buildings. The Dutch Reformed Church is one of the most prominent structures in the fort and is now a museum that showcases the history of the fort and the town of Galle. The Governor’s House, which was once the residence of the Dutch Governor, has been converted into a luxury hotel and is open to guests.

Another notable attraction inside the fort is the Maritime Museum, which showcases the maritime history of Sri Lanka. The museum has a collection of artifacts and exhibits that highlight the country’s seafaring heritage, including models of traditional boats and ships used by Sri Lankan fishermen.

Outside the fort, visitors can explore the town of Galle, which has a mix of colonial-era buildings and modern shops and restaurants. The town has a vibrant atmosphere, and there are plenty of places to eat and drink, making it a popular destination for tourists.

How to get to The Old Dutch Fort in Galle

The Old Dutch Fort in Galle is located approximately 120 kilometers south of Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka. There are several options for traveling from Colombo to Galle:

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By Train: The train journey from Colombo to Galle is considered one of the most scenic train rides in the world. The journey takes around 2.5 to 3 hours and offers breathtaking views of the Sri Lankan countryside. Trains depart from Colombo Fort Station, and there are several trains that run daily. It is recommended to book the tickets in advance, especially if you want to travel in first class or observation carriages.

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By Bus: There are regular buses that run from Colombo to Galle, and the journey takes around 3-4 hours, depending on the traffic. The buses depart from the Colombo Bus Station, and there are both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses available. However, the bus ride may not be as comfortable as the train journey, and there can be issues with overcrowding and delays.

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By Car: You can also hire a private car or taxi to travel from Colombo to Galle. This option provides more comfort and convenience, as you can stop and explore other destinations on the way. However, the journey can take longer due to traffic, and it may be more expensive than taking the train or bus.

Overall, the train journey is the most recommended option for traveling from Colombo to Galle, as it offers stunning views of the countryside, is relatively inexpensive, and provides a unique travel experience.

There are several excellent hotels in and around the Old Dutch Fort in Galle, catering to different budgets and preferences. Here are some of the top-rated hotels in the area:

  1. Amangalla: This luxury hotel is located inside the Old Dutch Fort and offers colonial-style rooms and suites with antique furnishings and modern amenities. The hotel has a spa, a swimming pool, and a library and offers excellent views of the fort and the Indian Ocean
  2. Fortaleza: This boutique hotel is located just outside the Old Dutch Fort and offers stylish rooms and suites with private balconies and sea views. The hotel has a rooftop terrace, a pool, and a restaurant serving Sri Lankan and international cuisine.
  3. Galle Fort Hotel: This historic hotel is located inside the Old Dutch Fort and offers beautifully restored rooms and suites with antique furnishings and modern amenities. The hotel has a spa, a swimming pool, and a restaurant serving Sri Lankan and European cuisine.
  4. The Bartizan: This stylish hotel is located just outside the Old Dutch Fort and offers spacious rooms and suites with modern amenities and private balconies. The hotel has a rooftop terrace, a pool, and a restaurant serving Sri Lankan and international cuisine.
  5. Tamarind Hill: This colonial-style hotel is located in the nearby town of Galle and offers elegant rooms and suites with antique furnishings and modern amenities. The hotel has a spa, a swimming pool, and a restaurant serving Sri Lankan and European cuisine.

These hotels offer excellent facilities, comfortable rooms, and excellent service, making them some of the best options for visitors to the Old Dutch Fort in Galle. However, there are many other options available, depending on your budget and preferences. It is always recommended to check the reviews and ratings of the hotels before making a booking to ensure that you have an enjoyable and comfortable stay.

Conclusion

The Old Dutch Fort in Galle is a fascinating destination that offers a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s colonial past. The fort’s ramparts, bastions, and gates are a testament to the Dutch engineering and military prowess, while the colonial-era buildings inside the fort offer a glimpse into the daily lives of the Dutch and British colonizers. Walking along the ramparts, exploring the narrow streets, and visiting the museums and other attractions inside the fort are a must-do for anyone visiting Sri Lanka.

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