Visiting Galle in a day by bus from Mirissa (or Columbo)
If you get fed up Mirissa beach (who would) or want a change of scenery there is plenty to occupy you within an hours bus ride of Mirissa.
We had mistakenly sunbathed sans protection the day before as the sky was filled with clouds. We now know the sun gets through and we were a little pink from the exploits so we decided to head off up the coast to Galle for a sightseeing day around the old fort city.
You can hop on any bus from Mirissa’s main high street heading for Colombo or Galle and within forty five minutes you will be getting off at Galle bus station. The fare is just 50 -60 rupees depending upon which bus you take.
The Coastal Journey to Galle
The journey from Mirissa to Galle will take you up and down the coastal road, and is a very pleasant if not breathtaking journey, where you can catch a glimpse of some of the lesser known beaches and towns along this stretch of southern Sri Lanka.
If you don’t want to stay in Mirissa, we spotted many small cheaper guest houses and a few more luxury offerings along the way. Some of the budget rooms were being offered for as little as 800 LKR per night. Although, as these are bit away from the main towns, you will need your own transport to get to shops or eat at your guest house. Alternatively you could just use the buses to hop around; one passes around every ten minutes during the day. The main places we passed on the ride that looked interesting were:-
Weligama is the closest to Mirissa and looks a busy little town. The beach, while not as deep as Mirissa, is longer and the waves here seem more angry so would be a good surfing spot. You can also marvel at the stilt fishermen who fish by standing on poles surrounded by water. Just off the beach you can go green with envy at the luxurious hotel on Taprobane island. The town also has the luxury of an ATM and a wine shop which Mirissa doesn’t
Habaraduwa had a few guest houses dotted along the coast and what it lacked in beach it made up for in waves.
Koggala is the interesting home to the Sri Lankan Air Force and also sports a huge lake just behind the beach road that will appeal to nature lovers. Again the surf here looks strong so will appeal to the surfers. Plenty of accommodation and restaurants are dotted along the sea front so you wont be limited if you stay here. The beach is long and quite deep perfect for beach strolls.
Unawatuna is one of the most touristy beaches along this coast and has more hotels and guest houses than other destinations. It is more upmarket and people we spoke to said is was a lot more expensive than Mirissa to visit. It is the closest to Galle city lying just 5km from the centre of town.
A Sightseeing Day Trip in Galle
After getting off the bus we made our way directly to the tourist information centre located in a park opposite the bus station. You will find a friendly chap in here who can give you a map of the fort and will point out its main treasures. We found this wasn’t really necessary as the fort area is so small and well signposted that you cannot fail to miss the main sights.
Before entering the fort we took a look at the Galle International Cricket Ground and caught the future Sri Lankan greats practising in the nets at the side. From here you wander around the ground in a circle to get to the main fort entrance.
Next to the fort walls was a large playing field where hundreds of school kids appeared to be practising for some great event with marching drills, baton twirling and a school band making a noise. We appeared to be a great distraction to some as walked passed when some of the the kids wandered up cheekily asking for money for an ice cream.
Unlike practically every other sight in Sri Lanka, entrance to the fort is free although you will pay to visit the maritime and history museums once inside the gates. Also the church keepers will ‘encourage’ you to make a donation for visiting the churches.
You need no more than half a day here to wander around the old churches, colonial buildings, museums and walk the ramparts admiring the views out to sea. If you want to have a nice lunch and visit some the more arty boutique type shops here, give yourself a day. You may also get a glimpse of a navy vessel leaving for sea from the nearby naval port, or watch the locals ‘sandbathe’. That’s the only way I can describe what they were doing, they would get wet in the sea then emerge drop to the ground and smear themselves with dry sand before getting back in the water to wash it all off. I guess its some sort of Sri Lankan exfoliation regime.
On your way out of the fort do stop by the little fishing harbour as you head back towards Mirissa. If you turn right out of the fort you wont miss it. Spend some time chatting to the local fishermen selling tuna, shark, sardines and snapper from their temporary tables while others sort through the fishing nets for the next trip out to sea. They are happy to chat and pose for pictures even if you don’t buy any of their merchandise.
A little further along this road you will discover the local market which is worth a look on the east side of the fort where you will meet some characters and can pick up some local produce for your journey home.
We really enjoyed our day here but sadly it was really grey and drizzly so dampened our photography opportunities. We are glad we didn’t stay here; even though the old fort is a charming place it is one of the most touristy places we have visited. As a result the local boutiques and cafes adjust their prices accordingly for the bus loads of tour groups wandering around the fort. There are places to stay inside the fort, but they are all at the top end of the price range, and well above our own flashpacking travel budget.
You can add Galle to your Sri Lanka Itinerary with a very easy day trip (or half day) from Mirissa or one of the other beach resorts along the coast. You could even visit Galle as a day trip from Colombo as the train only takes just over two hours and you really don’t need any longer than four hours to see the main sights here.