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Galle & surrounding areas:

Although many people consider a visit to Sri Lanka incomplete without including beach time in Unawatuna or a stroll around Galle fort, the area is refreshingly free of crowds and largely unspoilt by tourism.

Things to do:

In such a beautiful area, it’s hard to muster up the energy to do anything bar taking pictures and kicking back with a cocktail. However, Galle and the areas nearby (including Unawatuna and Koggala) have a lot more to offer. A stroll around Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must. Much of the fort’s walls are now covered in grass, facing out into the sea, and there are more than a few photo opportunities here. In the town of Galle itself, cafés, cute shops and restaurants are dotted up and down picturesque streets, and locals are more than happy to point you in the direction of top-notch grub.

The little town is also a great place to book onto a Sri Lankan cooking course. Most lessons will encompass a market tour – where you can see exactly which spices and produce are going into the food you’ll prepare later – and are a great way to take some knowledge of the country’s delicious cuisine back home with you. Plus, you get to eat at the end of the evening. Winner. Just outside Galle, near Koggala, it’s possible to book onto a rainforest trek to learn more about the country’s ecosystem and spot exotic birds, monkeys aplenty and, unfortunately, the odd leech. Top tip: long sleeves and trousers are a must. In Koggala itself, the turtle hatchery (yes, it is as cute as it sounds) is a great place to see baby turtles, and, for a lucky few, release them back into the sea. If you’re fortunate enough to be in Sri Lanka between December and April, the area is a perfect base from which to book a whale watching trip. Tours take place about an hour’s drive from Koggala and start at around 6am (so get set for an early wake-up call). All that yawning is worth it though; you’re likely to spot sperm whales, blue whales and dolphins.

Going out:

Head to one of the beachfront bars and restaurants in Unawatuna for some Sri Lankan food and beer (or try the locally brewed arrak, which is distilled from the sap of coconut flowers, if you’re feeling brave). You’re also likely to find the odd late-night bar or low-key club alongside one of these stretches of beach if retiring early doesn’t float your boat, but be warned – Ministry of Sound it ain’t. Think drunken dancing in flip flops to dubious music with a gaggle of other backpackers.

Stay:

Treat yourself with an eco-luxury style stay on an oldtea plantation at Kahandakanda.com or try one of the many (cheaper) backpacker hostels in Unawatuna.


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Big Trip: Sri Lanka
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