The famed southern coast of Sri Lanka is ideal for the perfect tropical paradise vacation. Our guest blogger, Lisa, tells us how she enjoyed an impressive beach break with her husband in Galle and Unawatuna:
When winter rolled around this year, my husband and I decided to go on a much needed vacation. My husband was tersely specific in what he wanted—warmth, beach, five-star. I love strolling through culturally-rich cities like Prague (where we honeymooned). It seemed impossible at first that we could pick a location we’d both like. Then a friend suggested southern Sri Lanka, and said the end-of-the year season is the best time to visit here. We’ve never traveled to South Asia before, so we thought, why not?
We were driven straight from Colombo airport to the southern coastal city of Galle. We stayed at the Jetwing Lighthouse hotel, designed by the eminent tropical-modernism architect Geoffrey Bawa. We booked their Ibn-Batuta theme suite, named after the 14th century Moroccan explorer. The suite was meticulously minimalist with soothing blue and white hues we much appreciated after our long flight. I particularly liked the spacious balcony that had a breathtaking view of the Indian Ocean.
We went on an illuminating guided tour of Galle the following day. Though we hadn’t actually heard of Galle before our trip, our guide said this used to be one of the most famous trading posts in Asia for Indian, Persian, Arab, Roman and later Western European seafarers. True to its ancient roots, Galle bustles with exotic charm. We mainly toured the Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our guide explained the fascinating history of this amazing stronghold: the Portuguese first built it in the 16th century after they fled from the King of Kandy and then the Dutch captured and rebuilt it before losing to the British. We visited the two museums at the Fort that exhibited stunning maritime and historical artefacts from this bygone era.
We spent some time enjoying the sea breeze by the coral-white Fort lighthouse. Then we went on to discover the interior of the Fort and its colonial-era buildings. This area is incredibly diverse; we saw Buddhist temples, churches and mosques not too far from each other.
We walked through many narrow streets lined with lots of boutique shops selling things like high-quality souvenirs, vintage posters, designer sequins and precious stones. I felt like I was in 19th century Europe strolling through the cute cafés for French or Italian cuisine. Then the snake charmers with real cobras jolted me back. Even my husband, a devout couch potato, immensely enjoyed Galle Fort’s soulful vibrancy.
We had rice and curry for the first time at a lovely restaurant. We were served a big platter of red rice with an array of colorful curries like yellow lentil curry and ochre chicken curry. The food was quite savory and eclectically spiced. For dessert, we stopped by Pedlar’s Inn Café and enjoyed indulgently rich homemade ice cream.
Afterwards, we drove about 10 minutes to the Unawatuna beach, which literally took my breath away with its cream-colored sand and turquoise water surrounded by lush jungle. My husband and I barely felt the time pass by as we swam and sunbathed. We watched the mesmerizing sunset before we drove back to our hotel for a relaxing Ayurveda massage.
During our time in Galle, we absolutely fell in love with Sri Lankan cuisine. We had a nice opportunity to attend an actual Sri Lankan cooking class offered at a chic cottage retreat situated in the middle of a verdant paddy field. Getting there from Galle was a short drive past scenic banana groves and cinnamon gardens.
Our cooking class was offered at the retreat’s traditional-style restaurant. There were five or six other people with us, all intently watching how our teacher, one of the retreat’s chefs, gracefully prepared Sri Lankan dishes. He patiently explained the complicated things he did, like grating coconut with a curious device and choosing various spices for the curries. He invited the attendees to participate in the cooking process, so I tried my hand at using the coconut grater and grinding chili “sambols” using stone utensils. Preparing a Sri Lankan meal takes a lot of effort, but the food’s aromatic deliciousness is definitely worth it.
After the class, we all sat around and stuffed ourselves with freshly-cooked and succulent Lankan food. We had a lively time with the other attendees before we departed to Galle.
We finally left southern Sri Lanka a week later thoroughly tanned, extremely satisfied and a bit sad to part from this alluring paradise.