The ultimate guide to Trincomalee: Sri Lanka's untouched east coast

If you’re interested in finding the best beaches in Sri Lanka you’ll most likely end up at the east coast. The Trincomalee district is home to untouched coastlines and Nilaveli Beach is a good location to go for whale watching or diving.

Trincomalee itself is a small coastal town that never fails to amuse. You’ll find diversity, culture and religion by visiting the Koneswaram Temple and Fort Frederick. Trinco surprisingly has something for everybody.

These are the must things to know before you visit Trincomalee.


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What to do in Trincomalee

 

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relax at Uppuveli beach

Most travellers that visit Trincomalee in Sri Lanka take Uppuveli as their base to explore the surrounded area. Uppuveli Beach is a small coastal town with plenty of trendy restaurants and a great overall atmosphere. From Uppuveli you can easily plan a whale watching trip or a visit to nearby Nilaveli Beach and Pigeon Island. While the other side of the town is your entrance to Fort Frederick and the Koneswaram Temple.

 
Uppuveli beach
 

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Visit the Koneswaram temple

Trincomalee has some interesting Hindu temples to offer. One of them is the Koneswaram Kovil located between the walls of Fort Frederick. The colourful Koneswaram Temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is really appealing to see during your stay in Trinco. 

 

From the viewpoint next to the Koneswaram Temple you overlook one of the biggest natural harbours. Don’t let the big statue have all your attention, walking around the temple is really interesting and the details are attractive. Going inside the temple is not a problem if you respect the religious customs.

A fun thing I stumbled on while doing research is the fact that I’ve seen several different pictures of the Shiva statue. It looks like they change the statue every year. If anybody knows the reason for this, I’ll find it really interesting so be free to let me know in the comments.

 

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Walk along the untouched coastline of Nilaveli Beach

Nilaveli is a coastal town in the Trincomalee district on the east coast of Sri Lanka. Nilaveli Beach is known for being a quiet and secluded beach where the sand is white and the water is clear. The long untouched coastline of Nilaveli makes it one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. Walking along the palms with your toes in the sand is the perfect way to spend some time relaxing in Trincomalee.

 
Nilaveli Beach
 

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How to get to Nilaveli Beach

To get to Nilaveli Beach from Trincomalee you have to take a 20-minute drive up north. The route is straight forward, just follow the main road with a rented scooter or take a tuk tuk.

 

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Have lunch at Cafe on the 18th

This trendy café is definitely one of the hotspots in Trincomalee. They serve good coffee, fresh juices and are well known for their delicious smoothie bowls and panini’s. With a cozy atmosphere this is the café where you want to go for breakfast or lunch. 

 

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wander around the Sri Pathrakali Amman Kovil

The Pathrakali Amman Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Bhadrakhali. The colourful kovil is one of the most interesting Hindu temples you’ll see while traveling in Sri Lanka. The temple is located opposite of the Trinco bus station and is definitely worth a visit. To fully experience the temple and all its little details take a calm walk around the various buildings.

 

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Go whale watching in Trincomalee

Trincomalee is often mentioned as the best destination when it comes to whale watching in Sri Lanka. When joining a Whale-watching tour you have the opportunity to encounter Blue whales, dolphins and in some cases Sperm whales. Expect a price of 5.500-6.500 LKR ($30-$35) per person for 2-3 hours of whale watching in Trincomalee.

 
Whale watching Trincomalee
 

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Best time to go whale watching in Trincomalee

The whale watching season in Trincomalee runs from late March till early September. Did you know whale watching in Sri Lanka is good year round? In Mirissa the season starts December and runs until April. This means Sri Lanka offers around 10 months of whale watching every year.


More than a surf hotspot: our guide to arugam bay


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Hangout at Fernando's Beach Bar

A great atmosphere directly at the beach makes Fernando’s the perfect place to hangout in Uppuveli. During the day you can enjoy fresh juices while relaxing on a sunbed. In the late afternoon you can savor some sunset drinks while chilling in a hammock. Fernando's Beach Bar has both good local and western food on the menu. To be honest I think there are better dining options in Trincomalee.

 

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Go diving or snorkeling at Pigeon Island

Pigeon Island National park is one of the leading destination when it comes to diving in Sri Lanka. Pigeon Island is a small island that floats in front of the coastline of Nilaveli Beach. The clear water around the island attract those who are interested in scuba diving and snorkeling. From Nilaveli it takes only 10 minutes to reach the island by boat.


The entrance fee to the Pigeon Island National Park is 1.500 LKR ($8). If you’re snorkeling or diving you don’t set any foot on land which means you don’t have to pay the entrance fee. To reach the island you have to arrange a boat trip which cost around 2.000-4.000 LKR ($11-$21). The boat prices vary depending on how long you plan to stay. Keep in mind that there are some extra costs for renting gear or bring your own.

 

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Get your Padi in Trincomalee

If you don’t have any experience with diving, have a look at one of the beaches in Trincomalee. You will find many places that provide beginner and Padi courses.

 

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Fort Frederick

Fort Frederick was once built by the Portuguese and is now used as an army base. Inside the Trincomalee Fort prevails a nice atmosphere and there is a lot of greenery to be found. The fort is home to many deers and the world famous Koneswaram Temple. Just before you reach the temple you’ll find a few market stalls where you can enjoy fresh fruit juices while overlooking Trinco beach. This makes it perfect to visit early in the morning.

 

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How to get around in Trincomalee

If you’re looking for the freedom to explore Trincomalee and Nilaveli Beach, renting a scooter is your best option. Renting a scooter is around 1.200 to 1.500 LKR ($6.5-$8) a day and a full tank will cost you 600 LKR ($3.25). Driving a scooter in Trincomalee is safe. It is easier to take a tuk tuk for those who aren’t comfortable with driving a scooter.


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Where to stay in Trincomalee

Near Uppuveli Beach is the best area to stay in Trincomalee. The area has a calm vibe and there are heaps of good restaurants. From Uppuveli you can easily reach Nilaveli beach or Fort Frederick. 

Surf Reef Dive Beach Palace // Comfortable, on the beach and close to the main activities in Trincomalee.
Book // availability here

OYO 310 Sea Lagoon Beach Hotel // Good rooms, a nice pool and close to Uppuveli beach.
Book // availability here

Anantamaa Hotel // Luxurious spacious rooms, a great pool and a good price-quality-ratio.
Book // availability here

Trinco Blu by Cinnamon // High quality rooms, a large swimming pool and an inhouse PADI certified diving centre.
Book // availability here

Trincomalee has many interesting low-budget accommodations to offer. Find an option that suits your needs on booking.com.


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Where to eat in Trincomalee

Nero Kitchen // If you’re hungry for Wood Fired pizza or pasta while in Trincomalee, Nero Kitchen is the place to go. Probably the best pizza you’ll find in Sri Lanka.

Cafe’ on the 18th // A cozy cafe that serves good coffee, fresh juices and is well known for their delicious smoothie bowls and panini’s.

Tonic’s // Go here for a great choice of local and western dishes that are priced fairly. Ooh, and they serve the best burgers in Trincomalee.

Fernando’s bar // The perfect place for a late afternoon snack and some sunset drinks. You should definitely try their papadum with mango chutney.

 

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Best time to visit Trincomalee

The average temperature in Trincomalee is 30°C year round. The best time to visit is between January and September. During October and December you can expect more rainfall.

 
Trincomalee whale watching season
 

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How to get to Trincomalee


Anuradhapura to Trincomalee

Bus  // You can take a direct bus three times a day at the Anuradhapura bus station. The journey to Trincomalee takes around 3 to 3,5 hours.

Cost  // 300 LKR (2$)


Sigirya to Trincomalee

TUK TUK TO INAMALUWA  // Take a 10-minute tuk tuk to the Inamaluwa bus station.

Cost  // 500 LKR (3.5$)

BUS  // At the Inamaluwa bus stop take the bus that came from Dambulla to Trincomalee. A 2.5 hour bus ride brings you directly to Trincomalee.

Cost  // 130 LKR (1$)


Dambulla to Trincomalee

BUS  TO TRINCOMALEE  // The journey from Dambulla to Trincomalee is straight forward. A 3 hour bus ride brings you directly to Trincomalee.

Cost  // 150 LKR (1$)


Colombo to Trincomalee

BUS  // A direct, but intense journey. Takes around 7 hours to reach Trincomalee. 

Cost  // 300 LKR (2$)


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Trincomalee to uppuveli

TUK TUK TO UPPUVELI  // From the Trinco bus station take a 6-minute tuk tuk drive to Uppuveli Beach.

Cost  // 300 LKR (2$)


 
The ultimate guide to Trincomalee
Sri Lanka's untrouched east coast
 

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