Trincomalee is a cute little beach town on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. It offers beautiful white sand beaches and lots of activities to do. The east coast is the upcoming part of Sri Lanka and quieter than the touristic southern coast. Trincomalee is surrounded by wildlife, green hilltops and impressive rock formations. You can chill at the beach, do a whale watching tour and visit the beautiful Hindu temples around Trincomalee. In this blog post you will find our 11 best things to do in Trincomalee!
How to get to Trincomalee
There are several ways to get to Trincomalee. There is a night train going from Colombo to Trincomalee, but you have to book your cabin way in advance! This is not the most comfortable way of traveling to Trincomalee, but it is the cheapest.
We took a PickMe ride from Colombo to Trincomalee which took us around 7 hours to get to this beach town. We paid 14.000 LKR which is a fair price when you consider the distance and time it takes to get to the other side of the island from Colombo.
Best time to go to Trincomalee
The best time to explore Trincomalee is between February and August as the weather is most pleasant during this period. But when you want to come to Trincomalee for whale watching, make sure to plan your way up here between May and September / October.
How to get around Trincomalee
The best way to get around in Trincomalee is by renting a scooter for around 1500 LKR per day. This gives you the freedom to go and stop wherever you want to! Of course it is also possible to take a TukTuk, there are plenty of them. But if you want to visit a few places during the day, you will end up cheaper with your scooter.
Where to stay in Trincomalee
Depending on what you are looking for, you can choose between the Upuveli beach are or Nilaveli beach area. Upuveli is the center of Trincomalee where all the restaurants, beach bars and hotels are located. It’s a vibrant place, but might feel a bit touristic. Nilaveli on the other hand is very local and untouched. That also means not much restaurants and just a few accommodations to choose from.
Best restaurants in Trincomalee city
You can choose between local and more western restaurants in Trincomalee. Our favourite cafes and restaurants were these:
- Cafe on the 18th. For an amazing coffee, smoothie bowl, mango or banana porridge or vegan food!
- Gomes’z Pasta Hut. When you’re craving carbs or a good pasta you have to eat here!
- Trinco restaurant. For a cheap but good local Sri Lankan dish.
- Fernando’s Bar. The best place for a chill sunset drink.
- Be Cool Juice. For a healthy juice and breakfast! Here you can choose from many different juices, Yum!
Watch the sunrise from the beach
Because Trincomalee is facing East, you can see the sunrise everyday from the beach. For us it is a magical time of the day. It is, together with sunset, the best time to shoot considering the golden light. But watching the sunrise, or taking a walk along the beach with sunrise, is the best way to start the day. You might also see some locals at work. For example fisherman coming back from the ocean with their catch of the day.
Above you see the beautiful beach close to the bungalow where we stayed in Nilaveli.
Below I caught a fisherman on camera who just came back with his catch of the day.
Nilaveli is a small town located next to Trincomalee. The beautiful stretched white sand beach of Nilaveli brings locals from all over the country to this place during the weekends. There are some restaurants and sunbeds, but mostly this beach is very local with chill vibes. Ideal to relax for a day! From this beach, you can also easily get a boat to Pigeon Island to snorkel. Read more about that in the next paragraph!
Snorkel at Pigeon Island
When you visit Nilaveli beach you will see a lot of boats going to the closest island. This is Pigeon island where you can go for a half-day snorkel tour. It’s only 2,5 kilometers off the shore of Trincomalee so it’s easy to get to.
But there are a few downsides about visiting Pigeon island. First of all, it’s not that cheap to get to the island. Since Pigeon Island is a National Park, be prepared to pay about 3000 – 4000 LKR per person as entrance fee to the island. The boat costs around 2000 LKR, but the more people you share the boat with, the cheaper it gets for each. And if you have to rent snorkel gear, it will set you back another 500-600 LKR.
But the most important question is.. Is it worth the money?!
To be honest, no it isn’t. Due to over tourism the island has suffered which resulted in killing almost all the coral near the island. So there is no bright coral at Pigeon Island and you have to have some luck to see special fishes. Below a picture of Pigeon Island seen from Nilaveli beach.
Visit Salli Muthumariyamman temple
We accidentally stumbled upon this temple when we were exploring the area around for some sunrise shots. The view from this temple is incredible because it’s facing towards the ocean. The details are amazing and if you go inside you will see the beautiful paintings and ceiling.
Uppuveli beach is the main beach area in Trincomalee. A lot of hotels and restaurants are located along this beach. Most tourists stay within walking distance of Uppuveli beach which makes it a vibrant but sometimes touristic place. There are a few restaurants and beach bars we would recommend to go to. Fernando’s is one of them, but only to buy a drink during sunset! Read all our food recommendations under the heading best restaurants at Trincomalee!
Sunset drinks at Fernandos
The most popular beach bar to go to for sunset drinks is Fernando’s. The cute setup with swings, lounge chairs and a loft gives a very laid-back feeling. Combined with good music, your feet in the soft sand and the sound of the waves in the background, this is the perfect spot to hang during sunset. Although you won’t see the sun setting at this side of the island, the colours that can come through can be spectacular! We wouldn’t recommend to go here for lunch or dinner as they didn’t had everything in stock on the menu when we wanted to order some food. And the food we did order was very average in taste.
Whale watching in Trincomalee
Whale watching is one of the famous things to do in Trincomalee. The season runs from March until August, but even in the season, it is not guaranteed to spot the whales. There are lots of companies to book your tour with, one of them is with the Sri Lankan navy.
Visit Sri Pathrakali Amman Kovil
This Hindu temple is located in Trincomalee city and is easy to visit when driving around on the scooter. The beautifully coloured and detailed temple is a treat for the eye! Worth it to stop by when you’re making your way to Fort Frederik for example.
Fort Frederick is an old colonial Dutch fort built by the Portuguese in 1623 where you can see old battle tanks of World War 2. These days it is used by the Sri Lankan military but it is still open for visitors. You have to pass through Fort Frederik to reach the Thirukkoneswaram Kovil Temple so it’s the perfect combination while exploring this part of Trincomalee. Fort Frederick is a great escape of the heat because most of the fort is covered by trees. Within Fort Frederick, you can see many deer. Don’t feed them, they get their daily food, and many deer have died in the past of food poisoning!
Check out the beautiful bay view at Thirukkoneswaram Kovil Temple
At the end of the road of Fort Frederick is the Koneshwaram Temple located. This temple is a classical-medieval Hindu temple complex with an amazing view on the ocean and the coastline of Trincomalee. You can go inside the Koneshwaram temple and walk around to see the different artworks and statues. This temple is well maintained and one of the most sacred in Sri Lanka.
Other things to see on the location of the Thirukkoneswaram Kovil temple is the statue of Shaktipeeth Shri Shankari Devi and Lovers Leap. The last one is a cliff with the story about a girl named Francisca van Reed who dropped herself from the cliff as she missed her lover who sailed away on a ship. Despite this sad story, the view on the ocean is just incredible. It is advisable to visit this place in the morning or during sunset. Reasons are that you are not allowed to wear shoes and the floor might get very hot, also during midday the sun is so bright, you will melt here! On your journey to the temple you will notice different vendors selling local snacks such as cassava chips, peanuts. After you’ve finished exploring this place, you can get a juice at one of the vendors and enjoy the incredible view on Trincomalee and the ocean.
Take a day trip to Sigiriya rock
The Sigiriya rock is a must-visit when you’re in Sri Lanka! From Trincomalee, you can do a day trip to climb the Sigiriya rock (also known as Lion rock), or the Pidurangala rock to have the best view on the Sigiriya rock. It is around 1,5-hour drive one way to get to Sigiriya. And the climb to the top takes about 1 hour. So this could be easily done in one day from Trincomalee. But if you want to explore more around Sigiriya, we would recommend staying in one of the amazing hotels with the best view on the rocks!
Read more about the best things to do in Sigiriya here!