On the eastern coasts of Sri Lanka lies this less of a tourist town, Trincomalee nicknamed ‘Trinco,’ brings you the same calm that you feel when sitting in your favorite window spot watching the world through your living room.
Where is Trincomalee?
A little detour from the popular tourist trail from Anuradhapura going 90 degrees south to Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Elia, Ella, and beaches of the south, Trinco is meant to relax, chill and unwind. Here’s how we ended up in this little hamlet town, one of the three popular dolphin watchers go-to getaway in all of Sri Lanka.
Jaffna to Trincomalee, the bus ride
After a couple of wonderful days in Jaffna and a thousand stories later, the next layover was going to be Trinco, so we hopped on a public bus. The tickets were 1.8$ (350 LKR) per person, and we traveled all the way to the east coast. At midway, when the bus took a halt, it was a quick lunch made up of snacks- veg patties, dal vada, and the flavorful packets of chilly popcorns, finally ending it up with a sweet, brain-freezing choco bar ice cream. It was a regular bus ride through the tropical hinterlands.
How to reach?
If you are coming from Colombo/ Negombo there are a couple of options to reach Trincomalee:
There are frequent public buses to Trincomalee and a couple of tourist buses too. While you can directly hop on to the public buses after buying a ticket from the bus station in Columbo/Negombo or Anuradhapura. Tourist buses can be booked online before. Tourist buses are more comfortable and have Aircon and can be booked online.
Columbo to Trincomalee
Anuradhapura to Trincomalee
Though few, there are options for the train too. Check out the official website here.
You can book a Taxi from Uber or other local taxi services. It would typically cost 100$ (18500 LKR) from Columbo city to Trincomalee, while a taxi from Anuradhapura would cost you 45$ (8000 LKR).
Where to stay in Trincomalee?
At Trinco, we stayed in the north of the town at Sila Cabana, a little away from where the bus stand is, we paid about 1.6$ (300LKR) for the tuk-tuk ride. Somehow, Trinco houses the most beautiful of cabanas, something we couldn’t appreciate more about this town. Our place had a huge tree in the middle, and Neville, our host, was the most amusing person we’d met on this Sri Lankan journey so far. He is soft-spoken and gave us a lot of information about the town. His was the first cabana in this locality, and upon success, many followed suit.
The Banyan tree in the center of the cabana and the hammocks in its shade make a perfect combo for reading a book or just chilling. The colorful frames on the yellow walls, the minimal interiors of the rooms, and a lovely restaurant serving delicious breakfast and coffee are some unique features of the property.
Though we stayed closer to the town, beaches and resorts in the north were beautiful too. In case you want a little more disconnection with downtown, Villa Nilaveli is a good choice. Palm trees surround the villas, and the beach is a stone throw away. The chairs and hammocks in the garden are best enjoyed at sunrise and in the evenings too. The Villas are clean and spacious, and the staff is friendly.
CASAMIA Oceanfront Condos Nilaveli
If you are traveling with a group of friends or with family, the Casamia Condos Nilaveli is a perfect choice. The condo has a modern architecture and comes with a huge swimming pool with a view. The multistory house has a perfect sea view from the living area with huge glass doors, and the condo has four balconies. And the best part! The beach is 20 meters walk from this house.
Wanderers Hostel is an excellent choice for backpackers. The hostel has an amazing social vibe and is close to Uppuveli Beach.
Another option is Walkers hostel, which is literally a 1-minute walk to the beach. The host is fantastic, and they have frequent barbeques too.
Where to eat in Trincomalee?
Late at night, when we came back for dinner, we realized that our favorite place, “Annapurni,” was sold out for the night. Annapurni is a local family run place that serves a buffet every evening. You can choose your dishes from the display, and the price is reasonable. We came the next day for dinner here and paid 2$ (375 LKR) for the platter. Yummiest food and the place was full of the enticing aroma of spices and curries. Psst! Forgot to tell you, it’s not a fancy place, but if you want to have lovely food and smiling locals around you – this is the place.
Gem Family guest house
We found another gem at the Gem Family guest house. The place is run by a local, and the food is home-cooked. We had a platter with Rice, curries, and different greens with my favorite papadams. The meal was delicious, and I totally recommend this place.
And don’t go to Pizza Hut
On our first night in Trincomalee, we were so late for dinner that everything was closed, and the town looked deserted. So we had Pizza in dinner at Pizza Hut. It was a total disappointment, so if you get late for dinner, go for anything but to Pizza Hut in Trinco. If you are craving for some pizzas, you may try Nero Kitchen.
What not to miss in Trincomalee?
Since we were here in Trincomalee for two nights only, there are no “10 things to do in Trincomalee” for us. We saw very little of this beautiful coastal town in the eastern part of Sri Lanka, and we absolutely loved what we saw. So here are some places to see from Trinco:
Snorkeling at Pigeon Island and the east coast
The next morning called for some adventure, and Jai did just that. He went to the pigeon island in the north of town to do snorkeling. It was a small group of people who accompanied him, and I counted myself out of it (did I mention I am scared of the unknown on ocean bottom), and I can’t swim. I missed this beauty that Jai excitingly told me about later.
I remember it was 22$ (4000 LKR) for the sport, and what came with beaches in the north were untouched, pristine blue waters and superbly clean, isolated beach experience. Apart from watching a lot of colorful fishes, Jai was lucky to see Sharks too. If you are fortunate enough, you can see turtles, along with sharks. The best part is that this island remains uncommercialized at today’s time. Nilavali beach is another excellent getaway for beachgoers who like it low key.
An old Dutch fort, Koneshwaram temple, Cliff of Trinco and Lover’s leap
Lazing around for a while after lunch, we chose to see Fort Fredrick around 4 pm, won’t say I regret it at all. The fort is a Dutch fort built in 1624 and serves as a military base today. Entry to Fort Fredrick is restricted, but you can climb stairs and go all the way up to Koneshwaram temple.
The cliff is a steep one with stalls and eateries on either side of the road that climbs you to the top. We saw spotted-dear and peacocks roaming around freely near these stalls. On top of the cliff is Thirukonneswaram Kovil temple or Koneshwaram temple. Huge colorful idols welcome the visitors at the entrance of the temple. When we visited the temple, the evening prayers were going on, maybe a special one. The priests and few other people carried the three idols on what can be almost said a wooden chair held up on shoulders and took a round of the temple with musical instruments. The whole process is like a larger than life ceremony and is strikingly in tandem with many South Indian traditions and customs. It was captivating to watch, though!
At the end of the cliff, the steep fall on boulders and ocean rocks is called Lover’s leap (of course, there is some story behind that, but we didn’t get into that). As the sea breeze wind with moisture dissolved in it gushes on you, you could watch the little colorful boats rippling the otherwise calm ocean. We sat in one of the many cafes on our way back and enjoyed the never-ending views of the horizon and the vast Indian Ocean. While sitting there and sipping our coffee, we saw the sky changing colors, and the coast illuminating with street lights.
Whales or Dolphins, does it matter?
On our final day, we had not much planned up, but one of our friends insisted that we should go to watch the whales. They had a sighting a day before, and he said, we could try our luck. We gave it a shot and though couldn’t really spot any whales, found a swarm of dolphins around us. But I have nothing to complain about; the first thing is that’s nature for you and second is I can never get bored of watching Dolphins.
In the wee hours of the morning, we were surrounded on all corners by dolphins. They jumped and danced all around our boat. It’s so much fun to watch them, not even a blink I could remember during that entire cruise session. We paid 2500 LKR per person, and the guides & boat drivers were very respectful of the sea life. For instance, they were not chasing the Dolphins and kept a safe distance, not to disturb them.
A rented scooter, moist coastal winds, and this little city at hand, we did a touristic ride across Trinco that day after sunset, we rented one for 4$ (750LKR) from our host. There are fuel stations in the city, so a refill is the last thing you need to worry about. We got our scooter refill for 2.7$ (500 LKR), which was enough for our full day’s ride.
And with that, it was time that we leave this little harbor town behind and take with us only the memories of the times we had at adventures, peace and being a tourist, Trincomalee is where I would come for when I’m tired of the hustle.
A tuk-tuk to the bus stand and out, we were on the road again. We were now heading south to Sigiriya.