Few tourists venture on the east coast of Sri Lanka, and that’s even better! The Trincomalee region is more authentic, with its almost deserted beaches, lively and colorful Hindu temples, and Pigeon Island, not to be missed to snorkel and see sharks (not dangerous course)! I recommend to spend at least two days, ideally.
HOW TO GO TO TRINCOMALEE?
The easiest way is to leave Colombo by taking the night train, which leaves at 9pm. Book it in advance if possible. It costs Rs 1,550 in first class and Rs 550 in 2nd class. We took the 2nd class but I highly recommend taking a first class ticket for this trip because it is an overnight journey. The seats are comfortable enough to travel by day, but first class offers bunks that let you sleep more comfortably and arrive fresh to visit the next day! The train stops all the time, it is really hot and there are only locals in 2nd class, so I really struggled to close my eyes, even if I can usually sleep anywhere. Once in Trincomalee, if you want to get to Nilaveli or Uppuveli, you’ll need to take a tuk-tuk. Do’nt worry, a few of them will wait for you at the exit of the train
For night journey back towards Colombo, the departure is at 7:30pm.
WHAT TO VISIT TRINCOMALEE AND AROUND?
- Do not miss out on Pigeon Island. It is a bit expensive, we got it for Rs 4600 for two (including one local) from Nilaveli, but usually it’s around Rs 6000 for tourists. Do not hesitate to negotiate. It is also possible to go directly from Uppuveli by speedboat for Rs 3500 per person. It is really worth! First, the island is beautiful with its beach made of white seashells and transparent water. And then you’re almost sure to see sharks of about 1 meter! In 2 hours of snorkeling, I saw three sharks up close. An incredible experience. But don’t forget to spread waterproof sunscreen on your back, as the son is really strong even if you don’t think so when you are under the water… I was red for a week !!
- Walk around Trincomalee. Visit the Fort and its Hindu temple overlooking the sea. Beautiful! There is also another temple in the center of Trincomalee. We went there early morning and by chance would attend a Hindu festival. It was an unforgettable experience! The temple was full of Sri Lankan women dressed with their nicest colorful saris, and men literally rolling on the ground, turning around the temple, etc.
- Enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches under the palm trees of Uppuveli or Nilaveli. Quite equivalent in terms of landscapes, Nilaveli is frequented by locals on holiday while Uppuveli is more popular with backpackers.
- Not many tourists know about it but there are hot springs not far from Trincomalee (ask a tuk-tuk to take you there). Do not expect to swim, these sources are small and are considered sacred by Buddhists who come to sprinkle themselves with the holy water. Only go if you have time, it’s not very impressive neither beautiful but it’s an interesting part of the Buddhist culture. Note that Buddhist statue has replaced a Hindu temple, and therefore there is still traces of Hinduism on the site.
HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND TRINCOMALEE?
You have several options: rent a scooter, a bike, find a tuk tuk or travel by bus (but then you have to figure out the bus schedule … we tried but we ended up taking a tuk-tuk after having waited 20 minutes under a blazing sun).
We often traveled by tuk-tuk for journeys between Uppuveli and Trincomalee (you will pay Rs 250 and Rs 400 for round trip). You can find them easily, it is the most common transport in the region.
But we rather recommend renting a scooter for the day. Sanju Tours rents scooters in very good condition (+94 77 66 35 639) for 1500 Rs a day. This allows you to be really autonomous and visit all day as you wish, without having to negotiate a tuk-tuk every time you want to move. You can go to Nilavali and Uppuveli easily. It is not very difficult to navigate, just by asking your way to passersby and it’s not dangerous because there is almost only tuk-tuks on the road.
And if you’re more athletic, you can also rent a bicycle (with Sanju Tours: +94 35 639 77 66).
WHERE TO STAY in TRINCOMALEE, Nilaveli or Uppuveli?
We stayed in one of the best guesthouses on a quality/price perspective, in Uppuveli : Aqua Inns. For Rs 2200 (less than 20 €), we had a double room with a sea view and private bathroom. The guesthouse is situated on the beach and offers everything you could want: hammocks and lounge chairs on the beach, a bar / restaurant overlooking the sea and even a swimming pool overlooking the sea. For broke backpackers, there are even ”backpacker caves”, these are concrete pipes dug in the ground, which contain just a bed, and that can be used for a pittance! This also gives you access to common showers. In high season, the bar is apparently quite busy and the restaurant even offers wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant only offers international food.
For a more authentic and relaxing experience, then we recommend, a few meters from Aqua Inns, a simple but clean homestay with a very good Wi-Fi, and 2 minutes walk from the beach of Uppuveli : Alex Rooms (+94 77 66 35 639). Some rooms have air conditioning. The family that lives there is adorable and will cook you a breakfast for Rs 400 and an excellent Rice & Curry for Rs 400-500! Rooms cost between Rs 1,500 and 5,000.
WHERE TO EAT in TRINCOMALEE, Nilaveli or Uppuveli?
We tried a lot of small local restaurants during our week in the area. We ate very well everywhere we went. Two tips though:
- Happy Cream House in Trincomalee, is a tiny shop that makes excellent juice and snacks.
- Rather than eating at Aqua Inns in Uppuveli, we recommend its neighbour, the Lotus Park Hotel, which despite its luxurious appearance offers excellent dishes (including delicious Rice & Curry) at cheaper price!