Sri Lanka’s East Coast has recently featured in the National Geographic’s Best Spring Trips 2018. It is a wonderful destination for a family-friendly adventure – the best time to visit this part of Sri Lanka is from May to September – which makes it perfect for the summer holidays.
After being isolated for long periods during the Civil War, and badly affected by the 2004 tsunami, the East Coast is now in the midst of a revival and visitors are returning to this area, encouraged by a number of high-end hotel openings and the magnificent natural beauty of the area.
Come to explore unspoiled beaches and jungle-covered ruins, as well as whale watching tours, stunning birds and wildlife. Water-based activities include diving, snorkelling, sport fishing and surfing.
Jungle Beach Resort, near Trincomalee
Trincomalee, or Trinco as it is known, is the principal town on the East Coast, and shaped much of the area’s early history. Famous for its deep-water natural harbour, the town was the island’s trading hub until Colonial times. In more modern history, Trinco’s deep-water port has made it a valued naval base for Dutch, French and British rulers, amongst others.
Although most visitors come to visit the stunning tranquil beaches of Nilaveli and Uppuveli that lie to the north, Trinco has a charm of its own, with faded Colonial buildings, Fort Frederick, built by the Portuguese in 1623, and a picturesque seafront.
About 1km offshore from Nilaveli is Pigeon Island National Park, one of the best places for diving and snorkelling in Sri Lanka. The island – named after the rock pigeons which have colonised it – is one of only two marine national parks in Sri Lanka and has some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the country. Snorkellers and scuba divers will be rewarded with sightings of blacktip reef sharks as well as turtles and many kinds of coral.
For modern day visitors, much of the allure of Trincomalee lies in the fabulous whale watching opportunities in the surrounding seas. From May to October, resident and migratory colonies of blue whales and dolphins can be spotted at sea, as well as less frequent sightings of sperm whales. Generally, boat trips from Trincomalee leave early in the morning and last several hours with the journey out to the prime whale-spotting areas in the Indian Ocean taking thirty minutes. If you’re lucky you may not even have to step off dry land to spot a whale as Swami Rock is a popular spot for spotting blue whales and dolphins.
The beaches at Passikudah and Kalkudah
Further down the coast lie the beaches of Passikudah and Kalkudah, geographically close but spiritually quite different. Whilst both beaches are blessed with the long stretches of golden sand that characterise the beaches along the east coast, at Kalkudah you’re more likely to share the beach with local fishermen than other tourists.
The beach at Passikudah shelves much more gently – indeed you can wade out for a considerable distance – and there are several tastefully constructed resorts lining the beach, making it an ideal place for families to relax by the sea.
At the southern end of the coastline, Arugam Bay is the surf capital of Sri Lanka’s East Coast and is perfect for surfers of all skill levels. The ideal season for surfing in Arugam Bay is from April to October and the population of surfers is very diverse; from locals to foreigners, with different levels ranging from beginners to professionals. Surf schools offer board hire and repair, surf tours to major surfing spots and professional lessons.
Arugam Bay is also a relaxing spot for non-surfers with its laid back atmosphere and beach-front restaurants. You can swim, but the sea can be rough and the waves big.
Walk along the beach to Crocodile Rock and perhaps you might see wild elephants gathering at one of their watering holes.
The area is a popular base for those wishing to explore the Kumana National Park (also known as Yala East). Visitors to the park – which borders the Indian Ocean – can catch sightings of wild elephants, leopards and crocodiles, as well as a huge variety of birds.
Nearby, the Gal Oya and Maduru Oya National Parks also offer wildlife experiences.
Another popular excursion is a visit to Pottuvil Lagoon, a coastal lagoon four kilometres to the north. Visits to the lagoon – surrounded by mangrove forest – are part of an initiative to support local fishermen, support the replanting of mangrove trees and promote eco-sustainability. Children will be wide-eyed looking for elephants bathing in the lagoon and trying to glimpse macaque monkeys darting through the trees!
An hour or so from Arugam Bay you will find Monaragala, a typical Sri Lankan town offering some good nature walks through the lush countryside. It also makes a good base for exploring the stunning Buddhist statues in Maligawila; two enormous statues that stand hidden amongst the trees of unspoiled lowland jungle.
Also near Arugam Bay are the evocative ruins of Magul Maha Vihara. Inscriptions found at the site confirm that the monastery complex was built in the 5th century and restored in the 14th century. Just a small section of the complex has been restored – you can see the dagoba (the image house) and a well-preserved moonstone ringed with elephants and their mahouts – most of the complex is covered in thick jungle.
Hidden away amongst thick jungle is the beautiful forest hermitage of Kudumbigala. This consists of hundreds of shrines set in rock caves, said to date back to the 2nd Century. Originally established as a refuge for Buddhist monks seeking isolation and a life of meditation, it is still visited by monks who come here to meditate.
Sunset at Maalu Maalu, Passikudah
For a stunning mix of beach-time and watersports; culture and wildlife – the East Coast of Sri Lanka offers plenty of stunning sights, activity, adventure and wonderful relaxation! There is a diverse range of accommodation to choose from – extravagant five-star hotels and resorts; ecolodges, heritage and boutique hotels, and characterful homestay places to choose from.
If you’d like to discuss a visit to the east coast of Sri Lanka or any of our other destinations in more detail, please contact us to explore and find out more. Contact us by email email@example.com
or by telephone on 01937 520677.