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Arugam Bay To Trincomalee: The Best Of Sri Lanka’s East Coast


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Jolie Mccartney



Sri Lanka’s East Coast is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. With its pristine beaches, rich cultural heritage, and abundant wildlife, this region offers a unique and immersive travel experience. From the popular surfing destination of Arugam Bay to the historic city of Trincomalee, the East Coast of Sri Lanka has something for everyone.


The East Coast is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka, making it a haven for beach lovers and water enthusiasts. Whether you want to soak up the sun, ride the waves, or simply unwind by the ocean, the East Coast has it all. But it’s not just about the beaches; this region also boasts remarkable historical sites, stunning wildlife reserves, and vibrant local culture.


One of the must-visit destinations on the East Coast is Arugam Bay. Located in the Ampara District, Arugam Bay is renowned for its fantastic surf breaks. Surfers from around the world flock to this coastal town to ride the waves and enjoy the laid-back beach vibes. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner, Arugam Bay offers a variety of surf spots suitable for all levels.


Trincomalee is another prominent city on the East Coast that should not be missed. Known for its natural harbor and historic significance, Trincomalee is a melting pot of culture and history. Explore the Koneswaram Temple, perched atop a cliff overlooking the ocean, and soak in the breathtaking views. From there, head to the pristine beaches of Nilaveli and Uppuveli, where you can relax on powdery white sands and swim in crystal-clear waters.


Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay is a small coastal town nestled on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka. Known as a surfer’s paradise, this laid-back destination attracts wave enthusiasts from all over the world. The town offers a unique blend of breathtaking beaches, tropical landscapes, and a vibrant local community.


The highlight of Arugam Bay is its world-class surf breaks. The Main Point, located in the heart of the town, offers consistent waves that cater to both beginners and experienced surfers. The reef break at Whiskey Point is another popular spot, known for its long rides and powerful waves. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or looking to catch your first wave, Arugam Bay has a surf spot for you.


But Arugam Bay is not just about surfing. The town is surrounded by stunning natural beauty that is waiting to be explored. Rent a bicycle or a scooter and venture into the nearby Pottuvil Lagoon, where you can cruise through mangrove forests and spot various bird species. Don’t miss the chance to visit the enchanting Elephant Rock, which offers panoramic views of the coastline and is a popular spot for sunset photography.


For those seeking a cultural experience, Arugam Bay has plenty to offer. Visit the nearby Okanda Devalaya, a Hindu temple known for its intricate carvings and religious significance. Take part in a traditional Sri Lankan cooking class or visit a local market to immerse yourself in the vibrant flavors and aromas of the region’s cuisine.


Arugam Bay is also a gateway to the stunning Yala National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s premier wildlife destinations. Embark on a safari to spot elephants, leopards, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species in their natural habitat. The park’s diverse ecosystem and sweeping landscapes make it a must-visit for nature lovers.



Trincomalee, located on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, is a city steeped in history and natural beauty. With its stunning beaches, ancient temples, and a natural harbor considered one of the finest in the world, Trincomalee is a destination that offers a perfect blend of relaxation and exploration.


A visit to Trincomalee is incomplete without exploring the iconic Koneswaram Temple. Perched on Swami Rock, the temple offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. Marvel at the intricately carved stone pillars, ancient statues, and the peaceful atmosphere that surrounds this sacred site. The annual Koneswaram Temple Festival, held in July, is a vibrant celebration that attracts both locals and tourists.


Trincomalee is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka. Nilaveli Beach, located north of the city, is known for its powdery white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Spend your days lounging on the beach, snorkeling, or taking a boat ride to Pigeon Island National Park, where you can discover a thriving coral reef and spot colorful marine life.


Uppuveli Beach is another pristine stretch of coastline worth exploring. Offering a more laid-back atmosphere, Uppuveli is perfect for those seeking tranquility and relaxation. Take a leisurely stroll along the beach, enjoy a massage by the ocean, or indulge in delicious seafood at one of the beachside restaurants.


Trincomalee is also known for its incredible opportunities for whale watching. Head out on a boat tour to witness majestic blue whales swimming in the deep waters off the coast. It is an awe-inspiring experience to see these gentle giants up close in their natural habitat. Dolphin sightings are also common during these excursions.


If you’re interested in delving deeper into Sri Lanka’s history, a visit to Fort Frederick is a must. Built by the Portuguese in the 17th century and later expanded by the Dutch and British, this fort offers a glimpse into the colonial past of Trincomalee. Explore its ancient ramparts, visit the historical museum, and enjoy panoramic views of the city.


Trincomalee is a city that seamlessly combines natural beauty, cultural richness, and historical significance. Whether you’re exploring its ancient temples, relaxing on pristine beaches, or marveling at marine wildlife, a visit to Trincomalee is sure to be an unforgettable experience.


Pigeon Island National Park

Pigeon Island National Park is a marine biodiversity hotspot located off the coast of Nilaveli in Trincomalee. Covering an area of just over 4 hectares, it may be small in size, but it is packed with natural wonders and is a paradise for snorkelers and divers.


The park consists of two small islands, aptly named Pigeon Island and Pigeon Island West. The islands are known for their pristine coral reefs, crystal-clear waters, and abundant marine life. With over 300 species of coral, including some rare and endangered varieties, Pigeon Island is a haven for coral enthusiasts and underwater photographers.


Snorkeling and diving are the best ways to explore the colorful underwater world of Pigeon Island. Slip into the crystal-clear waters and be greeted by an array of vibrant marine species, from colorful fish and curious sea turtles to moray eels and reef sharks. The calm and shallow lagoons surrounding the islands make it ideal for snorkelers of all levels, including beginners.


If you prefer to stay dry, you can still marvel at the wonders of Pigeon Island from a glass-bottom boat. Glide over the coral reefs and get a glimpse of the marine life teeming below the surface. It’s a great option for those who want to experience the beauty of the park without getting in the water.


Aside from the underwater marvels, Pigeon Island is also home to a variety of bird species, including the rock pigeon, which gave the park its name. You might also spot black-naped terns, herons, and other migratory birds during your visit.


Due to the fragile nature of the coral reefs, it is important to practice responsible tourism when visiting Pigeon Island. Avoid stepping on or touching the corals, and refrain from feeding or disturbing the marine life. Respect the environment and help preserve this natural treasure for future generations.


Pigeon Island National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and snorkeling enthusiasts. Its pristine beaches, stunning coral reefs, and diverse marine life make it a hidden gem on Sri Lanka’s East Coast. Whether you are an experienced diver or a first-time snorkeler, Pigeon Island will leave you spellbound with its beauty and tranquility.


Nilaveli Beach

Nilaveli Beach, located just north of Trincomalee, is renowned for its pristine beauty and tranquil atmosphere. With its powdery white sands, clear turquoise waters, and lush palm trees, Nilaveli Beach is a paradise for beach lovers and those seeking a peaceful getaway.


Stretching for several kilometers along the coastline, Nilaveli Beach offers ample space for relaxation and recreation. Whether you want to sunbathe on the soft sands, take a leisurely stroll along the shore, or enjoy a refreshing swim in the azure waters, Nilaveli Beach has it all.


The calm and shallow waters of Nilaveli make it perfect for swimming, especially for families with children. The absence of strong currents and the gradual slope of the ocean floor provide a safe and enjoyable swimming experience. You can also try your hand at various water sports like kayaking, snorkeling, and stand-up paddleboarding.


For those looking for a more immersive experience, take a boat ride to the nearby Pigeon Island National Park. Famous for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life, this protected marine area is a snorkeler’s paradise. Explore the underwater world and encounter colorful fish, sea turtles, and other fascinating creatures.


If you’re a history enthusiast, don’t miss a visit to the nearby Dutch Fort Frederick. Built during the colonial era, this fort offers panoramic views of the coastline and gives insight into the area’s historical significance.


Nilaveli Beach is also a gateway to several other attractions in the area, such as the hot springs of Kanniya and the ancient ruins of Velgam Vehera. Additionally, the nearby town of Trincomalee offers an array of restaurants and local markets where you can savor authentic Sri Lankan cuisine and purchase souvenirs.


When it’s time to unwind, Nilaveli Beach offers a selection of beachfront resorts and guesthouses. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings, enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment, or simply relax with a tropical cocktail in hand as you watch the golden sunset paint the sky.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a bit of both, Nilaveli Beach has it all. With its pristine beauty, calm waters, and the opportunity to explore nearby attractions, a visit to Nilaveli Beach is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories.


Koneswaram Temple

The Koneswaram Temple, also known as the Temple of a Thousand Pillars, is a remarkable Hindu temple located in Trincomalee. Built atop Swami Rock, a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, this ancient temple is not only a place of worship but also a testament to the rich cultural and religious heritage of Sri Lanka.


The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is considered one of the most sacred Hindu sites in the country. The origins of the temple date back to ancient times, with legends and myths intertwining with its history. According to one legend, the temple was built by Lord Rama himself during his quest to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana.


As you approach the temple, you will be greeted by a towering gopuram (entrance tower) adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures. Enter the temple complex and witness the grandeur of the main shrine, where the presiding deity, Lord Shiva in the form of Konesar, is enshrined.


The architecture of Koneswaram Temple showcases a fusion of various styles, reflecting the influences of different eras and cultures. The temple’s historical significance is evident in its stone carvings and sculptures, which depict scenes from Hindu mythology and showcase the artistry of ancient Sri Lankan artisans.


One of the highlights of the temple is the stunning backdrop of the Indian Ocean. The panoramic views from Swami Rock are simply breathtaking, offering visitors a captivating blend of nature, spirituality, and history.


Adjacent to the temple, you will find the Shankari Devi Kovil, a shrine dedicated to the goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. Legend has it that this shrine was once part of a grand temple complex, which extended all the way to India.


Visiting Koneswaram Temple during the annual Koneswaram Temple Festival, held in July, is a truly immersive experience. The festival brings the temple to life with vibrant processions, religious rituals, and cultural performances. It is a time when devotees and visitors alike come together to seek blessings and celebrate the rich heritage of Hinduism.


When visiting the temple, it is important to dress modestly and respectfully, covering your shoulders and legs. As a place of worship, it is customary to remove your shoes and maintain a peaceful and serene demeanor.


A visit to the Koneswaram Temple is not only a spiritual journey but also an opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich history and cultural tapestry of Sri Lanka. Whether you are a devotee or someone interested in ancient traditions, this sacred site is sure to leave a lasting impression.


Uppuveli Beach

Uppuveli Beach, located near Trincomalee in Sri Lanka’s East Coast, is a picturesque coastal destination known for its laid-back vibes, pristine beaches, and azure waters. This hidden gem offers a tranquil escape for those seeking relaxation and natural beauty.


Uppuveli Beach is renowned for its soft golden sands and crystal-clear waters. The calm and gentle waves make it perfect for swimming and enjoying water activities such as snorkeling and diving. Explore the vibrant underwater world and be amazed by the colorful coral reefs and a diverse array of marine life.


If you’re not in the mood for water activities, take a leisurely walk along the shoreline and soak in the tranquility and the breathtaking views. Find a spot to lay down and bask in the warm sun or simply relax in the shade of the towering palm trees that fringe the beach.


For the adventurous souls, Uppuveli Beach offers thrilling opportunities for water sports such as jet skiing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Rent equipment from the beachfront vendors and feel the adrenaline as you glide through the waves and explore the coastline from a different perspective.


Uppuveli is also known for its fantastic beachside accommodations and dining options. Indulge in delicious local seafood at one of the many beachfront restaurants and cafes. Enjoy a refreshing drink or a tropical cocktail as you witness the mesmerizing sunset painting the sky in brilliant hues.


Uppuveli Beach is not just about relaxation and water activities; it also provides a gateway to explore the cultural and historical attractions of the area. Take a short trip to visit the nearby Koneswaram Temple, perched atop Swami Rock, to witness its majestic beauty and magnificent views of the ocean.


For a glimpse into local life, explore the neighboring fishing village and interact with the friendly locals. Watch as the fishermen bring in their fresh catch and experience the vibrancy of their daily routines.


Uppuveli Beach offers a true tropical paradise experience, with its pristine shoreline, crystal-clear waters, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply looking to unwind, Uppuveli Beach is the perfect destination to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.


Whale Watching in Trincomalee

Trincomalee, located on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, is not just known for its stunning beaches and historical sites but also for its incredible whale-watching opportunities. From the months of May to October, these waters become a haven for majestic marine mammals, attracting visitors from around the world.


Embark on a thrilling whale-watching excursion in Trincomalee and get ready to witness these gentle giants of the ocean up close. The most commonly spotted whales in the area are the magnificent blue whales, the largest animals on Earth. The sight of their massive bodies gracefully emerging from the water is truly awe-inspiring.


Trincomalee’s waters also offer the chance to encounter other whale species, including sperm whales, fin whales, Bryde’s whales, and occasionally even the elusive killer whales or orcas. Dolphins, such as spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, are frequent companions on these excursions, delighting visitors with their acrobatic displays.


Whale-watching tours in Trincomalee are conducted by experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the behavior and habitat of these majestic creatures. They provide insights into whale biology and conservation efforts, enriching your experience with valuable information.


These tours usually take place early in the morning, when the seas are calm and the chances of spotting whales are high. Hop aboard a sturdy boat equipped with all the necessary safety measures and set off on an adventure into the deep blue waters.


As you sail out into the ocean, keep your eyes peeled for the tell-tale signs of whale activity, such as blow spouts, dorsal fins, and tail flukes breaking the surface. The excitement builds as you get closer to these magnificent creatures, capturing their graceful movements on camera or simply etching them into your memory.


Whale watching in Trincomalee is an ethically conducted activity that prioritizes the well-being and conservation of these incredible marine animals. Respect for their natural habitat and adherence to responsible whale-watching guidelines are paramount.


Be sure to dress appropriately for the outing, wearing comfortable clothing, a hat, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun. Bring along a pair of binoculars to enhance your wildlife-spotting experience.


A whale-watching adventure in Trincomalee offers a unique and unforgettable experience, connecting you with nature on a profound level. Witnessing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is a reminder of the beauty and awe-inspiring diversity of our planet’s marine life.



Batticaloa, located on the east coast of Sri Lanka, is a vibrant and culturally rich city that offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and culinary delights. With its rich heritage and picturesque surroundings, a visit to Batticaloa is a must for anyone exploring the East Coast of Sri Lanka.


One of the main attractions in Batticaloa is its charming lagoon, which stretches for over 56 kilometers. Take a leisurely boat ride along the lagoon and marvel at its beauty while immersing yourself in the peaceful ambiance. The lagoon is not only a stunning natural feature but also a significant part of the local economy, providing a livelihood for fishermen and a habitat for diverse bird species.


As you explore Batticaloa, take a stroll along the iconic Batticaloa Fort, a reminder of the city’s colonial past. Built by the Portuguese in the 17th century and later fortified by the Dutch, the fort witnessed the changing tides of history. Today, it offers a glimpse into the city’s heritage, with its well-preserved ramparts and remnants of colonial architecture.


Batticaloa is also known for its beautiful beaches, which offer a serene and relaxing atmosphere. Whether you choose to swim, sunbathe, or take long walks along the sandy shores, the beaches of Batticaloa provide a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.


For those interested in history and culture, a visit to the Kallady Bridge is a must. This iconic bridge, spanning across the Batticaloa Lagoon, holds great importance to the local community. Built during the British colonial period, it serves as a symbol of connection and unity for the people of Batticaloa.


The vibrant local markets of Batticaloa are a sensory delight. Explore the bustling streets lined with stalls selling fresh produce, local handicrafts, and aromatic spices. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample traditional Tamil cuisine, with delicacies such as string hoppers, crab curry, and mouthwatering sweets like paniyaram and ladoo.


Batticaloa is also home to several ancient temples that showcase the city’s religious and cultural diversity. The Koneswaram Kovil, a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the St. Mary’s Cathedral, an iconic Catholic church, stand as symbols of harmony and unity among different faiths.


For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the nearby Kumana National Park is a must. Renowned for its rich birdlife, this expansive wildlife sanctuary is home to a variety of bird species and other wildlife, including elephants, crocodiles, and deer. Take a safari tour and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this pristine ecosystem.


Batticaloa offers a captivating blend of history, culture, and natural wonders, making it a remarkable destination on Sri Lanka’s East Coast. Whether you’re exploring its cultural sites, indulging in the local cuisine, or simply relaxing on its stunning beaches, Batticaloa will leave you with unforgettable memories.



Pasikudah, located on the east coast of Sri Lanka, is a hidden gem known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and tranquil atmosphere. This coastal town, once off-limits due to the civil war, has now emerged as a popular tourist destination, offering a serene and idyllic escape for travelers.


The main attraction of Pasikudah is its stunning beach, which stretches for several kilometers along the coastline. The soft white sands and shallow waters make it a perfect spot for swimming and lounging by the shore. With the absence of reefs and strong currents, Pasikudah is considered one of the safest and most family-friendly beaches in Sri Lanka.


The calm and clear waters of Pasikudah are ideal for various water sports and activities. Try your hand at snorkeling and discover the vibrant underwater world filled with colorful coral reefs and marine life. Enjoy a leisurely boat ride and explore nearby islands or try your skills at windsurfing and kayaking in the gentle waves.


Pasikudah is also a gateway to explore the wonders of the underwater world further. Dive enthusiasts can embark on diving expeditions to nearby sites, such as the HMS Hermes shipwreck, which is one of the most popular diving sites in the area. Explore the coral-encrusted remains of this World War II aircraft carrier and encounter marine life that has made it their home.


For those seeking a cultural experience, a visit to the nearby town of Thirukkondaiadimadu is a must. Explore the ancient Hindu Kovil dedicated to Lord Murugan and soak in the spiritual atmosphere of this sacred site. Witness the vibrant rituals and cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations.


After a day of exploration, indulge in a beachside dining experience and savor delicious seafood delicacies prepared with the freshest ingredients. Whether you’re enjoying a seafood barbeque or sampling traditional Sri Lankan dishes, the culinary offerings in Pasikudah are sure to tantalize your taste buds.


With its pristine beaches, warm turquoise waters, and a range of activities to suit all interests, Pasikudah is the perfect destination for those seeking relaxation and adventure. Whether you’re basking in the sun, exploring the underwater world, or immersing yourself in the local culture, Pasikudah promises a rejuvenating and unforgettable experience.


Cultural Triangle

The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka is an area in the central part of the country that encompasses an array of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and culturally significant landmarks. Spanning the cities of Kandy, Anuradhapura, and Polonnaruwa, the Cultural Triangle offers a captivating journey through the rich history and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.


Anuradhapura, the first capital of ancient Sri Lanka, is home to sprawling ruins, ancient dagobas (stupas), and magnificent stone carvings. Explore the sacred city and witness the grandeur of historical sites such as the Sri Maha Bodhi, the oldest recorded tree in the world, and the Abhayagiri and Jetavanarama stupas, which stand as towering monuments of ancient Buddhist architecture.


Polonnaruwa, the country’s second ancient capital, showcases a wealth of archeological treasures. Marvel at the well-preserved ruins of the ancient city, including the iconic Gal Vihara. This rock temple displays four remarkable Buddha statues carved into the granite rock, showcasing the mastery of ancient Sri Lankan artisans.


Kandy, known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, is home to the revered Temple of the Tooth Relic. Visit this sacred Buddhist temple that houses a tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Experience the colorful Kandy Esala Perahera festival held annually, where thousands of devotees and tourists gather to witness the majestic pageantry of traditional dancers, decorated elephants, and drummers.


Not far from Kandy lies the Dambulla Cave Temple, a complex of caves adorned with vibrant and intricate Buddhist murals. Explore the cave complex and marvel at the golden statues and ancient frescoes that depict scenes from the life of Lord Buddha.


The Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another highlight of the Cultural Triangle. Ascend the steep steps of this ancient rock fortress, perched atop a towering rock, and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Admire the beautifully preserved frescoes on the rock face and marvel at the engineering brilliance of the ancient water gardens below.


The Cultural Triangle is not only renowned for its historical sites but also for its vibrant local traditions and craftsmanship. Visit a traditional wood carving or batik factory to witness skilled artisans at work and bring home unique handcrafted souvenirs.


The journey through the Cultural Triangle is a voyage back in time, offering a profound insight into Sri Lanka’s rich cultural heritage. From ancient temples and magnificent ruins to vibrant festivals and local traditions, this region of Sri Lanka is a treasure trove of history and cultural significance.



The East Coast of Sri Lanka, with its pristine beaches, rich cultural heritage, and diverse wildlife, offers a captivating and immersive travel experience. From the popular surfing destination of Arugam Bay to the historic city of Trincomalee and the wonders of the Cultural Triangle, this region has something for every traveler’s taste and interest.


Arugam Bay beckons surfers from around the world with its renowned surf breaks, while Trincomalee entices visitors with its stunning beaches, vibrant temples, and opportunities for whale watching. The Pigeon Island National Park and Nilaveli Beach offer incredible opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and immersing yourself in the beauty of the underwater world.


The cultural richness of the region shines through in the Cultural Triangle, where ancient cities like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy transport you back in time. The architectural marvels, intricate carvings, and sacred religious sites tell the story of Sri Lanka’s rich history and spirituality.


As you explore the East Coast, don’t miss the chance to savor the local cuisine, experience the warmth of the local communities, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture. From delicious seafood delicacies to colorful festivals and traditional handicrafts, there is so much to discover and enjoy.


Whether you are a nature lover, a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply seeking relaxation under the tropical sun, the East Coast of Sri Lanka offers a diverse range of experiences. The natural beauty, warm hospitality, and cultural treasures of this region combine to create an unforgettable travel experience.


So, pack your bags, put on your sun hat, and get ready to explore the wonders of Sri Lanka’s East Coast. From the laid-back beach towns to the ancient cities steeped in history, each destination has its own unique charm and story to tell. Embark on an adventure, create lifelong memories, and discover the hidden gems that make the East Coast of Sri Lanka truly special.