At 8:20am on the 25th June 2018 we left Anuradhapura on a bus heading to Trincomalee, a seaside town on the north east coast. We had heard good things about the beaches there and the Lonely Planet, as well as many blogs, puts some of the beaches here as the best in Sri Lanka.
The bus took us the entire way and we arrived at around 11am. We were staying at the Dockyard Inn which was in a great location, right next to a beach called Dutch Bay and within walking distance of the bus station. What made this guesthouse so good was the owner who was incredibly kind and accommodating and made sure we had the most comfortable stay. I hurt my foot whilst we were there meaning I could hardly walk and he was very concerned about me so took me to see his wife who is a doctor and then to the hospital. He had wanted me to get an X-ray to make sure I hadn’t broken my toe but we ended up just getting me some pain medication. The public hospitals are free in Sri Lanka which is incredible considering it’s not a rich country and we were seen so quickly. This may all seem like a huge exaggeration but I was really struggling to walk with Niall even having to carry me back to our guesthouse after our meal. The owner made sure I got to a pharmacy (getting them to reopen as they had just closed) and regularly checked up on me throughout the rest of our stay as I healed – it was completely above and beyond and brilliant.What was also lovely during our time in Trincomalee was that I bumped into a childhood school friend who I hadn’t seen for around 10 years! We passed each other on the street when we were heading to our guesthouse which was very unexpected and shows you what a small world we live in!
As we still had the rest of the day after we arrived to enjoy the beautiful weather, we headed out to have a look around starting with a walk along Dutch Bay. The sea was very calm and the beach was clean with white sand. There were a number of boats parked up on the sand banks but still places to sunbathe and people enjoying the cool water. We walked along the beach until we reached the portion of the beach that’s lined with the main road which is less likely to be where you’d sunbathe but also seems to be the area more popular with the locals.Before coming back to sunbathe, we headed to Fort Frederick which is curently a Sri Lankan army barracks that you can walk around parts of to see great views out to sea and also a temple within the complex. This Fort was originally built by the Portuguese in 1623 who later destroyed it before it was rebuilt by the Dutch and then modified and occupied by the British. Its position on the edge of the bay made it, strategically, a very desirable stronghold hence its continuing occupation by foreign powers as Sri Lanka was ruled by different countries.
At the top of the Fort is Koneswaram Temple which is a Hindu temple that’s covered inside and out with colourful statues and paintings. The earliest records of the temple are from the 6th Century but it may have been built before this. It’s dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a sight for pilgrimages within Sri Lanka. It’s a really nice temple and is on the edge of the cliff meaning it also boasts great views out to sea. The Lonely Planet book we have on Sri Lanka says you can often see whales out here and we were lucky enough to see some very far out to sea so it would be a good place to go with some binoculars!
Trincomalee also has loads of deer in the city in a similar way to how cows live in cities in India and we read that this was one of the only places in Sri Lanka where they live in a city instead of national parks. We aren’t really sure why this is but the herd that lives in Fort Frederick has been there for over 200 years!After Fort Fredrick we headed to another Hindu temple called Kali Kovil. This temple was also covered in intricately carved and colourful statues covering the entire outside of it. I really enjoyed the Hindu temples with this design and we haven’t seen too many like it (even in India) which made the ones in Trincomalee especially nice to see. We didn’t go in this one but I don’t think we needed to to enjoy it.
We spent the rest of the day at Dutch Bay to relax and sunbathe for a while but the only thing that lets it down is the proximity to the main road particularly as Sri Lanka is a modest country and so the part of the beach not sheltered by the guest houses wouldn’t be an advisable place to lie in a bikini. We had chosen a spot near to a guesthouse that already had a number of travellers sunbathing in bikinis and swimsuits outside of it so we felt this wouldn’t be a bad spot for us to go without me offending anybody’s modesty.After a great breakfast put on for us by the wonder of our guesthouse, we headed to the bus station to catch a bus going to Uppaveli, a beach around 6km north of Trincomalee. This is where a lot of people choose to stay but the accommodation was more expensive and we really liked our accommodation so we had no regrets for staying in Trincomalee. The bus cost us 25LKR (12p) each which is really cheap. The beach was a lot more crowded than we had expected with lots of boats parked up on the beach but we managed to find a peaceful spot at the end next to a fancy looking resort. Later on we went for a drink at a beach bar which was nice and that meant we could then relax on their sun loungers until we headed back to Trincomalee. We had got a blue, private bus to Uppaveli but got a red, public bus back so it only cost us 19LKR (9p) each to get back! It was a very nice, relaxing day in the sun.Whilst we were in Trincomalee we went to the same restaurant both days as it was near to our guesthouse and the owner had recommended it to us. The restaurant was called Green Park Hotel. We had rice and curry one night and kotthu another night, both staple local foods throughout Sri Lanka and both very good!Before we left Trincomalee the next morning, we got the bus up to Nilaveli which is supposed to be the best beach in Sri Lanka according to a lot of people. Because of the Buddhist holiday Poson, Sri Lankan’s were enjoying a public holiday and so the beach that’s meant to be incredibly peaceful with hardly anyone else on it was heaving with locals in the sea. It definitely changed the vibe of the place to have so many people there when we had expected a secluded paradise. As well as this (and also a bit surprise) was that the beach had a lot of rubbish on it and so it didn’t really look that nice at all compared to some of the other beaches we have seen. Maybe we were just unlucky with our timing and maybe the beach is normally a lot cleaner when it’s only frequented by the occasional tourist – who knows.The influx of local people meant we to head quite far down the beach to find a place that was peaceful and empty. This was also important as I hadn’t planned for being modestly covered whilst at the beach amongst locals as I expected only a handful of tourists so we had to travel quite far down the beach for that. The beach is very long and, after Niall had a walk along the beach, we realised that it was the other end that was more geared to tourists than locals although the place is still relatively unknown and unvisited.
We had really enjoyed our time along the east coast and liked how different it was to Anuradhapura. The Buddhist festival Poson did give the place a different vibe, especially at Nilaveli but we still managed to have a nice time once we found a bit of quiet beach. It was also nice to go to a part of Sri Lanka that still isn’t massively touristy yet as the north and east of Sri Lanka was consumed with civil war until 2009 and the east also suffered greatly from the 2004 Tsunami. We loved it and it would be somewhere I’d be happy to visit again if I returned to Sri Lanka in the future.
Next stop: Dambulla
Sending love x