Explore the East Coast in a Day
If you’re planning a shorter stay in Sri Lanka but would like to hit up the island’s east coast, have no fear! This guide should help you travel through the breadth of the east coast within the span of a day, covering hotspots for history, tradition, religious culture, and the ever-present beach life!
The best time to visit Sri Lanka’s east coast is between the months of May and September, when you can relax in the warmth of the balmy, sunny weather!
Our journey begins in Trincomalee, a resort city on the island’s east coast that is situated more than 230 kilometres away from Colombo. The city is at the heart of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-speaking population, and has been so for more than 2000 years. It is said to be one of the oldest cities in Asia, with a history to match.
One major stop to include on your tour of Trincomalee is the Koneswaram Temple, also known as the Temple of a Thousand Pillars. This temple complex is the most sacred of the Pancha Ishwarams in Sri Lanka, which are a group of five ancient coastal kovils located around the perimeter of the island dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It is thought to have first been built before the year 400 BC.
The original temple complex was destroyed by the Portuguese between 1622 and 1624, who went on to build a fort in the same location out of the debris they left behind – today known as Fort Frederick. Several sacred and important statues and relics from the original temple were rescued by its monks and either buried around the area, or thrown into the sea. The ruins of these relics were discovered hundreds of years later in the mid-1900s, and became a part of a newly built temple in 1963.
Your next stop is at Batticaloa, which should take you two and a half hours to reach by car. Located south of Trincomalee, the city is probably best known for its lagoons and nearby sandy beaches.
The most famous of the district’s three lagoons is the Batticaloa Lagoon, which is its largest, with a length of more than 50 kilometres, that is spread over an area of more than 160 square kilometres. The area surrounding the lagoon is used for cultivating rice, coconut and other crops, as well as for farming shrimp. There are beautiful mangrove swamps within the lagoon that attract different species of water birds, so try and keep an eye out for them! There are several smaller islands within the lagoon, such as Buffalo Island and Bone Island, with bridges built to across the area to connect these landmasses.
The most well-known of these is Lady Manning Bridge at Kallady, famous in Sri Lanka for its “singing fish”: supposedly, on a full moon night, the lagoon’s waters come alive with music; resembling notes plucked on a stringed instrument that can be heard from the bridge.
Finally, we head to Arugam Bay, which is another two and half hour drive away. We’ve saved the best for last, so that after your day of wandering around Sri Lanka’s east coast, you can look forward to some time to sit back and relax.
Located nearly 120 kilometres south of Batticaloa, Arugam Bay is the island’s most popular surfing destination, and the only international surf competition venue in Sri Lanka. It is consistently rated one of the top surfing destinations in the world, but is home to a population of just a few hundred people – meaning that you’re not going to be disturbed, even at the busiest of times.