17 Things to do in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
The east coast boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka and Trincomalee is one of the nicest. It’s also quieter than the touristic southern coast and offers a more relaxed vibe. Trincomalee ended up being one of the best places we visited in Sri Lanka.
But there is so much more to do than just relax on the beach in Trincomalee.
On my recent trip there, I was surprised with just how much there was to do and see! In fact, I planned on staying for only two nights and ended up staying six simply because I wanted to explore more and enjoy what I think is Sri Lanka’s most beautiful coastline.
If you want to know the best things to do in Trincomalee including the lesser-known attractions, you’re in luck – I’ve outlined them all below including a ton of useful info to help you explore.
Also, I’ve included a few “attractions” at the bottom that you maybe shouldn’t waste your time on. I read about these things to do in other blogs and to me, they were not that great and could easily be missed.
1. Explore Fort Frederick and enjoy a juice with a view
|Location:|| A 10-minute drive from Uppeveli Beach |
(where most people stay in Trincomalee)
|Cost:||FREE entrance to Fort Frederick (expect to pay 200+ rupees |
for a fresh juice of your choice!)
|Rating:||5/5 – The fort is very beautiful and the view with a |
juice is the perfect way to enjoy it!
Fort Frederick is one of the most popular things to do in Trincomalee. This Fort is hundreds of years old and has stood the test of time.
Today, you can visit the fort and explore the grounds. Below are a couple of temples you can check out within the Fort. But, in my opinion, having a relaxing juice at the Fort with a view of Trincomalee is one of the best things to do at Fort Frederick.
Once you enter Fort Frederick, you continue along the road towards Koneshwaram Temple (the famous Hindu temple). On the way to the temple, there are many different vendors lining the walkway, many of these vendors are actually fresh fruit juice restaurants with an amazing view of Trincomalee and Uppuvali Beach.
On a hot summer day, this is the perfect way to relax especially if you are doing a full day of sightseeing or just walked the hot ground of the Koneshwaram Temple!
2. Explore the colorful Koneshwaram Temple
|Location:|| Within Fort Frederick, 10-minute drive |
from Uppuveli Beach
|Rating:|| 4/5 Gorgeous Hindu temple well-worth checking out and |
the first time I had ever seen a Hindu Priest or Pujari
Within Fort Frederick is the Koneshwarm Temple. The temple is located at the other end of the entrance and is the main attraction in the fort. The temple is one of the most sacred in Sri Lanka and there are regular services conducted by Hindu Priests or Pujaris
The temple is beautiful and very well maintained. At Koneshwarm you can actually go inside the temple and walk around viewing the different artworks and statues. While we were there we actually got to see a service and eat some fruit offered to us by the worshipers.
Another cool thing to mention is the wildlife we saw near the temple. It included Spotted Deer (below) and even monkeys!
Visiting the temple is free but you must have your knees covered. If you are wearing shorts they will provide you with a large piece of fabric to tie around your waist for free. You must also take off your shoes and pay 20 rupees to the man who stores them.
3. Take in the views at Gokanna Raja Maha Viharaya
|Location:|| Inside Fort Frederick, only a couple hundred meters |
down the road from Koneshwaram Temple. A 10-minute
drive from Uppuvelli Beach
|Cost:||200 rupees per person for the entrance fee|
|Rating:|| 3/5 Nice views and a big Buddha to see, but a very |
While visiting Fort Frederick stopping at Gokanna Raja monastery and viewpoint is a great stop. Here you hike up a few stairs to a large viewing platform located at the base of tall white Buddha. The views of Trincomalee and Uppeveli Beach are incredible from here!
The walk to the viewpoint literally takes 5 minutes and once you’ve checked out the view you will be satisfied. The entrance fee is paid to the monk who lives in a home at the parking lot.
If you want to explore Fort Frederick, the viewpoints, and temples with a guide consider booking a half day tuk-tuk tour! This tour will take you to all of the best spots and only costs $30 USD per person for a private tour for two people!
4. Relax at the beautiful Dutch Bay
|Location:|| Right beside Fort Frederick, a 10-minute drive from |
Uppuveli Beach in Trincomalee
|Rating:|| 5/5 An ideal stop and easily one of the best beaches in |
Dutch Bay is most commonly visited by locals on the weekends in Trincomalee. This means, that during the week the beach is almost empty and the perfect place to cool off after visiting the fort, nearby temples, or the Maritime Museum.
Dutch Bay is located only around the corner from the Fort’s entrance gates and is a beautiful white-sandy beach. The waters are crystal clear and calm – perfect for a swim!
5. Take a tour through the Maritime Museum
|Location:||Across the street from Dutch Bay, 10-minute drive from |
Uppeveli Beach in Trincomalee
|Cost:||Free but a donation is recommended after the tour|
|Rating:||5/5 I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed |
Museums typically aren’t my thing while traveling. Don’t get me wrong, some are incredibly informative and crucial to understanding certain events in history. But sometimes they can be boring and in a beachside city, I expected a hot sweaty building where I walk around wishing I was drinking a beer at the beach the whole time.
This didn’t happen at the Maritime Museum in Trincomalee.
I went there with little expectation and was pleasantly surprised by how well-done the museum was. It wasn’t just the displays I enjoyed though, we actually got a tour around the entire museum where our guide gave us a ton of information about the displays and answered any questions.
The tour lasted for about 30 minutes and at the end, he took us to the roof of the building so we could check out the views! I highly recommend stopping by while in Trincomalee. It was a great way to learn about some of Sri Lanka’s past!
6. Swim at the pristine Marble Beach
|Location:||30-minute drive from Trincomalee|
|Rating:||5/5 – This was the BEST beach I visited in Sri Lanka! |
I have to admit, Marble Beach was my favorite beach in all of Sri Lanka!
The beach has pearly white sand, the waters are calm with next to no waves at all and were the bluest color you could ever imagine. The beach is postcard-perfect and is a place you should definitely check out while in Trincomalee.
The interesting thing about Marble Beach is that it is actually located within the Sri Lanka Air Force grounds. The air force maintains the beach and actually owns and runs the one restaurant and resort there.
There is a public access area where you can hang out on the beach and swim for free. But, if you want access to a larger, more exclusive section of beach you need to buy something from the restaurant. This brings me to the next item on my list of things to do in Trincomalee…
7. Eat Seafood at Ralla Restaurant
|Location:||At Marble Beach, a 30-minute drive from Trincomalee|
|Cost:||150-500 rupees for a fresh juice, 600+ rupees for food|
|Rating:||4/5 – A really tasty and reasonably priced |
beachfront restaurant especially for the portion size
One of the best ways to enjoy Marble Beach is from the beach area in front of Ralla Restaurant. Here, you can get a table with a view or lay in a lounge chair on the sand.
But it isn’t just the better views and beach access that makes Ralla a great place to go, it is the food too.
I thought a fancy beachside restaurant like this would be overpriced with mediocre food, but I was wrong. I got a seafood platter that included crab, squid, fish, prawns, veggies, and rice for only 1200 rupees and it was delicious! Dan order fish and chips and got a massive portion for only 1000 rupees.
After seeing the prices of the seafood restaurants in Trincomalee this is very reasonable. I suggest visiting Ralla for lunch on a day trip to Marble Beach. If you buy lunch here you can enjoy this larger area of the beach as well as take full advantage of their lounge chairs too!
8. Hike to the top of Diamond Hill
|Location:||Right next to Marble Beach|
|Rating:||3/5 A short hike with nice ocean views|
There is a large hill right next to Marble Beach called Diamond Hill. For those who want a bit of adventure while visiting Marble Beach then climbing Diamond Hill is perfect. It takes about an hour to complete and is a fairly easy hike overall.
The views from the top are of the bay and the ocean – are said to be amazing. Unfortunately, we spent to much time eating seafood and swimming to check it out!
9. Enjoy a sunset swim and beer at Uppuveli Beach
|Location:||Uppuveli Beach right in Trincomalee|
|Cost:||500 rupees for a large beer|
|Rating:||3/5 A great way to relax after a busy day of |
sightseeing or snorkeling
Uppuveli Beach is the beach area in Trincomalee near most of the hotels and restaurants. Most people stay within walking distance of Uppuveli Beach while in Trincomalee making it the perfect place for sunset beers!
There are a few different beachside restaurants at Uppuveli Beach that will sell you a beer. Expect to pay around 500 rupees for a large beer (rather expensive for Sri Lanka).
The most popular place to go among tourists is called Fernando’s. They have a really neat setup with swings, lounge chairs, and a loft. They also sometimes have a DJ or do a fire on the beach.
10. Salli Muthumariamunam Kovil
|Location:||A 10-minute drive from Uppuveli in Trincomalee|
|Rating:||2/5 Not the nicest temple anymore but it’s in a beautiful|
Just North of Uppuveli Beach is a Hindu Temple right on the water’s edge. The setting is simply gorgeous as it looks out onto the ocean and there is a small area across the road from the temple where all of the fishing boats are stored.
The temple is a bit aged and has lost some of its vibrant colors making it a little less impressive than I would’ve expected. We included it because it was on just about every blog we read before arriving.
However, in all honesty, its not that amazing and we also got chased away by a dog just after taking the photo above.
11. Snorkel at Pigeon Island
|Location:||2.5 kilometers from Trincomalee accessible by boat|
|Cost:||2,000 rupees for a boat, 3,000 to 4,000 rupees per person |
entrance fee, and 600 rupees for snorkel gear hire
|Rating:||3/5 Lots of people rave about Pigeon Island (especially |
those lucky enough to see sharks) but the cost and lack
of conservation has set it back a couple of “rating”
points in my mind
One of the most popular things to do in Trincomalee is to visit Pigeon Island. Pigeon Island is easily one of the top tourist destinations in Sri Lanka as it offers visitors the chance to snorkel with some colorful fish, turtles, and even small reef sharks!
Pigeon Island is only accessible by boat as is about 2.5 kilometers off the shore of Trincomalee. Going there is an ideal half or full-day trip from Trincomalee.
There are a few downsides to visiting Pigeon Island though. The first is conservation. The island has suffered from over-tourism from both tour operators and tourists. This has resulted in killing almost all of the coral near the island. So, don’t expect to see bright coral at Pigeon Island and be careful not to touch or damage any coral that is left if you do visit!
Pigeon Island is also expensive. Since it is a National Park the entrance fee is about 3,000 to 4,000 rupees per person. The more people in your boat the cheaper the entrance fee is (as you all split the cost of the boat fee and service fee which is separate from the individual per person entrance fee).
Expect to pay 2,000 rupees for a boat that sits 6-7 people and then the entrance fee on top of that. Snorkel gear will set you back another 500-600 rupees.
Save yourself the hassle and book your trip to Pigeon Island in advance on this awesome tour!
13. Go Scuba Diving
|Location:||Scuba boats leave right from Uppuveli Beach|
|Cost:||About $70 USD for two dives for certified divers|
|Rating:||3/5 Decent scuba diving. Visibility can be |
There are some really great places to go scuba diving around Trincomalee. Just jump on a dive boat and you’ll be off to one of the best place to scuba dive in Sri Lanka!
There are also a ton of scuba companies in town so prices are competitive and generally cheaper than Sri Lanka’s southern coast. Expect to pay about $70 USD for two boat dives.
Scuba diving around Trincomalee is best from April to September when the monsoon season is over. The most popular dives are all shallower than 18m making it perfect for beginners or those with their PADI Open Water certification.
If you’ve never scuba dived before you can try it out with this Discovery Dive in Trincomalee. It is perfect for beginners and super reasonably priced!
14. Visit Nilaveli
|Location:||A 15-minute drive from Trincomalee|
|Rating:||4/5 A really relaxing beach town. Many backpackers |
stay here instead of Trincomalee.
Trincomalee is a big city, so oftentimes people prefer its small-town neighbor to the north called Nilaveli. Nilaveli town is located right on Nilaveli Bach. This town is home to lots of small guesthouses for visitors to stay, cheap restaurants, and the beach is gorgeous! Overall, Nilaveli is a more relaxed place than Trincomalee.
From Nilaveli you can also easily get a boat to Pigeon Island (its actually much closer) or a day trip to some of the other attractions in Trincomalee. For this reason, many people actually choose to stay in Nilaveli over Trincomalee, but you could also just visit on a day trip.
12. Go snorkeling at Red Rocks
|Location:||A 15-minute walk from Nilaveli Beach main area|
|Cost:||Free, 600 rupees to rent snorkel gear|
|Rating:||5/5 I loved snorkeling here! It is so quiet and |
there are plenty of fish.
Snorkeling at the Red Rocks is a great alternative to going to Pigeon Island.
Right on the north end of Nilaveli Beach out in the water, there are some large rocks which as known as the Red Rocks. Around these rocks is a great snorkeling spot! It is easily reached from the shore and is a calm area for snorkeling with lots of colorful fish! We also spotted a crayfish!
Many companies offer tours to take you here but you can actually just go on your own if you want. Just walk to the end of Nilaveli Beach (about 15-minutes) or take a tuk-tuk. Once you reach the river mouth you’ll see the rocks. You can just snorkel on your own right from the shore here.
Renting snorkel gear for the day can be done in town from most restaurants or guesthouses for about 600 rupees for the day including fins. We rented ours from Mama’s Juice Bar.
15. Eat the best pasta at Gomesz’s Restaurant
|Location:||A 10-minute walk from Uppuveli Beach|
|Cost:||500-750 rupees for a large pasta dish|
|Rating:||5/5 I ate here three times while staying in |
Trincomalee – it was THAT good!
I know, I know…while in Sri Lanka you should eat Sri Lankan food. But, just in case you are craving something different then I thought I should let you know about this little gem we found.
Gomesz’s Pasta Hut is amazing. It is a small locally owned restaurant in Trincomalee offering incredible pasta with homemade sauce.
Gomesz himself is a really nice guy and takes a lot of pride in his food. He is famous for pasta but he also offers plenty of other items on the menu such as seafood and pizza.
The prices are also very reasonable and you can get a large serving of pasta for 500-750 rupees.
16. Go Whale Watching
|Location:||Boats depart right from Uppuveli Beach|
|Cost:||$60 USD per person|
|Rating:||3/5 A great activity if you go on a small boat and do |
actually see whales, but if you don’t it is a disappointment
From the months of June to August whale watching on the east coast is a popular activity. You can get on a boat and hope to see plenty of whales along with dolphins. The season technically starts in May and goes until October however its a very hit and miss time at the start and end of the season.
Expect to pay about $60 USD for a whale watching trip per person. Trips generally leave early in the morning and return a couple of hours later.
We didn’t go as we weren’t in the right season to see whales. However, we have heard that in the right time of year it is fantastic!
You can book a whale watching trip in advance. This tour has a “best price guarantee” and costs about $60 USD!
17. Day Trip to Sigiriya or Lion’s Rock
|Location:||A 2-hour drive from Trincomalee|
|Cost:||About $25 USD per person on a tour|
|Rating:||4/5 Sigiriya is a place you MUST visit while in Sri Lanka, |
however, it is rather far for a day trip from Trincomalee
If you aren’t on a long trip and traveling all around Sri Lanka, then consider just going to Sigiriya on a day trip. On a map, Sigiriya looks like a fair distance from Trincomalee, but in reality, you can get there in under 2 hours.
On a day trip to Sigiriya, you could climb the famous Sigiriya Rock (also known as Lions Rock) or even go on an elephant safari in one of the nearby national parks.
If you don’t want to climb Sigiriya rock then Pindurangala Rock is another easier (and cheaper) alternative.
There are tons of awesome things to do in Sigiriya so we honestly only recommend doing a day trip if your short on time!
This tour is great value at only $23 USD per person and will take you from your hotel in Trincomalee to Sigiriya Rock, Pidurangala Rock, AND the Dambulla Cave Temples!
A Couple of Things I would NOT do while in Trincomalee….
St. Mary’s Cathedral – We wet here and it was very average. It was kind of a pretty church but not really worth going if you ask me.
Kanniya Hot Springs – These are more like hot wells. The locals go here for ceremonial purposes and I think it should be left for the locals and not become a tourist attraction. Not to mention there is no need for hot water when the weather is super hot already!
Where to Stay in Trincomalee
We have carefully picked the BEST places to stay in Trincomalee for every budget. Below are some great options for your Trincomalee trip!
None of our choices are sponsored or paid and are 100% our honest opinion. Booking through the links below won’t cost you a penny extra, but we will make a small commission which helps keep our blog going and providing honest information!
Low Budget – The Social Shack is exactly as the name suggests, social. It is a centrally located backpackers hostel offering dorm rooms with or without air conditioning. The staff are very helpful and the hostel is relatively new and modern.
Mid-range Budget – The Blue Sands is where we stayed. This hotel is right on the beach and offers beautiful rooms at a budget price. The included breakfast is tasty, the rooms are comfortable, and the location couldn’t be better.
Luxury – Amaranthe By Resort & Spa is perfect for those looking for a quiet and luxurious stay. It has a massive pool and offers amazing food. For a real treat, book the room with the Jacuzzi!
I hope this blog has helped you keep busy while in Trinco! Let me know if you do any of the above and what you thought!
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August 15, 2019