Trincomalee & Nilaveli – 9 Things to Do, Best Beaches, & Travel Guide

Last Updated on by Teddy

Wondering what a harbor town can offer to someone who wants the perfect beach holiday? Read on to find out.

Best known for its fine natural harbor, Trincomalee is overlooked when it comes to tourism and exploring, but it has some amazing memories in store for you.

Overlooking the harbor and open seas, the picturesque Dutch Bay attracts many, with its rich history, recent war stories, and medley of people. Close to the mainland is Pigeon Island, and the chance to experience a true desert island in the Indian Ocean. The beaches near the city of Trincomalee are said to be some of the cleanest and untouched in all of Sri Lanka. The waters are very calm, making it perfect for exploring the waters and the treasures hidden within. Close to the beach, you can find several upscale resorts as well as budget priced hostels.

If an old world, quaint and charming town by the beach paints a serene picture to you, Trincomalee is your vacation destination.

Things to Do

1. Whale Watching

Literally one of the best spots for whale watching in the world, Trincomalee is a must-visit if you are into whale watching. From May to October is the best time to see whales in the area – if you are lucky, you will also see dolphins in addition to Blue Whales and Sperm Whales.

  • Duration: More than 3 hours
  • Cost: Depends on the local operator or boatman.
  • Location: Trincomalee

2. Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

This beach town in Sri Lanka is the ideal place to enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling thanks to its mind blowing underwater landscape which is home to different types of coral reefs, reef fish, and turtles – it’s any diver’s dream come true. Learning to dive isn’t all that hard as there are many schools around town offering packages at various prices.

  • Duration: 3-6 hours
  • Cost: Price depends on the local operator or boatman – try contacting Nilaveli Diving Centre (Ward No.1, 9th Mile Post, At High Park Hotel, Nilaveli 31010, Sri Lanka | Open from 8am-6pm | http://www.nilavelidiving.com | +94 77 077 8597)
  • Location: Trincomalee

3. Fishing

Does fishing sound like the most relaxing thing you could do to escape the world? Well, it is a well-known fact that fishing trips in Trincomalee and Nilaveli are highly rewarding. You might end up getting a Marlin, Tuna, or even a Shark on your line. The fishing trip doesn’t cost much and can be arranged by the local boatman’s association. You can also hire a professional fishing guide on your own through local tour operators.

  • Duration: 3-6 hours
  • Cost: Price depends on the local operator or boatman.
  • Location: Trincomalee

4. Koneswaram Kovil

A Hindu religious pilgrimage destination, Koneswaram Kovil is one of the five magnificent temples built centuries back to honor Lord Shiva. Infinite myths and mysteries surround this holy land and it has huge Shiva statue. Take a look around to enjoy the most amazing vibes,  admire the deer and peacocks, and the joy of being in a place that has provided solace for pilgrims and worshippers for more than a hundred years. You cannot take pictures inside the temple.

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Location: Trincomalee

5. Trincomalee Harbour

Ranked the second largest natural harbor in the world, this port has shaped history in innumerable ways. Countries have fought for ownership of this harbor over the centuries and there have been many sea battles during the colonial era as the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the British tried to capture it too. The view from the harbor is breathtaking, with massive ships and endless seas to admire. There are ongoing plans to improve and develop the site for tourism and other leisure activities. 

  • Duration: Less than 1 hour
  • Location: Trincomalee

6. Kanniya Hot Springs

Definitely one of nature’s miracles, Kanniya Hot Springs has seven wells with infinite water spouting out of it, and shockingly, each well varies in temperature. Many a scientist and researcher has pondered over this and there has been no possible explanation yet. Furthermore, this is one of the holiest places for the Hindus in Sri Lanka and is believed that by cleansing yourself with the seven different water temperatures, you cleanse yourself of sins. Be warned that you cannot wear bathing suits here, and the site is not very clean and is not maintained very well.

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Cost for foreign visitors: Small entrance fee may apply.
  • Location: Kanniya, Trincomalee

7. Hoods Tower Museum

A museum of the Sri Lankan Navy, Hoods Tower Museum is a good old walk away from the beach. You can see the various weapons used by the Navy, take a short boat ride around Trinco, and enjoy the breathtaking view of the bay from the tower. The museum was named after the Commander of East Indies, Vice Admiral Sir Samuel Hook. Make sure to bring a driver with you, as the museum is located on a military base and you will need to take a car journey to reach it (you are not allowed to walk around the base). You must also get advance permission before visiting the venue – you will need your passport.

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Cost for foreign visitors: LKR1,200.
  • Location: Ostenburg, Trincomalee

8. Fort Frederick

Built by the Portuguese at first, Fort Frederick was later rebuilt by the Dutch. Old insignia crown the tunnel-like gateway within the fort’s massively and extremely stout walls. Today, it is used by the military. There are deer in the grounds, and the view fourth top is stunning. Trincomalee Beach is not far from here, so you can easily walk over or take a tuk tuk. .

  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Location: Trincomalee Town, Trincomalee

9. Trincomalee Beach

The peaceful, pristine waters and curvy shores of Trincomalee are simply gorgeous. It is surreal to look at the huge palm trees and feel the pleasant climate, some even say, that it gives them a true essence of how marvelous heaven can be.

  • Duration: 1-3 hours
  • Location: Trincomalee

Foodies Guide

Best Food Experiences

1. Dhal wade at The Wade Cart

We bet you can’t have enough of these chana dal wadas served piping hot with green chilies.

Of course, nothing can beat the homemade ones, but The Wade Cart is something you can trust with the yummiest dhal wadas in wide varieties. Choose your pick from the staples like wade, prawn wade, and sautéed chickpeas.

They also make chili wade for the spice lovers who like it fiery. And let us give you a bonus tip. Buy the wades at this stall and walk over to the harbor to watch the sunset. You can sit out on the now deserted Trinco-Mutur ferry pier and leisurely enjoy your wade as you watch passing boats and the setting sun. Perfect day, right?

2. Kottu

Ask anyone in Trinco and they’ll say their East coast Kottu is better than the ones in Hikkaduwa. Well, we clearly can’t choose the winner of the both so why not try both?

Order the Kottu at Swyree, which calls itself a Chinese restaurant but is special for the East coast Kottu. The kottu here is lighter and fluffier and it’s generally less leaden and filling. You don’t find much cheese in it unlike its Southern counterpart and it is a good thing for those who keep a health check. Also try the chicken kottu that comes loaded with spicy gravy.

3. Crab at Crab Seafood Restaurant

If you’re in Trincomalee, it would be an absolute pity to not relish on the crab and prawn dishes, at least once. Trincomalee is known for its signature crab dishes and almost every eatery here serve their own style of crab and other seafood dishes.

For the best experience of seafood when in Trinco, head to Crab Seafood Restaurant. Staying true to its name, this restaurant here swears by the Blu Supreme of Crab, which consists of crabs from the nearby Trincomalee bay, with northeast Sri Lankan spices, gravy and Jasmine rice with a chilled salad.

The setting outside on the beach in a little hut with wide vistas of green surrounding it give it a good ambiance. You can also try the prawns in Coconut Indian style and sum up your dinner with banana fritters for dessert.

Where to Eat

Apart from the honourable mentions above, the other options to eat when in Trincomalee are also fabulous and numerous. From local seafood to delectable international cuisine, everything is served to you at the highest rated diners of the place.

We have here few trusted places in both Trincmalee and Nilaveli that are budget or more expensive for you to get your grub on.

1. The Crab

Upuvali, Trincomalee | 026 2 222307 | www.cinnamonhotels.com/trincoblubycinnamon/dining/the-crab

Why go for a vacation by the coast if you don’t experience the beauty of dining by the beach? At The Crab, you can dig your toes into sand while you go on a gastronomical journey with their perfectly cooked, juicy dishes. Priding themselves on serving some of the best seafood in town, this place takes dining and luxury to the next level.

2. Café on the 18th

No. 18 Alles garden, Sarvodaya Rd, Trincomalee

Café on the 18th will take you to Europe right on the roads of Trincomalee. Their porridge and honey garlic shrimps are the most raved about dishes. For the health conscious eaters, they also serve vegan food and for a very reasonable price too.

Pizzas being their specialty, they pride themselves on serving the best in town. The unique taste and mouthwatering aroma makes the pizza worth every penny. Nero Kitchen offers a variety of vegetarian pizzas too. If you ever venture into Trincomalee, this should be on your list, because it’s just not something that should go untasted.

3. Rice ‘n’ Curry ($)

Sarvodaya Road, Alles Garden, Uppuveli, Trincomalee

One of the best restaurants in Trincomalee, this place is also vegetarian friendly and offers gluten free dishes. Famous for fried rice with seafood curry, this is a must try place if you want to experience authentic and delectable Sri Lankan food.

4. Anna Poorani Veg Restaurant ($)

Dockyard Road, Trincomalee

A reasonable priced dining place for all vegans, this place serves traditional Sri Lankan and South Indian food. Breakfasts here are a must have, with their idlis, pooris, and dosas. This is a cultural experience and a delicious restaurant.

Or check our complete list of best places to eat in Trincomalee and Nilaveli for more delicious options.

Where to Sleep

From the economical to the posh and panache, there are a myriad of options for you to choose from at this harbor town., as well as a wide range of options to stay on the exotic beaches. Listed below are some of the top hotels we scoured from the location:

1. Amaranthe Bay Resort

A tailor made luxurious resort to suit every price range, Amaranthe Bay Resort is the essence of luxury with stunning landscape and excellent service. Wake up to serenades of bird calls, the sounds of the ocean and let the feeling of paradise engulf you. Truly magical and luxurious to point, this will be a memorable vacation resting spot.

2. Trinco Blu by Cinnamon

They have gotten the retro theme down to perfection. Seated in the heart of Sri Lanka’s coastal towns, this place has a view that is every water baby’s dream to wake up to. The rattan furniture, bleached wooden decks, and denim trimmings take you back in time, while the luxury and comfort brings you back to modern times.

3. Sea Lotus Park Hotel

Wake up to miles of sun kissed beaches and golden sands in this hotel. Luxury and modern comfort fused with old age charm and Sri Lankan culture, this is the place to stay at if you want to complete your vacation with an amazing experience.

4. Pearl Oceanic Resort

This is a relatively new property in Trincomalee. You can enjoy sunny skies and the untouched beaches while you relax in the cool and serene waters at your stay in this piece of heaven.

5. Anantamma Resort

With excellent room service and great food at its restaurants, this hotel steals your heart without much ado. An ideal place for a holiday by the beach, this hotel lets you choose from a variety of rooms with the views making it all worth your while.

Shopping Guide

You can find a variety of textiles and other handiworks created by local artisans. There are also several types of teas that you can purchase that have been grown in the country. The decorative masks used by the country’s traditional performers are also available to buy. Be careful when buying items from gift and souvenir shops as they will be overpriced. You can barter down quoted prices, but we suggest you do so with politeness, and never feel pressured to buy.

When to Go

Best Time to Visit: From May to September the climate is enjoyable for outdoor attractions and beach activities.

Time to Avoid: From October to January is when the North-East Monsoon hits, and most outdoor water activities are reduced or cancelled.

Dress Code

Be respectful of local dress customs and modesty rules. When you are out and about, and away from the beach, make sure to cover your shoulders and knees (applies to both men and women). You also need to dress in this manner when visiting religious sites, and additionally you must remove your caps/hats/headcovers and footwear when entering temples and the like.

Getting-In and Around

You can take a taxi from Trincimalee to Nilaveli which will take about 20minutes. Or, you can arrange a local tuk-tuk at a cheaper price.

Colombo: The train to Trincomalee from Fort station takes about ten hours, but is very cheap. A bus journey will be fast and will take around 7 hours. Alternatively, the taxi takes around 5 to 6 hours.

Airport or Negombo: Take the bus or taxi to Colombo Fort Station from Negombo, and then take the train to Trincomalee. Or, you can take a taxi directly to Trincomalee which will take about five hours.

Galle: You can travel by train to Colombo Fort Station from Galle, and then take another train onwards to Trincomalee station or take the bus.

Kandy: There are direct buses but not frequently. Any time you can take a bus to Dambulla and catch another bus from there or take train to Polgahawela Station and then take the train onwards to Trincomalee station; make sure to get your seats reserved early. Alternatively, you can take a taxi to Trincomalee which will take about four hours.

Ella: The train to Trincomalee (with a transit in Polgahawela or Colombo Fort) will take almost a full day. Alternatively, you can take bus to Colombo from Bandarawela, and from there you can take the train or bus  to Trincomalee.

Dambulla: Taxi to Trincomalee will take about two hours, while a bus will take about three hours.

Budget

The accommodation options  at the cheaper end of the market are many, with rooms in guesthouses and small hotels varying in price from $10-70. For mid-priced hotel rooms you will be paying from $50 up to $100. When eating at local eateries you can get cheap dishes for as little as $5 to $10. Usually, seafood is priced higher; at some eateries across Sri Lanka you can get some of the freshest catch of the day with prices charged on the market weight of the seafood.

Traveler Quotes

“….. known to the world over for its beautiful soft white sand beaches which slope gently into clear shallow seas….., Nilaveli is one of the best beaches of the world.”

–Muhuthan Murugaiah

A quaint town by the beach that is bustling with activities and business from the beautiful, massive and highly important natural harbor, this is a vacation spot that is often overlooked, but should not be. Rich in history and full of hidden surprises, Trincomalee is a treat for anyone looking to have the picture perfect holiday. From fishing, bird watching, whale spotting, and dolphin chasing, to exploring old forts, walking through streets, playing in pristine sands, lazing on the beaches and swimming, you have so much to choose from to give you, your family and friends, a vacation to remember.