Are you looking for the best places to visit in Trincomalee? You’ve come to the right place!
Trincomalee is an amazing place to visit in Sri Lanka. Located on the northeast coast of the island, it’s less visited than many other areas of the country, making it a great destination for those looking to avoid the crowds.
I was originally only supposed to spend four nights in Trincomalee, but ended up extending my stay by more than a week because I liked it so much here! During this time, I explored the city and its surroundings extensively.
There are lots of interesting things to see and places to visit in and around Trincomalee. In this post, I’ll share with you some of my favourites.
🤩 Short on time? Check out this excellent private day tour of Trincomalee!
15 Best Places to Visit in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
From ancient Hindu temples and historical Colonial-era forts to pristine coral reefs, and some of the best beaches in the country, there’s a lot to discover in Trincomalee.
Here I’ll share some of my personal tips and recommendations to help you get the most out of your time in the city. So, if you’re keen to explore Trincomalee beyond the “standard” tourist sights, you’re in luck.
Koneswaram Temple is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It’s Trincomalee’s most famous temple and has a stunning cliff-top location.
Originally built in the 5th century BC, Koneswaram is one of the most important shrines to Shiva in all of Sri Lanka. Hindus believe it to be one of the Pancha Ishwaram (one of the five homes of Lord Shiva), hence its considerable significance.
The temple is guarded by several giant statues, including those of Shiva and other deities. It’s also known for its distinctive architecture and intricate carvings, both inside and out.
You can go inside the temple and experience a glimpse into the rituals of worship that have been performed at this holy place for centuries.
Services and prayers generally take place at:
- 6:30 am (morning prayers)
- 11:30 am (afternoon prayers)
- 4:30 pm (evening Puja)
When I was there, just before sunset, I was fortunate to witness the end of the daily Puja ceremony. If you can also time your visit to coincide with one of these, I’d highly recommend it.
It was a really special experience, and both the worshipers and the temple’s staff all seemed genuinely happy to welcome and share their traditions with me.
The temple’s clifftop coastal location adds to its charm, perched at the tip of a rocky headland, with sweeping views of the Bay of Trincomalee and the Indian Ocean. It’s an amazing sight, and especially magical at sunset.
This place is perfect for anyone wanting to experience a slice of history, culture spirituality, and nature all rolled into one.
Note: You need to take your shoes off and cover your legs and shoulders before approaching the temple. Look out for the sign and the guy manning a little security checkpoint who will look after your shoes for you.
Price: Free (donations are appreciated)
Opening times: 6 am–1 pm & 4–6:45 pm, Mon–Sun
🤩 This is an excellent Pigeon Island snorkelling trip
Swami Rock is an iconic landmark located right next to Koneswaram Temple. Situated at the top of a sacred cliff, the rock offers breathtaking panoramic views of Trincomalee.
It’s one of the most popular spots for catching the sunset. This is the time that I visited and it was truly spectacular.
Swami Rock is also a great place to spot whales from the shore, especially between the months of June and September. During these months, large numbers of whales (including the elusive blue whale) migrate past the coast of Trincomalee.
From this excellent vantage point, you can see a long way out to sea, making this an ideal (free) alternative to going on a whale-watching boat trip.
In fact, it’s one of the best places in the world (possibly the best place) to spot blue whales from the shore!
Sadly, I didn’t see any whales when I was there (in April), although the views are still amazing and definitely worth coming for alone.
It’s an awe-inspiring place and a perfect spot for meditation, or just sitting and enjoying the stunning views and tranquil, spiritual ambiance. Don’t miss it!
Note: Swami Rock is also the name of a popular dive site, which is located just at the base of the cliffs.
Opening times: Same as Koneswaram Temple, above (it’s located within the temple grounds)
Another famous place to see next to Koneswaram Temple, Lover’s Leap is also worth checking out. It’s technically part of Swami Rock, but is a particularly noteworthy place which is why I gave it its own section here.
There are a few different stories as to why Lover’s Leap got its name.
According to one, a Dutch noblewoman was engaged to a naval officer who broke off their engagement and returned to Europe. The woman then flung herself into the sea in anguish.
Another legend says that a Dutch sailor fell deeply in love with a local girl, but their relationship was doomed never to be, so he threw himself off this cliff in despair. (Notice a theme here?)
Either way, this is another fantastic spot for sweeping views of the ocean and along the north-east coast of Sri Lanka.
Look down to the pristine waters of the bay and the unusual rock formations. Keep your eyes peeled for whales and dolphins too!
Opening times: Same as Koneswaram Temple, above (it’s located within the temple grounds)
Location: Lover’s Leap, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Fort Frederick is another must-visit destination in Trincomalee for anyone interested in history and/or great views. (That’s everyone, right?)
Built by the Portuguese in 1623, the fort’s well-preserved battlements and other fortifications are still in use by the Sri Lankan military today.
This historic fort offers amazing panoramic views of Trincomalee city and bay. It also guards the entrance to the peninsula that leads up to Koneswaram Temple and Swami Rock, making it easy to combine with a visit to those places.
I particularly liked the entrance to the fort. It’s an atmospheric stone gateway carved into the thick walls surrounding the fort and is the only way in or out.
I drove my tuk-tuk straight through it – it was cool! Although, it’s easy to see how well-defended this place is and how hard it must’ve been to break in uninvited…
Technically, Koneswaram Temple lies within the perimeters of the fort. This is a fact that causes a certain amount of tension to this day. As is the fact that the colonizers destroyed several temples in the area during their occupation.
That said, it’s totally fine to explore, provided you respect the signs and don’t try to go anywhere that’s marked off-limits. It is an active military base after all.
Keep an eye out for spotted deer, I saw loads of them all around the fort.
Opening times: 6 am–10 pm, Mon–Sun
Location: Fort Frederick, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Maritime and Naval History Museum
The Trincomalee Maritime and Naval History Museum is another treasure trove perfect for history buffs and anyone interested in the navy or seafaring in general.
It houses an impressive collection of artifacts, displays, memorabilia, and models that paint an engaging picture of Trincomalee’s naval history.
Spanning from the colonial past to the modern-day, this place is full of fascinating stories and information. You’ll be able to learn about important naval battles and other significant events, as well as how ships have evolved over time.
The museum itself is housed inside (and around the grounds of) a 17th-century Dutch commissioner’s residence near the historic Naval Dockyards.
Whatever your interest in maritime history, it’s an interesting place to spend an hour or so.
Opening times: 9 am–4 pm, Weds–Mon (closed Tuesdays)
Location: Lavender Ln, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Nilaveli Beach is where I chose to base myself when I stayed in Trincomalee. It’s located about 13 kilometres north of the main city centre and is essentially an outer suburb of Trincomalee.
However, it’s a gorgeous beach – one of my favourite in the whole country – and a wonderfully peaceful, unspoiled place. It’s ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and just relaxing in your own slice of tropical paradise.
The soft white sand and clear turquoise waters make this beach incredibly picturesque and photogenic. The sea is warm, shallow, and safe to swim in, unlike lots of beaches in Sri Lanka which have powerful currents.
Like most beaches in northeast Sri Lanka, you can’t surf here. But it’s a great place for swimming and snorkelling.
If you’re a certified scuba diver, check out this great guided scuba diving trip from Nilaveli.
For those looking to get a PADI qualification, this is a highly-reviewed PADI course (also in Nilaveli).
One amazing insider tip I got from the guys at my hotel was to visit this lake. It’s absolutely full of crocodiles and you often see locals coming here to feed them bits of old meat. (Presumably to stop the crocs from killing their livestock…?)
Where to stay in Nilaveli
If you do want to stay in Nilaveli, I can highly recommend NN Beach Resort.
This is where I stayed – it’s excellent value for money and has a private stretch of beach, a huge pool, extensive grounds, beautiful gardens, comfy rooms, and fantastic staff.
The food is awesome too and they’ll even do a BBQ on the beach if you ask!
It’s a great place to relax and recharge and also an excellent base while you’re visiting Trincomalee.
You would ideally have your own transport as it’s relatively far from the main city, although you can always take a tuk-tuk if not.
Location: Nilaveli Beach, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Uppuveli Beach is another great beach in the area. It’s much closer to the main city of Trincomalee and has more going on compared with Nilaveli.
I spent time in both places and each one has its pros and cons. I think the actual beach at Nilavali is nicer, cleaner, more peaceful, and unspoiled. However, Uppuveli has far more restaurants and places to stay.
If you’re travelling on a tight budget, Uppuvali also has a greater range of backpacker-style accommodation and cheap guesthouses. It’s also much closer to the city so you’ll probably save money on transport costs too.
There are plenty of opportunities for water sports and other activities at Uppuveli, including snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, and boat trips.
Also, if you’re looking for a place with more of a party vibe, I’d recommend staying in Uppuveli as Nilaveli is pretty quiet at night. It just depends on the vibe you’re after.
Finally, if you’re looking for some amazing local food, Eastern Lanka Seafood Restaurant is my favourite restaurant in Uppuveli.
It’s owned by a lovely family, the food is delicious, and it’s extremely good value for money. I came back to this place twice, it was that good!
Location: Uppuveli, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Pigeon Island National Park
Pigeon Island is famous for being one of the best places in Sri Lanka for snorkelling and diving.
It’s a protected marine reserve with vibrant coral reefs and a huge abundance of marine life, including colourful tropical fish, turtles, and a range of other aquatic wonders.
It’s also one of the best places in the world to snorkel with black-tipped reef sharks.
This is an amazing experience and a real privilege to see these beautiful animals in their natural environment. They’re curious but safe to swim with.
However, be aware that the Sri Lankan government has recently increased the park entry fee quite significantly. You’ll also need to pay someone to take you there on a boat.
When I was there earlier this year, it cost $30 USD per person for the national park entry permit, plus an additional $30 USD to get there and back. The total trip lasted about 3 hours and included snorkeling equipment.
So, if you’re travelling as a couple, that’s $90 USD for the experience.
It’s not cheap, but if you’ve always wanted to snorkel with sharks (plus turtles and lots of colourful tropical fish), it might still be worth it.
However, I think the main disadvantage of visiting Pigeon Island National Park is that lots of the coral here have been bleached and damaged. This is largely due to careless visitors.
Some boat operators and guides also encourage people to visit areas of the island that are supposed to be off-limits.
If you do visit this place, please be very careful and make sure you don’t tread on or otherwise touch any coral.
There are lots of different operators offering trips to Pigeon Island. It’s one of the most popular places to visit near Trincomalee, so is pretty easy to organize.
🤩 This is an excellent Pigeon Island snorkelling trip
If you’re looking for a quieter, less-visited alternative to Pigeon Island, I can highly recommend Coral Island.
It’s another tiny island located quite close to Pigeon Island. However, unlike its popular neighbour, this place is still relatively unknown.
The corals here are vibrant and alive. In fact, I’ve never seen such an incredible range of different live corals as here.
There are countless different types, in all shapes, sizes, and colours – it’s really spectacular.
There’s also a huge amount of marine life to explore, although your chances of spotting sharks are lower here compared with Pigeon Island. Even so, I much preferred Coral Island for its unspoiled natural beauty and breathtaking corals.
Despite not seeing any sharks, I did see a lionfish (the only time I’ve ever seen one!), a turtle, two giant moray eels, and thousands of other colourful tropical fish – more varieties than I can remember!
When I visited Coral Island, my partner and I were the only people there, other than the boat guy. We were out for several hours and didn’t see a single other person!
Finally, Coral Island is much cheaper to visit than Pigeon Island, largely because you don’t need to pay the government national park fees. We paid the equivalent of $40 USD for a 4-hour trip.
It’s a little trickier to arrange a trip to Coral Island, which is one of the reasons why it’s remained so unspoiled. It’s definitely worth it though, this place is amazing.
If you have your own transport, head over to Irrakkakandi Bridge. Underneath the bridge (on the Trincomalee side) you’ll usually find a few boat operators that you can speak with and arrange your own private trip.
Alternatively, I have the number of the nice guy that I found here who owns a boat and can take you to Coral Island. Just send me a message if you want his number.
Price: $40 USD for 2 people
Marble Beach is another one of Trincomalee’s best beaches. It’s located just south of the city, on Koddiyar Bay.
Marble Beach is famous for its marble-like sand and clear, calm waters. It’s a very clean beach, surrounded by lush greenery.
Due to its location, the waters here are quite sheltered, making it an ideal place for bathing and swimming. Lifeguards are on duty here too so it’s perfectly safe to enjoy being in the water.
Marble Beach is quite a popular spot with locals, especially at weekends and on holidays.
The atmosphere is friendly and laid-back and there’s a decent range of facilities including public toilets, a volleyball court, and a little cafe where you can buy snacks and drinks.
Location: Marble Beach, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Coral Cove Beach
Coral Cove is another beautiful, secluded beach just south of Trincomalee. It’s closer to the city than Marble Beach but is still very clean and unspoiled.
Coral Cove is one of the best places for snorkelling in the area without needing to go on a boat trip.
Just beyond the beach, you’ll find an underwater wonderland of vibrant coral formations, exotic fish, and other marine life waiting to be discovered.
There aren’t any facilities here, making this a great spot for those who prefer their beaches wild and more natural. It’s also usually a lot quieter than many other beaches near Trincomalee.
However, the catch is that you need to seek the permission of the Sri Lankan Navy before visiting this beach, as it lies inside a military-protected area.
Ask the guards stationed at the checkpoint here.
Sometimes they’re happy to issue foreigners with this permission, sometimes they aren’t. It’s pretty unhelpful and there doesn’t seem to be any information or clear policy about it.
As far as I can tell, it’s up to whoever’s on duty at the time. If you’re lucky, they’ll let you through.
However, if you’re short on time and want the hassle-free option, my advice is to visit Coral Island instead. That way, you avoid the bureaucracy and don’t run the risk of being turned away.
Location: Coral Cove Beach, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Velgam Vehera Temple
Velgam Vehera is an ancient and significant Buddhist temple located just northwest of Trincomalee.
The temple complex is more than 2,000 years old. It’s partially ruined and was damaged further during the Civil War, although parts of it are still used today.
Here you’ll find a series of impressive stone sculptures depicting the life stories of the Buddha and other deities.
The grounds also contain a number of shrines and other unique ruins, including lodgings for monks and meditation caves carved into the rock.
There’s also a large stupa that’s said to contain one of Buddha’s relics. It’s very atmospheric and a great place to explore.
Getting to Velgam Vehera is much easier if you have your own transport. Alternatively, you could take a tuk-tuk, although be sure to ask the driver to wait for you to avoid the risk of being stranded there!
Price: Donations appreciated
Opening times: 6 am–6 pm, Mon–Fri
Location: Velgam Vehera, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Shri Badrakali Amman Hindu Temple
Shri Badrakali Amman is a Hindu temple in Trincomalee dedicated to the goddess Kali.
I was really blown away by the architecture and exquisite carvings, both on the inside and outside of this amazing temple.
It’s a riot of colours, with thousands of statues and intricate carvings everywhere you look. The interior is a grand display of Tamil culture and religious artistry, with statues and paintings lining the walls.
As well as being a visual feast, Shri Badrakali Amman offers a deep dive into the spiritual heart of Sri Lanka’s Hindu community.
The atmosphere is one of reverence and communal spirituality, as people from all walks of life come to worship and find solace. It’s an important pilgrimage site for Sri Lankan Hindus and regularly hosts vibrant religious ceremonies.
For many Hindus, the primary objective of visiting Pathirakali Amman Temple is to connect with the divine goddess Kali and seek her blessings.
Visitors are welcomed warmly and can take part in pujas (prayers) and other spiritual activities alongside the devotees. It’s a beautiful experience and a great insight into the lives of the local Hindu community.
You’ll probably see people breaking coconuts as a ritual offering, a practice that adds a dynamic energy to the place.
I found the people here to be very keen to share the history of this sacred temple, as well as involve you in the sacred rituals that have been performed here for centuries.
Whatever your faith, the temple is a wonderful place with a serene environment that’s perfect for calming your mind and reflecting on things that are important to you.
Price: Donations appreciated
Location: 24 New Moor St, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Whale and Dolphin Watching in Trincomalee Bay
Trincomalee is one of the best places in the world to spot blue whales. So, it’s hardly surprising that doing a whale and dolphin-watching boat trip is one of the most popular things to do in Trincomalee.
Led by experienced guides with extensive knowledge of the area, these tours are a great way to witness the incredible marine biodiversity of the region.
On your boat tour, you’ll have the opportunity to spot blue whales, sperm whales, dolphins, turtles, and other marine animals in their natural habitat. It’s a truly unforgettable experience.
The majority of tourists to Sri Lanka head down to the south coast for whale watching in Mirissa. Sadly, this often results in the whales being crowded and disturbed by tour boats.
However, because fewer tourists make it up to Trincomalee, this means that there are fewer boats, which is much better for the whales. It’s also a much nicer experience for people too.
So, if you’re looking for an ethical whale-watching trip in Sri Lanka, I highly recommend doing it in Trincomalee.
Blue whale sightings are most common between June and September. Outside of these months, you’ve got a good chance of seeing other species of whales and dolphins.
Trincomalee whale-watching trips tend to cost between $60–80 USD per person. Despite being a little pricey, this is still much cheaper than equivalent tours in most other places in the world.
🤩 Check out this dolphin and whale-watching trip from Trincomalee!
Price: $60–80 USD per person
Kanniya Hot Springs
Kanniya Hot Springs, located a few kilometres northwest of Trincomalee is one of the most famous natural hot springs in Sri Lanka.
The site is steeped in legend and history and forms part of an archaeological area with a number of ancient Buddhist ruins.
The hot, mineral-rich waters of these springs are believed to have various healing properties. According to local legend, these springs are linked to the mythical King Ravana and have been in use since ancient times.
There are 7 main hot-water wells of varying temperatures, and you can move from one to another until you find the ideal temperature for you.
Kanniya Hot Springs may not have the luxurious trappings of a modern spa. But, I love how natural and simple everything is here. It’s a really relaxing and therapeutic experience in lush, tranquil surroundings.
Price: 100 LKR ($0.30 USD) for foreigners; 50 LKR for locals.
Opening times: 7 am–7 pm, Mon–Fri; 6 am–7 pm, Sat–Sun
How to Get to Trincomalee
Trincomalee is a major city and is well-served by public transport.
You can get to Trincomalee by train or bus from Colombo and various other major towns and cities. Both options are cheap and the views are fantastic out the window.
Buses are slightly cheaper and more frequent but are often more cramped and uncomfortable. Personally, I’d take the train if you can.
Alternatively, you could always take a taxi (or a tuk-tuk) to Trincomalee.
Or, hire a private car with a driver who can also be your guide. This might be the easiest option, but is almost certainly going to be the most expensive one too. It all depends on your budget and preferences.
Another option is to hire your own tuk-tuk and drive yourself there. That’s what I did – it was awesome!
Having your own wheels gives you ultimate flexibility and means you can explore wherever you want, and entirely at your own pace.
(Stay posted – I’ll be publishing a guide to how to rent a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka soon…)
Where to Stay in Trincomalee
There’s no shortage of great places to stay in Trincomalee.
You’ll find a range of options to suit every budget, from cheap backpacker-style accommodation and simple guesthouses all the way up to luxurious beach-front resorts.
When I visited Trincomalee, I stayed at NN Beach Resort. This is a superb mid-range hotel located on beautiful Nilaveli Beach.
I’d highly recommend staying here as long as you don’t mind being a little further from the city.
If you’d prefer to be closer to all the action, check out Uppuveli, which is much closer to the centre of Trincomalee. The places I’d recommend staying here are:
- Budget: Lobster Inn / Blue Wings Beach Hotel
- Mid-range: Blue Sand Beach Resort
- High-end/Luxury: MRD Beach Hotel
These all have excellent reviews and come well recommended.
No matter where you decide to stay in Trincomalee, I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time there.
FAQs About the Best Things to Do in Trincomalee
Here are some frequently asked questions about visiting Trincomalee.
Is Trincomalee worth a visit?
Trincomalee is definitely worth visiting for its incredible beaches, historic temples, and natural hot springs. It’s one of my favourite cities in Sri Lanka.
What is Trincomalee famous for?
Trincomalee is famous for its huge natural harbour, colourful temples, historic forts, beautiful beaches, and vibrant marine life.
How many days should I spend in Trincomalee?
I recommend spending at least 3 nights in Trincomalee to get the most out of your time there. Of course, if you have more time, this is even better. I spent over a week here and loved it.
How long is the train from Colombo to Trincomalee?
The train journey from Colombo to Trincomalee typically takes around 8 hours.
What is the best time to visit Trincomalee, Sri Lanka?
The best time to visit Trincomalee is from May to September. In these months, the weather should be dry and best suited for sightseeing and spending time on the beach.
What happened at the Battle of Trincomalee?
The Battle of Trincomalee was a naval engagement in 1782 between the British and French navies. The British fleet won and repelled the French to retain control over Trincomalee harbour.
🤩 This 10-day tour of Sri Lanka includes Trincomalee and lots of other great destinations!
Final Thoughts on What to Do in Trincomalee
Trincomalee is one of my favourite cities in Sri Lanka. As well as being a little more off-the-beaten-track than many destinations in the south of the country, it also has several incredible beaches that are perfect for relaxing and unwinding in the sun.
Add to this a wealth of interesting cultural and historical sights, great food, and some of the best snorkelling and diving in the country, and you have a dream destination just waiting to be enjoyed.
It’s also a great base for exploring even more undiscovered parts of northeastern Sri Lanka.
Whether you’re looking to explore, relax, or do a bit of both, this corner of the country has a huge amount to offer. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!