How to get to Trincomalee from Colombo
Most people begin their Sri Lankan adventure in Colombo as it is home to the international airport.
From here there are a variety of ways to get to Trincomalee.
- Bus: You can get bus route number 49 which is a tourist style bus that offers air conditioning, comfortable seating and snacks. It’s an overnight bus which leaves at 11pm and it takes around 6 hours. You can book your tickets here.
- Uber: Since you are starting in Colombo, the capital, you can make use of Uber. It should cost around LKR9,843-13,092 (40-60 pounds) with your luggage. Use Revolut to get the best exchange rates. If you have four people that works out around 12.50 (roughly) which isn’t a bad price for aircon and convenience. The journey will take almost 6 hours.
- Tuk-Tuk: You can do what we did and drive to Trincomalee in your very own Tuk-tuk. (you can get family sized tuk-tuks too if you’re a family with sass and adventure!). We rented ours for 4 weeks and it cost $18 a day and I highly recommend it as it gives you so much freedom and you get to meet lots of interesting people.
- Train: According to Sri Lankan railways, an overnight bus runs from Colombo Fort to Trincomalee which takes 15 hours and costs around 200 Sri Lankan rupee but this is crazy long.However, there are also semi-express night trains. I am not sure if they are shorter, but all the information is here.
You can book train travel in Sri Lanka online with 12Go Asia. Search and book here.
How long should I stay in Trincomalee?
Trincomalee is the sort of beach destination where you could easily spend a week or more.
It depends on what you want.
If you are on a holiday, then I would definitely recommend a minimum of a week.
But if you are seeing Trincomalee as part of a full island trip around Sri Lanka, then I would stay 3 or 4 nights.
We stayed 3 nights, but would have stayed longer if we had the time!
When is the best time to visit Trincomalee?
The best time to visit the east coast of Sri Lanka is May to September.
Bradley and I visited in September and it was beautiful.
Our whole route was planned on avoiding the different monsoon seasons the island has.
The monsoon season on the East coast is from October to January.
The best places to visit in Trincomalee
Now for the part, you came for, the best places to visit in Trincomalee as voted by me (and Bradley!)
1. Go Snorkelling at Pigeon Island
Pigeon Island is one of those picture-perfect places that everyone talks about.
As soon as you get to Trincomalee people will ask are you going to Pigeon Island (if you haven’t already heard about it before you get to Trincomalee)
It’s basically a famous snorkel spot on the East coast.
You have to get a boat to the island which is around 20 minutes and you pay an entrance to enter the Pigeon Island National Park.
All of the beaches arrange day trips to Pigeon Island so if you fancy going with an organised tour then simply pick one.
They are all priced fairly and it organised your transport and everything for you which takes away any fuss.
You’ll get to experience the sea life that inhabits the shallow waters just off Nilaveli.
Feast your eyes on colourful corals and sparkling fish.
If you’ve never snorkeled before or you simply love snorkelling then this is one of the great places to visit in Trincomalee.
Book: Check Klook
Opening Times: Tours typically leave in the morning.
2. Visit Fort Frederick
Built in the 1600s, Ford Frederick is a colonial fort that was built by the Portuguese.
It’s now used by the Sri Lankan Military but the public can go see it.
You might find lots of deer hidden there among other wildlife, and if you want to escape the shade, then this is the spot to head to.
Read Also: Brad's guide on what to do in Mullaitivu.
Opening Times: 6 am to 10 pm
3. Nilaveli Beach
This beach is often regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka.
This is a stretch of beach which is situated approximately 16 kilometres North of Trincomalee. It’s the starting point for Pigeon island but it's also the perfect spot for watersports, relaxing and just enjoying the sun.
There are a lot of big hotel resorts located in this area so it's a great place to be if you’re relaxing on holiday.
You can reach here via moped which are rented for cheap all over Trincomalee, or if you have your own tuk-tuk simply drive there!
Read Also: 50 incredible places to visit in Sri Lanka
4. Cocktails at Fernandos
This was actually a recommendation I found on another website and I am so glad I did because it is awesome.
It’s a fantastic bar situated right on the beach front and they offer delicious food, snacks and drinks. They even have a happy hour.
There are lots of areas to chill and lounge and even swings to sit on for dinner.
It’s the perfect place to catch the sunset and a great place to meet other travellers.
It also offers accommodation, and hobbit holes (which are super intriguing but no way would I stay in one).
I think this is a pretty good romantic spot in Sri Lanka, so take full advantage.
Also you can walk along the beach afterwards.
We found lots of cute puppies, and brought some dog food (from the shop) to feed them.
5. Learn to dive
There are ample opportunities to take your diving course and get certified in Trincomalee and for a great price.
We considered it, but we decided to wait until another time.
The cost works out at around $200 pounds which isn’t a bad price for a 3-day course which involves 3-4 dives.
Simply walk along the beach and call into one of the diving centres and ask for prices.
Read Also: The best things to do in Arugam Bay
6. Whale Watching
Trincomalee is famous for its whale watching and it’s got the opposite season for whale watching in the South Coast of Mirissa which means if you missed it there, you can find it here.
Again there are whale watching tours advertised all over the beach and for varying prices.
When we visited the season for whale watching was over, so I wouldn’t bother paying as there is a good chance you will be disappointed.
If it's a similar price to what it is in Mirissa then I would expect to pay around $20-30 depending on haggling skills and time of year. (March until August is the whale watching season in Trincomalee)
Alongside whales, you will probably see other marine life such as dolphins.
Book: Check GetYourGuide
Opening Times: Tours start in the morning.
7. Visit the unique Koneswaram Temple
Temples in Sri Lanka aren’t typically as grand as other temples throughout Asia, particularly Thailand and India.
However,this is truly one of the best places to visit in Trincomalee because it’s so beautiful and unique.
It’s an ancient temple to the Hindu god Shiva surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery.
If you only visit a few temples when backpacking Sri Lanka, then make this one of them.
It’s also known as the temple of 1000 pillars and it exudes exquisite detail which just adds to the beauty. If you arrive early you can catch a beautiful sunrise experience.
Ps, make sure you cover your shoulders out of respect.
Price: Free of Charge
Opening Times: 6am–1pm, 4–6:45pm
8. Enjoy a bay view at the Koneswaram Temple
Since this temple (mentioned just above) is located in a beautiful setting, you’re greeted with stunning bay views of the ocean.
This also makes for a romantic sunset spot. So don’t forget your camera.
Grab a picnic, and create a wonderful memory!
This is one of the low-cost things to do in Trincomalee, which is perfect if you’re on a backpacker budget.
Read Also: Our incredible 3 week Sri Lanka itinerary
9. Visit Pathirakali Amman Temple
Brilliant, bright and unique, this is a colourful temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Bhadrakali, a form of the goddess Kali Amman in Trincomalee.
It was built in the 11th century and it’s extremely photogenic and stunning.
It’s a really great place to visit in Trincomalee, and again there’s no entrance fee.
Ps, if you just rent a moped and drive through the city, or even just walk along the beach, you’ll come across other unique and colourful temples that don’t seem to make the list.
Every Hindu temple is quite unique and beautiful in its own right, so discover your own!
10. Visit the Trincomalee British War Cemetery
If you want to delve into the history of Trincomalee a little, then this is one of the unique places to visit in Trincomalee.
It’s a cemetery dedicated to soldiers of the British Empire who were killed or died during World war II.
It’s a really interesting spot and worth visiting, if you’re prepared to learn about the context and history behind it.
Opening Times: 7 am to 4 pm daily
11. Go beach hopping & work on your tan
There are lots of amazing beaches in Trincomalee that offer the opportunity for tanning and relaxing.
One popular beach that always pops up in the search engines is Marble beach.
Bradley and I didn’t get the chance to visit here but I’ve heard great things.
It’s regarded as one of the most beautiful stretches of beaches in Sri Lanka so it’s definitely one of the top places to visit in Trincomalee.
You can get there via moped or tuk-tuk ride.
Other beaches in Trincomalee for relaxing include Uppuveli Beach.
Lots of these beaches will offer water sports opportunities such as parasailing, or kayaking, maybe even bodyboarding.
They also all have beach shacks and food places nearby meaning there are lots of opportunities for pure relaxation.
You’ll often find lots of puppies and dogs on the beach when you can please feed them dog food/puppy food from the shops. It only costs 1 pound for a bag, and you can help them survive.
Also, puppies tend to have little ticks in them, so try and pull them out too.
Obviously wash your hands afterwards.
Remember: Trincomalee isn't really much of a Sri Lankan surf spot. But if that's what you're interested in, then check out this guide on surfing in Sri Lanka.
12. Visit one of the many seafood restaurants
Naturally since Trincomalee is a coastal town, they’re pretty famous for their delicious seafood cuisine on offer.
I don’t eat fish or seafood, but Bradley does and he got some amazing food!
Lobster for a fraction of the price you would pay at home, and delicious mussels and much more.
There are lots of restaurants to choose from and I suggest you simply walk down the main strip of town and see what’s on offer.
Visit a place that’s busy as that’s usually a sign that it’s a good place to eat, and you’ll lower your risk of getting food poisoning.
One of the essential things to do in Trincomalee if you’re a foodie.
Day trips from Trincomalee
1. Visit the cultural dream of Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura is one of the most interesting places in Sri Lanka, and it’s only a two hour drive from Trincomalee.
So if you’re visiting Trincomalee on holiday (which many people do), then a day trip to Anuradhapura is a great idea.
There are SO many UNESCO heritage sites to discover and you’ll be amazed by the history, temples and views on offer.
Read more: Awesome Places To Visit In Anuradhapura
2. Visit Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya is another amazing place to visit in Sri Lanka and again, it’s only a couple of hours drive from Trincomalee.
You should definitely make a day trip here to climb Sigiriya Rock.
It’s one of the most unique things to do in Sri Lanka, and actually probably one of my top Sri Lanka attractions in the whole country.
Where to stay in Trincomalee
There are lots of great accommodation choices in Trincomalee, so much so that we put together an awesome guide of the best hotels in Trincomalee.
But, Bradley and I stayed in a place called Pleasant Park.
It was cheap, clean, a 2-minute walk from the beach and offered excellent breakfast, staff, wifi and air con.
I would definitely recommend it.
Where is good to eat in Trincomalee
There is a whole range of brilliant restaurants to suit all budgets and cuisines.
Seafood is also a popular choice and I would simply wander down the street, or get a tuk-tuk and try different restaurants each night.
We can recommend the zebra restaurant opposite our accommodation. It was the cheapest food in Trincomalee and the kottu roti was AMAZING.
Kottu Roti is the “national dish" of Sri Lanka and it's cheap, tasty and I am craving some right now.
So there you have it, I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide on 12 perfect places to visit in Trincomalee.
If you’re planning on heading inland to visit the beautiful Sigiriya afterwards, then don’t forget to check out our guide on the best places to visit in Sigiriya.