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Trincomalee

Almost a 6 hour drive North East, lies the fabled town of Trincomalee (sometimes known as Gokanna) shrouded in a cascade of Hindu mythology. In addition to its mythological roots, the city is also encapsulated in a treasure trove of colonial and natural landscapes, with one of the largest fortresses on one side and stunning beaches populated by the largest mammal in the world on the other. Although small in size, the town tells a great story to everyone that even gets a glimpse of it.

Top Reason to Visit

The city’s strong roots to some of the main religions in the country, colonial influence, and the cerulean glow of the golden beaches thriving with marine life, namely the Blue Whale, makes it the top reason to visit the wonder of Trincomalee.

While You're There

Culture galore:

Trincomalee has been mentioned in the oldest chronicle of Sri Lankan history, ‘Mahavamsa’, thus showing the cultural significance of the city. During ancient times, Hindu and Buddhist traditions ran deep within the city’s society, and can still be seen today with the ancient monuments of the Koneswaram Temple (Temple of Thousand Pillars) and the Seruwawila Rajamaha Viharaya that has its origins as late as the 6th century BC.

Colonial backdrop:

Trincomalee’s geo - strategic location, with its natural harbor in the Indian Ocean attracted European colonizers to take advantage of the city. Fort Fredrick, considered to be one of the largest fortresses in the country is a testament to the colonial past of the city. The fortress’s command alone has changed hands 7 times among the European powerhouses of the 17th century, making it a whirlwind of colonial heritage that still exists in Sri Lanka.

Whale watcher’s vantage point:

The Koneswaram Temple’s Swami Rock, located inside Fort Fredrick, comes to life with many dolphin and whale watching enthusiasts crowding to witness the largest mammal in the world passing by. The months of February and November results in a flock of Blue whales passing by, due to the favourable climate. Occasionally you will also see some other whale species pass by too, such as the sperm whale. The relative ease in spotting the large mammal has made it one of the best land based observation points in the world to observe the behavior of marine life. Binoculars are definitely recommended here.

Golden beaches and an offshore national park:

Along with the city’s cultural and historical significance, the golden beaches, such as Marble Beach, Nilaveli Beach, and Uppuveli Beach have also been a major attraction, as these locations serve to be idyllic locations for major water sports activities. Snorkeling, and scuba diving have been some of the major water sport many partake in to witness a first - hand look of life below water. Moreover, the Nilaveli Beach serves to be the docking point for offshore excursions to the famous Pigeon Island National Park, sprawling with vast expanses of natural coral reefs and wildlife, further making it another major snorkeling destination in Sri Lanka.

An intriguing harbour:

Trincomalee’s natural harbour played a major role during the Second World War. The harbour was designated as the central naval base for the British Empire in South East Asia. Its looming threat to the Japanese Empire led to the subsequent bombing of the harbour by Mitsuo Fuchida (Architect of the Pearl Harbor bombings), and eventually sank the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes near the harbour. The harbour, although seemingly like any other major harbour in Sri Lanka, is filled with shipwrecks dating back to the earliest colonial times, making it a shipwreck diver’s dream come true.

Waters with therapeutic properties:

Just a few kilometres inland of the Trincomalee harbour lies the Kanniya Hot Springs, which date back to ancient times, and is even mentioned in the epic of ‘Ramayana’ (composed not before 300 BC). It is believed that the hot springs were formed as a result of King Ravana striking his sword on the earth with great force to perform the final rites for his mother, which led to several fountains springing in this area. Due to it being associated with great legend, it also believed to have therapeutic and healing properties.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about the city is not that difficult, since most significant places are quite closely placed. Should you wish to travel to the distant places, hiring a tuk-tuk is the best option, however, make sure you research on the distance of the location beforehand since you might have to haggle (If the drivers do not possess a metre).

Weather: February and November are considered to be the best months in which the weather is calm and sunny, while the other months do come with a few unpredictable showers.

Money: It is important to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s, since many of the shops do not accept credit and debit cards.

Clothing: Casual / light travel wear is best suited for travelling around the city, however, it is important to note that visiting a religious place of worship or monument requires you to cover your arms and legs, respecting the traditions.

Safety: Trincomalee is normally a very safe place, and does not get that crowded, however, it is best to keep constant tabs on your belongings during your trip just to be on the safe side.

Meals and refreshments: There are a handful of decent places to eat scattered about. Ranging from street food to the usual local establishments; you wouldn’t find it difficult to find what you are looking for here.

A land shrouded in a number of myths, history, culture, intriguing nature, and water sports, Trincomalee is just one of the major places to visit during your journey around the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

Title image by: Jehan Gamalathge
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