Sun umbrellas and boats on the shores of Trincomalee, the enchanting town of beautiful Sri Lanka!
Sun umbrellas and boats on the shores of Trincomalee, the enchanting town of beautiful Sri Lanka!

Sri Lanka is a striking island with plenty to offer to the entire world. Thus, this island is indeed a major tourist attraction, and it is at all times eager to welcome tourists. However, among many amazing cities within the country, Trincomalee, also famous as Trinco, happens to be a major highlight. It is a vibrant city by the sea, and is one of the most beautiful locations on the island that never fails to amuse and attract any. Thus, we thought of exploring the splendours of this delightful city through this read! Excited, isn’t it? Here we go!

The Significance of this Beautiful Town!

This small town of Trincomalee includes diversity, culture, and religion. Moreover, in Trincomalee, there is a whole range of natural and cultural attractions perfect for exploration. Moreover, wildlife, hilltops, and rock formations surround the town. With all these, Trinco creates a wonderful place that anyone is bound to fall in love with.

Also, perched on the East coast of Sri Lanka, Trincomalee holds one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world. The town is branded best for relaxed walks on the long, sandy, and perfect beaches. Yes, the town has one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. The popular Nilaveli and Uppuveli beaches include priceless elements associated with pristine white sands and sparkling sapphire waters. Moreover, scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, fishing, and whale watching are a few of the water sports available in these clear waters.

Moreover, this town is indeed a remarkable destination rich in picturesque scenery and proud history. Of course, it is such a wonderful destination, with a bunch of delights. A walk through the below sections will certainly prove the amusement of this city to you in detail!

Geographical and Climatic Features of Trincomalee

Also known as Gokanna or Gokarna, Trincomalee is located 237 kilometres or 147 miles to its north-east of Colombo, 182 kilometres or 113 miles to its south-east of Jaffna, and 111 kilometres or 69 miles to its north of Batticaloa, facing the Trincomalee Harbour. The city holds an area of 2,727 square kilometres.

Furthermore, according to the Köppen climate classification, Trincomalee has a tropical wet and dry climate. From March to June, the city experiences a dry season. Further, it is followed by a rainy season for the rest of the year. The city receives around 1,570 millimeters (62 in) of rainfall on an annual basis. Trincomalee’s average temperatures range around 26 °C (79 °F) in December and January, and around 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer months of April through September.

Moreover, Trincomalee has 13 local authorities out of which two are Urban Councils and the remaining 11 are Divisional Councils namely as Pradesh Sabhai or Pradeshiya Sabha. Divisional Secretary, previously known as an Assistant Government Agent, leads each of the 11 Divisional Secretary’s Divisions (DS Divisions) in Trincomalee District. Besides, there are 230 Grama Niladhari Divisions within the Divisional Secretary’s Divisions (GN Divisions). Furthermore, according to the District Statistics Branch’s 2019 estimate, the total population of Trincomalee is 426,182. Besides, for over two centuries, Trincomalee has been one of the major hubs of Sri Lankan Tamil language speakers and Hindu culture on the island.

Ancient Trincomalee

Trincomalee, previously termed as Gokanna, is a town and port on Sri Lanka’s north-eastern coast. To be specific, it is on a peninsula in Trincomalee Bay. Formerly recognized as Koddiyar Bay, means “Fort by the river” is one of the world’s finest natural harbors. The size and security of the harbor act as the key reason for its fame. Being different from other harbors in the Indian Ocean, it is open to all craft in all weathers. According to the British, it’s called the “finest harbor in the world”. Also, it is famous as the ‘most important colonial possession on the globe.

Trincomalee’s documented history dates back over two and a half thousand years. To be specific, it starts with a pre-modern civilian settlement affiliated with the Koneswaram temple. Also, Trincomalee holds a special place in the history of Sri Lanka, especially as a highlight that impacted the colonization on the island. It acted as a major maritime seaport in the island’s foreign trade history with South East Asia.

Along with the Portuguese invasion of the Jaffna kingdom, Trincomalee transformed into a fortified port town. This was visible after passing through the hands of the Danish in 1620, after a battle during the American Revolutionary War, and the British in 1795 before being absorbed into the British Ceylon state in 1815. And yes, the architecture of the city exemplifies some of the finest examples of native Euro contact.

The Influence of Foreign Nations on Trincomalee

Since ancient times, the natural deep-water harbour of Trincomalee has attracted seafarers, traders, and tourists from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, East Asia, and Australasia. However, the consideration of Trincomalee as a seaport and Hindu pilgrimage centre started in 400 BCE. Trincomalee was a significant settlement of Indo-Aryan immigrants in the earlier years. The Temple of a Thousand Columns, which is also known as, Koneswaram Temple, is a Hindu temple found at the tip of the peninsula that dates back to the 7th century or earlier.

In addition, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to settle in the town in the 17th century. However, they tore down the temple and used its stone to build a fort. The harbor of the port passed through the control of the Dutch, French, and British several times. Finally, it was permanently taken over by the British in 1795. Trincomalee’s significance as a major British base grew after the Japanese drove the British out of Singapore during World War II and the Japanese attacked the town in 1942.

Before World War II, the British constructed a huge airfield called RAF China Bay to house their RAF base as well as fuel storage and support facilities for the British fleets. Trincomalee became the homeport of the Royal Navy’s Eastern Fleet and Dutch Navy submarines after the fall of Singapore. In April 1942, a carrier fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy invaded Trincomalee harbor and airfield as part of the war’s Indian Ocean Raid. However, in 1944 and 1945, the base was a significant launching point for British naval operations. 

The Present Condition of the Foreign Constructions

The Sri Lankan Army currently controls Fort Frederick, which was once a British stronghold. Some of the fort’s old houses, including the one, once owned by the Duke of Wellington, are converted into residences. The British government constructed groups of bungalows inside the fort primarily for their workers in the early 1950s. Moreover, after Sri Lanka’s independence, the British retained control of the harbor until 1957. A massive Naval Hospital served British naval personnel from all over the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf who were sick or wounded. The Sri Lankan Army currently uses these bungalows as a base of operations.

Interesting Tales from the Past of Trincomalee

Indeed, the town is rich with historical tales!

The town grew out of a small village on a rocky outcropping devoted to a Hindu shrine. The words Ko, Kone, and Konatha come from the Old Tamil word for “Lord,” “King,” or “Chief,” all of which refer to the god who rules here. Moreover, this term occurs in many Tamil Brahmi inscriptions from the 6th century BCE to the 2nd century CE. Trincomalee, the maritime peninsula town where Koneswaram situates, is an anglicized version of the old Tamil word “Thiru-kona-malai”, which means “Lord of the Sacred Hill,” and first appears in this form in Sambandhar’s Tevaram from the 7th century.

In Old Tamil, Kona had other meanings, such as top, and another root for the word Koneswaram may be the Tamil term Kuna (East). As a result, other translators propose terms like “sacred angular/peaked hill,” “sacred eastern hill,” or “three-peaked hill” to describe Trincomalee. 

English writers and poets used Trincomalee as an inspiration for literature and poetry at the turn of the twentieth century, and the city became linked to them. Arthur C. Clarke, who found the temple’s underwater ruins with photographer Mike Wilson, wrote 2001; A Space Odyssey based on the ruins of Reefs of Taprobane and about the city on his encounters there. The Bhadrakali Amman temple in Trincomalee features in Wilbur Smith’s novel Birds of Prey. The city appears in many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels, including ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ and ‘A Singular Affair at Trincomalee’. Also, the burial of Jane Austen’s younger brother, British Royal Navy Captain Charles Austen, took place in Trincomalee.

Post the Declaration of Independence

Certainly, Trincomalee has a case of emerging interest because of its geostrategic location and the finding of underwater and land ruins of Hinduism. In 1950, the Urban Council of Trincomalee discovered one of the original shrines of gold and copper alloy bronze statues of Hindu ruins. 

On 3rd March 1963, the statues exhibited in a parade across the area before the reinstallation of them, during the opening ceremony in one of the compound’s newly restored shrines. Additionally, Sri Lanka took over the naval and air bases in 1957. Following Britain’s independence, the political relationship between Tamils and Sinhalese on the island weakened.

The United National Party, led by Sinhalese, and the ITAK Federal Party, led by Tamils, collapsed in 1968 over disputes over making the holy Hindu site a protected area. The Prime Minister at the time, Dudley Senanayake, removed a committee appointed by a Federal Party Minister to examine the feasibility of declaring the site safe. Following that action, the Federal Party withheld its support for the government. However, according to journalists like T. Sabaratnam, this event, along with the contributing factors of the civil war, had severe consequences. The following 30-year civil war had a major impact on the city and its district. Besides, Trincomalee was a focal point for relief efforts on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

Places to Visit in Trincomalee

The island of Trincomalee is more beautiful as it bustles with local life. To be specific, Trincomalee offers a variety of activities and sights to see such as white sands, birds, and rock formations. And why not? One can even experience an afternoon snorkeling at Pigeon Island, relax in a hammock, and watch the sunset from one of the many laid-back bars that line the beach. Precisely, the small town has several fascinating places and places of historic significance. The following list will surely prove to you these facts.

  1. Trincomalee Harbour
  2. Koneswaram Temple
  3. Dutch Fort
  4. Oil Dept
  5. Sri Pathrakali Amman Kovil
  6. Fort Frederick
  7. Nilaveli Beach
  8. Marble Beach
  9. Whale Watching
  10. Pigeon Island
  11. Hotsprings
  12. Trincomalee War Cemetery

Excited to know more about these places? We are sure you are! Simply check the sections below, and you will surely plan your next trip to Trinco!

1. Trincomalee Harbour

The strategic importance of Trincomalee has influenced its recent history. Indeed, great European powers competed to gain control of the port. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the French have guarded it, and there have been many sea battles around. The Trincomalee harbor; the world’s fifth-largest natural harbor, surrounded by terraced highlands, has two headlands guarding its entry, and a carriage road running around its northern and eastern edges. Trincomalee’s position, in a less developed and lightly populated area, has hindered the city’s growth in the past. Nonetheless, plans to build Trincomalee as a commercial seaport are in the process.

2. Koneswaram Temple

The temple is on a spectacular cliff that plunges into the sea. The colourful Koneswaram temple, a classical-medieval complex in the Eastern Province city of Trincomalee, sits high above the bay, surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery. One can enjoy a coconut with a view of the entire Trincomalee bay from this spot.  The place is a religious pilgrimage site and one of the five “Pancha Ishwarams” (abodes of Shiva) founded in Sri Lanka’s coastal regions to honour Hinduism’s supreme god.

In Hindu cosmology, the temple is a tribute to Shiva, the god of destruction. The temple’s entrance, guarded by an ornate and colourful Gopuram (monumental tower), reflects the opulent South Indian architectural styles seen in many Hindu temples around the world. With a recorded history dating back to the 3rd century BCE and legends referring to ancient times, the Koneswaram temple drew pilgrims from all over India. Furthermore, the shrine was destroyed in 1622 by the Portuguese; who dubbed it the Temple of a Thousand Columns and who used the materials from its destruction to fortify the heights.

The stone inscription by Kulakottan was among the objects from the demolished temple housed in the Lisbon Museum (Kunakottan). The ruins at the site include an icon with two fish and a prophecy that states that after the 16th century, western people with different eye colors will rule the country for 500 years, after which power will return to the people in the north. Several medieval texts, including the Konesar Kalvettu and the Dakshina Kailasa Puranam, mention the Hindu temple. 

3. The Dutch Fort

The entrance to the road that leads to Koneswaram is the entrance to Fort Frederick. The Portuguese constructed the fort in 1623, but the Dutch captured it in 1639. They tore it down to pieces and then reconstructed and was attacked and captured by the French in 1672.

4. Oil depot

India and Sri Lanka agreed in 2015 to construct the largest oil depot in South Asia at a port near Trincomalee. The Indian Oil Corporation in collaboration with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation will establish the Upper Tank Farm at the abandoned World War II port known as China Bay.

5. Sri Pathrakali Amman Kovil

This vibrantly colored Hindu temple is conveniently located in the heart of town. This is also famous as the Kali Kovil, and it is dedicated to Goddess Bhadrakali. The Kovil is located just beyond the Konesar Road Esplanade, before the entrance to Konamamalai, with built-in classical Dravidian architecture (Swami Rock). Both ancient temples, which are next to the ancient Koneswaram temple, host functions during the Thiruvillah Festival procession and the Back Bay Sea Festival (Theertham Karatkarai).

6. Fort Frederik

The Portuguese found Fort Frederik in the 16th century. Currently used by the Sri Lankan military, the place is open to the public as well. Since trees mostly surround the fort, the heat of the day can be less and many deer are visible. This triangular fort named Fort ‘Triquillimale’, originally found by the Portuguese, reconstructed by the Dutch, gave a new name as ‘Fort Frederick’. It is currently a detachment of the Sri Lankan Army’s Gajaba Regiment. Fort Frederick is now a historic monument that commemorates another chapter in Sri Lanka’s colonial history.

7. Nilaveli Beach

It is in Nilaveli, a coastal town about 16 kilometres north of Trincomalee. Also, Nilaveli Beach is a lovely white sand beach, on which one can simply relax for the day, with its waves’ great for surfing, swimming, and snorkelling. The popular Pigeon Island is located about 2 kilometres out to sea, and the Red Rock Beach is located further north. Also, with its diverse plants, reef fish, and corals, Nilaveli is a biodiversity hotspot. Coconut palm groves and cattle abound in the region. Trincomalee’s residents are mainly Hindus who regard cows as sacred. Nilaveli Beach is a scenic beach on this island, and it draws a large number of visitors and locals during the year due to its golden sand and clear water.

8. Marble Beach

Marble Beach is a lovely and clean beach in Trincomalee’s Kinniya Lane. The sea is ideal for swimming, and the pristine sandy beach is perfect for relaxing. The Sri Lanka Air Force manages the popular Marble Beach Air Force Resort established there. Marble Beach, also referred to as Marble Bay Beach, is one of Sri Lanka’s most great beaches.

9. Whale Watching in Trinco

Whale-watching is a common activity in Trincomalee, with the best months to visit being March to August. One could expect to see Blue Whales and a few Sperm Whales, as well as Dolphins; mostly Spinner’s and a variety of fish species regularly, around six to eight nautical miles east of Trincomalee, which is about 30 minutes by boat. Trincomalee is rapidly developing as a major whale-watching destination on the international stage.

10. Pigeon Island

Pigeon Island is a tiny island with clear water and a small white sand beach. It is reachable by a 10-minute boat ride from Nilaveli Beach. Once used as a shooting range during the colonial period, Pigeon Island is now a popular tourist destination for locals and tourists. Its long stretches of sandy beaches and clear shallow waters are suitable for surfing, scuba diving, fishing, and whale watching.

11. Hot Springs

On the way to Trincomalee, there are seven hot springs. They are known as Kanniya, which means, ‘Kan’ as stone and ‘niya’ as land. Kanniyai’s hot springs are just 8 kilometers from Trincomalee’s city center. Seven springs are encircled by stonewalls, each offering a sublime dip in warm waters known for their healing properties. It is a high wall-bound rectangular enclosure, which houses all seven springs. To shape a well, a dwarf wall surrounds each. The water is warm, with each spring’s temperature varying slightly. Kanniya Hot Spring is a popular tourist destination for both local and international visitors in the Trincomalee district.

The Pradeshiya Sabha (Local Council) of Trincomalee is currently in charge of this. People in this area claim that hot water can help with skin problems and can treat Arthritis and Rheumatism. According to inscriptions, Buddhist monks who lived in the region during the Anuradhapura era reserved the hot springs. Ancient ruins are observable to date. Yet, the majority of them were demolished when the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009.

12. Trincomalee War Cemetery

Trincomalee War Cemetery is one of Sri Lanka’s six Commonwealth war cemeteries. On behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence maintains it. The Hoods Tower Museum which is a military museum is located on the base. The name refers to a watchtower perched on a hill with a panoramic view of the harbor and bay.

The Bottom Line

Conclusively, let us highlight again that Trincomalee is a captivating town, with a lively seaside on Sri Lanka’s northwestern coast. Known as one of the world’s finest natural deepwater harbours, Trincomalee is successful in attracting prominent seafarers such as Marco Polo and Ptolemy to its shores. In Trincomalee, there is a range of natural and cultural attractions perfect for exploration. The location is stunning, sliding down a narrow peninsula between the Indian Ocean and the Inner Harbour, rising to the massive Swami Rock, the most prominent feature along this stretch of coast. With an intriguing old fort and sleepy back streets lined with colonial villas dotted with mosques, churches, and hundreds of colourful little Hindu temples, the town has its own understated yet distinct charm.

The temples, which belong to the town’s largely Tamil population, offer the city a distinct Indian flavor, especially when Trinco fills with the ringing of bells and the sound of music from multiple temples for the late-afternoon offering (puja). One can interact with the locals and indulge themselves in the local culture and tradition by taking exciting cycling trails and nature walks along the scenic paths of this coastal haven. A combined tour of Thiriyaya and Arisamalai also explores the area’s archaeological and cultural sites. Above all, Trincomalee is undoubtedly a vibrant Sri Lankan city where one can make lifelong memories by discovering its wonders. So, what are you waiting for? Take a step ahead, and plan your next trip to Trinco. Happy and Safe Travelling!