Trincomalee – The east coast gem with so many facets
Trincomalee is a major resort port city of Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. Located on the east coast of the island overlooking the Trincomalee Harbor. The city is built on a peninsula of the same name and is home to the famous Koneswaram temple. East Coast is only offseason during the months of November to March. And because the monsoon rains are weaker in the North-East of the country it doesn’t mean rain throughout. So check with us if you would like to visit Trincomalee when it’s less crowded. Rest of the year though, Trincomalee is beautiful and laid back. We have incorporated stops here on quite a few of our tours so make sure you check them out.
The recorded history of Trincomalee spans more than two and a half thousand years, beginning with civilian settlement associated with the Koneswaram temple in the pre-modern era. One of the oldest cities in Asia, it has served as a major maritime seaport in the international trading history of the island with South East Asia. Trincomalee’s urbanization continued when made into a fortified port town following the Portuguese conquest of the Jaffna kingdom, changing hands between the Danishin 1620, the Dutch, the French following a battle of the American Revolutionary War and the British in 1795, being absorbed into the British Ceylon state in 1815. The city’s architecture shows some of the best examples of interaction between native and European styles. Attacked by the Japanese as part of the Indian Ocean raid during World War II in 1942, the city and district were affected after Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, when the political relationship between Tamil and Sinhalese people deteriorated, erupting into civil war. It is home to major naval and air force bases at the Trincomalee Garrison. The city also has the largest Dutch fort on the island.
The Trincomalee Bay Harbour, unlike any other in the Indian Ocean, it is accessible in all weathers to all craft. It has been described as the “finest harbour in the world” and by the British, “the most valuable colonial possession on the globe. Popular tourist destinations include its beaches at Uppuveli, Salli and Nilaveli, used for temple visits, surfing, scuba diving, fishing and whale watching, and the Kanniya Hot Springs.
History of Trincomalee
Trincomalee which is a natural deep-water harbour has attracted seafarers, trader and pilgrims from Europe, Middle East, Africa, China, East Asia and Australasia since ancient times. Trinco, as it is commonly called, has been a seaport and Hindu pilgrimage center since 400 BC. Trincomalee, and specifically the Swami Rock promontory, has housed several Kovil temples to deities of the Hindu pantheon, as well as a Buddhist vihara and a Christian Catholic church, both introduced following invasions.
Early Tamil dynasties continued to employ the city as the prefectural capital of the Trincomalee District, allowing administrative duties to be handled by elected Vanniar chiefs.
On 8 January 1782 the British captured Trincomalee’s forts from the Dutch, the first place on the island they captured. The French recaptured it on 29 August of the same year after the Battle of Trincomalee. In 1783 the French ceded it to the British and subsequently, Britain ceded Trincomalee back to the Dutch Republic under the Peace of Paris (1783 Treaty of Versailles). In 1795 the British recaptured the city and held it until Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948.
Before the Second World War, the British built a large airfield to house their RAF base, called the RAF China Bay and fuel storage and support facilities for the British fleets there. After the fall of Singapore, Trincomalee became the home port of the Eastern Fleet of the Royal Navy, and submarines of the Dutch Navy. Trincomalee harbor and airfield were attacked by a carrier fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy in April 1942 in the Indian Ocean Raid of the war. However, the installation later served as an important launching point for British naval operations in 1944 and 1945.
With the turn of the modern era, English authors and poets used Trincomalee as inspiration for literature and poetry and became connected with the city. Arthur C. Clarke, who discovered the temple’s underwater ruins with photographer Mike Wilson, described the city and the ruins in Reefs of Taprobane and would go on to write 2001: A Space Odyssey based on his experiences in the city. Trincomalee’s Bhadrakali Amman temple provides a setting in Wilbur Smith’s novel Birds of Prey. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories feature multiple settings in the city, including in A Scandal in Bohemia and A Singular Affair at Trincomalee. Jane Austen’s younger brother Charles Austen of the British Royal Navy is buried in Trincomalee.
Trincomalee is sacred to Sri Lankan Tamils and Hindus around the world. The city has many Hindu sites of historical importance. These sites are sacred to the Hindus and some Buddhists also worship at these Hindu sites. Prominent sites include the Koneswaram temple compound, its Bhadrakali temple on Konesar Road, and the Salli Muthumariamman Kovil of Uppuveli beach in the Trincomalee suburb of Sambalativu.
Trincomalee’s strategic importance has shaped its recent history. The great European powers vied for mastery of the harbour. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the British, each held it in turn, and there have been many sea battles nearby. The harbour, the fifth largest natural harbour in the world, is overlooked by terraced highlands, its entrance is guarded by two headlands, and there is a carriage road along its northern and eastern edges.
Beaches of Trincomalee
Trincomalee has some of the most picturesque and scenic beaches found in Sri Lanka, relatively unspoilt and clean. The area is famous for bathing and swimming, owing to the relative shallowness of the sea, allowing one to walk out over a hundred meters into the sea without the water reaching the chest. Whale watching is a common pastime in the seas off Trincomalee, and successful sightings are on the rise with the increase of tourism in the area.
There are seven hot springs of Kanniya (Kal = stone; niya = land), on the road to Trincomalee. A high wall bounds the rectangular enclosure which includes all seven springs. Each is in turn enclosed by a dwarf wall to form a well. The water is warm, the temperature of each spring being slightly different.
Trincomalee features a tropical wet and dry climate. The city features a dry season from March through June and a wet season for the remainder of the year. Average temperatures in Trincomalee range from around 26 °C (79 °F) in December and January to approximately 30 °C (86 °F) during the warmest months of the year from April through September.
Places to visit in Trincomalee
- Koneswaram Temple
- Velgam Vehera
- Kandasamy Kovil
- Gokanna Temple
- Pathirakali Amman Temple
- Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara
- Fort Frederick
- Hoods Tower Museum
- Commonwealth War Cemetery
- Kanniya Hot Water Well
- Manayaweli Cove
- Swami Rock
- Fish Market
- Dutch Bay
- Lanka Pattuna
- Saint Mary’s Cathedral
- Nilaveli Beach
- Pigeon Island National Bank
- Marble Beach
- Arisimale Beach