Influenced by many southern Indian traditions, the north and eastern areas of Sri Lanka are a cultural microcosm, unlike much of the rest of the country. This side of the island is relatively undisturbed by the tourist footprint, peaceful and slow-paced with the east coast being one of the most restful areas of the island.
The east has a multi-ethnic population consisting of Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities with a predominantly Muslim population towards the central and southern areas. A vibrant multi-cultural heritage, rituals and way of life makes this a fascinating area to explore.
Why visit Jaffna and the North East of Sri Lanka
- Attend a morning Buddhist blessing at a local temple with chanting and drumming
- Explore the Dutch fort and markets in Jaffna
- Join a fisherman on his catamaran and wade through the waters at Passekudah
- Go whale and dolphin spotting off the coast at Trincomalee
- Head inland and spend a few days on safari at Gal Oya National Park
Sri Lanka’s north and east coast region is alive with a newfound buoyancy and electric vibrancy which is drawing in increasing numbers of travellers seeking to explore this dynamic area.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE AND DO in the north and EAST COAST?
Sri Lanka’s remote and picturesque north and east coast extends from Jaffna in the far north to Trincomalee and Passekudah in the north east and to Batticaloa and Ampara towards the east central region.
Located in the remote far north, Jaffna is closer to India than to Colombo. Arriving in Jaffna can come as something of a culture shock if you've spent time in the rest of Sri Lanka, and you can't fail to notice the profound Indian influence with Hindu gorpuams instead of Buddhas and a strong Christian element with colourful temples set next to huge churches and faded colonial charm dotted around.
Trincomalee, referred to as `Trinco’, is on the north-east coastline. Blessed with beautiful beaches and the world's second deepest and largest natural harbour. Don’t miss the sacred Koneswaram Kovil, an entrancing Hindu temple which boasts a dramatic position on a clifftop overlooking the Indian Ocean, or Pigeon Island, one of the island’s marine national parks and an incredible spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. Sail along the spectacular coastline by private catamaran visiting private coves, snorkel off colourful reefs and soak up the pleasure of sailing. Fly from Colombo to Trincomalee - a fantastic flight that beats the hours spent on the ground and gets you to Trincomalee in less than an hour. The turquoise blue seas and white sands of Trinco open out as you enter the flat and dry terrains of the Eastern Province.
One of the most picturesque spots on the east coast, Passekudah Bay offers various exciting water-sports such as snorkelling, scuba diving and catamaran sailing. A great place for kids.
Batticaloa is a bustling coastal town which sits at the eastern edge of the island, south of Trincomalee and above Arugam Bay. Life moves at an easy pace here: most of the locals travel by bicycle, and fishing on the lagoon or in the sea is the main source of income for many. Cuisine is rich in flavour, enhanced by the spices used in curries from southern India, and the landscape is flat and sprawling, punctuated with spectacular stretches of pristine coastline. Don’t miss the many lagoons and waterways, the 17th century Dutch Fort, Kalladi Beach or the vibrant, lively local market.
Gal Oya is slightly inland, centrally located between Batticaloa and Arugam Bay, positioned to the east of the Senanayake Samudra, one of Sri Lanka’s largest lakes. Gal Oya National Park, an extensive wildlife sanctuary, sits beside this lake, which is scattered with small islands that wild elephants can sometimes be seen swimming between. The park also houses axis deer, muntjac, water buffalo, sambar, leopard, toque monkey, wild boar, mugger crocodile and star tortoise. Gal Oya is also home to the Veddas, the country’s indigenous people who still retain a distinctive cultural identity. The Veddas are the aboriginal people of Sri Lanka and are more shrouded in secrecy, mythology and mystery than any other group of people on the island. Walk with Gal Oya’s Vedda chief which provides a unique insight into a culture which is rapidly disappearing. This is a community on the brink of extinction and as you trek through the forest listening to the somber melodies chanted by the Veddas, you will gain a deeper understanding of how fragile this tribal existence is.