The cultural centre of Sri Lanka is for us only a stop over to head to the east coast. Set in between tea fields, rolling mountains and high waterfalls I suppose it can be quiet beautiful. But Kandy, the second largest city on the island, is super busy, with a chaotic traffic scene. The only afternoon we have, we spend in the gorgeous and quiet botanical gardens. The next morning we are happy to set off to the mesmerising east coast. In April the seasons in Sri Lanka change. The south coast gets its daily showers and the east coast celebrates high season and where parts of the southwest coast are crowded with tourists and full of hotels, the east still remains more untouched. During the low season of the east coast (November to April) things get very quiet and some places shut up shop altogether.
Trincomalee and Nilaveli
Much of the eastern region’s population is concentrated on the long string of mainly Tamil and Muslim towns and villages that line the coast. Quiet towns backed by Maldive-like white long stretched beaches and clear lagoons. Capital of the east is the vibrant town of Trincomalee. The town is an appealing mix of faded colonial architecture and colourful Hindu temples. We visit the Shiva temple on top of the Trikuta Hill and are lucky walking into a Hindu ceremony at a temple in the middle of town. The sight is magical. Hundreds of people are dressed in the most colourful silk sari’s, with bindi’s in between their eyebrows. Loud Indian flutes are playing, women walk barefoot holding scales with fire and hands full of incense. Flowers are thrown high in the air when the priest is carried out of the temple on a high throne. India has been for a long time on my list, it still is. But in Trincomalee I already feel as if I am right in the middle of it.
Few tourists venture to the east coast of Sri Lanka. We overnight in the low-key beachside village Nilaveli and have the town almost to ourselves. The beaches are totally empty, only once a day the monks come to take a refreshing swim, a beautiful sight. By boat we go to Pigeon Island to enjoy an afternoon of snorkelling. The visibility is good, there is a lot of reef around the island and especially many reef sharks and turtles to see.
Further down south on the east coast, is the laid-back surfing hotspot of Arugam Bay. It’s the kind of place you plan to go to for three days and end up staying for two weeks. To enjoy just one more day of the mellow Arugam Bay vibe and swing in your hammock hanging at your beachfront guesthouse. Arugam Bay is currently the only ‘popular’ place on the east coast. The main reason is the famous point break of the town that is known as the best surf spot in Sri Lanka. Getting around town is quiet easy since all hotels, restaurants and bars are dotted along one single road that parallels the coast. Next to surfing and enjoying the beach vibe Arugam Bay is also a convenient starting point for trips to national park Yala East.