Underrated, quite undiscovered, less tourists and in season: The East Coast of Sri Lanka is one of these places that every traveler should add to their bucket list. It is still in the shadow of the popular South Coast and Cultural Triangle.
We have visited the area with the Tourism Board Sri Lanka, and brought back numerous reasons to visit East Coast Sri Lanka.
Get ready for archilogecal ruins, white sand beaches, safaris on boat and jeep, and much more.
There is nothing more worthwhile than visiting the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Anyone can experience a mix of almost everything, from the blue seas and sexy beaches to relaxing holy sites. Along with the cultural vibes, you can enjoy every second of his visit to Eastern areas. To spice up the experience, it is highly recommended to try Sri Lankan food and talk with the gracious people.
The best climate to visit the East Coast in Sri Lanka is from May through to October.
Generally speaking, the best time to visit the West and South coasts is between December and April. This also count for the popular Cultural Triangle. Check out our map to get a better overview for planning your trip.
1. Arugambay – Surfing and Beaches
When talking about the best reasons to visit the East Coast of Sri Lanka, most people have Arugambay in mind. Right? This is probably the first thing we all think about. And for good reason.
Whether you are a beginner or a professional surfer, Arugambay beach is your stop.
Through the friendly waves and vibrant views, it is possible to perform all of your surfing moves without any risk. Beaches like peanut farm, Pottuvil point and main point are popular among the surfers. Never forget to rest after a busy day at a stunning resort in Arugambay. Make sure to book a room with a sea view. You will never regret the purchase. Jetwing surfing can be stated as a recommended place. Most tourists prefer a cabana by the seaside.
Wherever you stay, a spa will squeeze your stress and tiredness away. You can choose staying at a beach resort or a bungalow here. We stayed at Jetwing Surf – what a place! We write about it in our 9 best resorts in Sri Lanka here.
For the backpacker, there is also the popular Little Lagoon Hostel, part of our guide to top hostels in the country.
2. Panama, Kudumbigala Monastery – The view of the East
Good things cannot be achieved easily. If you are good at climbing, this is the path for you.
After some tiresome climbing, the view from the top will vanquish tiredness in a split second. You will get the perfect sight of sanctuaries, long coastline and sea from this point. A visit to this monastery in a beautiful evening will help you to get a breathtaking panoramic view. Kudumbigala Monastery has a history which runs about 3000 years. You will see a lot of ancient Buddha statues, paintings, and caves enabling you to learn about the old Sri Lankan art.
On the way to experience these valuable places in Kudumbigala, the sanctuary itself is also a must-see.
3. Safari at Kumana National Park
Since we are already in the area, we have to add of course Kumana National Park.
Apart from those unique flora and fauna, a variety of birds are abundant. Because of the availability of food, water bodies and favorable climate, local birds and animals can be spotted during a Safari.
For me personally, this was the best Safari in Sri Lanka. It is better than the super popular Yala National Park.
Why? Three reasons.
Less people: You do not have these masses of trucks driving around the park.
The landscape is more impressive
you can spot the Black-Necked Stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)
To be fair, it is said, there is a slightly higher change to spot a Leopard at Yala. Anyways, I prefer Kumana National Park.
On your way to the actual entrance of the park, you will experience an incredible “pre-safari experience”. What does that mean? For kilometres, you will pass numerous elephants, crocodiles, buffalos, and peacocks.
4. Gal Oya National Park – A Boat Safari
The east coastal area, if not the eastern province, is full of biodiversity. Indigenous plants, animals, and birds are everywhere for the visitors to please their eyes.
Gal Oya National Park is such a place.
The park also helps to give a sound understanding of the overall Sri Lankan biodiversity. As the park is located alongside Sri Lanka’s largest lake ‘Senanayake Samudraya’, safaris are not limited to jeeps. This is the one and only place in Sri Lanka where you can enjoy a safari on a boat. If you are lucky enough, during the visit to this vibrant national park, you will get a rare sight of a random elephant swimming in the water.
We were lucky enough to witness exactly this after 20 seconds in.
As the park gets fewer visitors due to its remoteness, resorts, and hotels are rare.
But popular places like Wild Glamping Gal Oya will provide you with the perfect relaxation after a long day in the wild. It is one of the best resorts in Sri Lanka.
Another holy site with a history which runs back 2000 years consists of a temple.
If you visit Arugambay beach, from there the stupa of this temple is visible. The placement of the temple in a stunning landscape and the historical stories related to Muhudu Maha Viharaya help to grab more and more tourist attractions. There is a long line of monk statues on the side of the way to the temple. Depicting the carving skills of ancient Sri Lankan, a lot of ruins and statues and buildings can still be found on the holy site.
But it is said that more ruins are buried under the sand too. The vibrant colors of sand dunes and the sky make pleasing and calming visuals for the brain.
6. Batticaloa Fort – Back to the Colonial Times
During the colonial period, in 1628, the Portuguese took steps to build a fort in Batticaloa due to its landscape and for the ease of transportation.
It is well protected by the Batticaloa lagoon next to it. After the arrival of the Dutch, they also took advantage of this fort. It is possible for you to get a colonial vibe by making a visit to this monumental place. Your visit in this town won’t be limited to the fort. There is a small museum inside the fort, stuffed with a lot of very rare items. It is a great place to learn about the technologies and cultures of the colonial era in Sri Lanka. Near the fort, another monument which acts as the portal connecting Batticaloa and Puliyanthivu Island is the Batticaloa gate.
It also helps tourists to get an idea about ancient Sri Lankan architecture.
In my opinion, since you are in the area you can add this one to your list. Yet, the fortress of Galle is much bigger, more impressive and more to see.
7. Rajagalathenna – Archaeological Ruins
Revealing big secrets about the history of Sri Lanka, Rajagalathenna is a place full of buried ruins including buildings, statues and such things.
Archaeologists have estimated that the remains carry a history from the old Anuradhapura kingdom and its kings. The remains of ‘Ariyakara Vihraya’ were found on this site. Archaeologists were successful in clarifying different types of buildings through deep analysis. Most of those buildings existed for the purposes of Buddhist monks. Separate places for religious observances, cooking-related stuff, hot water baths and many more can still be identified.
Apart from those ruins, a collection of caves in the wild have also been discovered. Buddhist monks preferred to stay in those caves and live in the environment, as it helps to keep a calm and relaxing mind for meditation purposes.
8. Pasikuda Beach – Time to Relax
Among all the beaches on the Eastern coastline, Pasikuda is like heaven.
This luxury beach can be stated as the best beach on the whole island. Clear waters and gentle waves of the sea clear the way for anyone to engage in water sports and activities, no matter whether a beginner or a professional. You can choose to enjoy any beach activity, from sun bathing to even snorkeling. A reef of elegant coral can be spotted on the shallow sea bed of Pasikuda.
What can you do at Pasiduka Beach?
Whatever you do on Pasikuda, never miss a barefoot walk on the sandy beach, inhaling the fresh air and feeling the sea wind.
9. Sri Thirukoneswaram Temple – Ancient Kovil for god Shiva
According to the reports, the temple has a history from about 400BC.
You won’t find such a vibrant looking place nearby. As the first impression, the giant statue of god Shiva and the rest of the stunning building will blow your mind. As this temple is positioned on the ‘Swami rock‘, the sea view from there won’t regret anyone. Sometimes you will see some ruined statues and such stuff. In the Portuguese colonial times, they destroyed the Kovil and threw away the statues and valuable creations into the sea, making a sad history for the temple.
Make sure you visit the inside of the temple. The architecture and coloring techniques of statues are enough to amaze anyone in seconds.
10. Trincomalee Harbor – Natural harbor with a great history
During the colonial period, all the Portuguese, Dutch and British Trincomalee bay was used as a harbor.
Now it stands as one of the biggest natural harbors in the whole world. Availability of space for even huge ships, easy access to the Indian Ocean and the position on the silk route made this bay legendary. If you can get a pass to visit this place, a lot of knowledge about the things happening in a busy harbor can be gained. A number of small and big ships and boats are arriving and leaving every day. Most of the imported supplies for the country go through this place. Ships, cranes, containers, trucks and busy people will be a different experience for you.
If you are able to see the sunset from here, it won’t be the everyday sunset. Orange sunrays on ships, the sea and all the other busy-looking stuff will be unique scenery.
11. Kanniya Hot Water Springs
Another array of amazing creatures of nature, the natural wells at Kanniya, gives out hot water.
A visit to this place enables anyone to wash out their tiredness and helps to relax the mind. There are a number of wells in the same place. But the specialty is that each spring has different temperatures. You can choose any spring to heal your soul. The hottest springs release cute air bubbles from the deep underground, which makes pleasant scenery. Looking at the history of these springs, Buddhist monks from the Anuradhapura era used them.
People in the area believe that the water from these springs heal some diseases of the skin.
We are talking about the East Coast. Therefore, we have to talk about Sunrises.
Same as the famous sunsets in Sri Lanka, sunsrises can be absolutely stunning. Depending on season, this is also a popular time for the surfers to get into the water and take on the first waves. There are no particular spots we recommend for this. Just set the alarm.
Many resorts and accommodations offer as well sunrise breakfast. This is one of the many romantic things to do in Sri Lanka.
13. The People
Last but not least, I want to mention the people of Sri Lanka. The people of the country are kind and helpful. I highly encourage you to get out there and explore local markets and restaurants. The people will make you come and visit Sri Lanka over and over again.
Sure, the food is great, the sceneries are stunning, the beaches white and it is a surfers paradise. Yet, any time I think of Sri Lanka, I think of kind people, their smiles.
All Places put on a Map
Personally, I love to plan my trips using a map. Therefore, I created one for me, for you, and all other Sri Lanka Travelers.
In this map you will find all best hostels in Sri Lanka, our itinerary, highlights in Sri Lanka, best resorts on the East Coast as well as the top things to see at the East Coast.
(You can activate and deactivate the different layers in the left sidebar. Open the map in a new tab here.)
The East Coast of Sri Lanka is highly underrated. For the most, it is surfers who come here once the South Coast gets into rainy season. As you can see, the East Coast is also worth considering. And as you know: The surfers are first, then comes the regular tourist.
We have no doubt that the East Coast is becoming more and more popular. Get here before too many tourists take over and explore an authentic, genuine part of the country.