‘Trincomalee,’ a Painting Come to Life – My First Vision of East Coast Sri Lanka

Trinco, Sri Lanka

Her beauty unhailed during the almost thirty years long ethnic conflict, Trincomalee was but a rough sketch of an unknown land, in my mind. With the dawn of peace, travellers’ tales of her wonders coloured a painting; seas of the deepest blue, beaches glowing pearly white, palm trees shooting up towards the sunny afternoon skies, the ravages of war rebuilt and new life.   

It’s August, 2012 and today I visit Trincomalee…and see my painting come to life.

Trincomalee is a little over a six hour drive from Colombo. The East Coast arrives as the greener topography smoothly melts into vast arid land, decorated in palm trees. Towards Trinco is an absolutely picturesque drive and you’ll know you’ve reached your destination once you’ve been surprised by the most unlikely guests within city limits; the spotted dear. As a protected species the spotted dear are unharmed by the local folk and seem to find themselves more comfortable living within the towns area than the wild.  

The Trinco oceans have a very definitive blueness and it so stunningly converges into different shades as the character of the seabed changes. Things new to me on the East Coast were the shallow seas into which you could wade in for quite a stretch without the waters reaching even waist height, as well as watching the sunrise as it brought the deep blue into sparkling life.

The famous Nilaveli seas of Trincomalee hold the precious little Pigeon Island, for which paradise would be too cliché an expression for description. Just a short boat ride from Nilaveli beach, it is a completely untouched and uninhabited island but for the many temporary visitors from the main shores. Glowing white corals make up the entire beach contrasting against a blue-green sea. A few steps from the beach and through a wall of shrubbery you’re introduced to the posterior of the island which is a shallow protected cove perfect for snorkeling. It’s a complete little world where time doesn’t seem to matter; all that is around you is breathtaking beauty, nature, sun and sea. That is of course until the busy boatman arrives at the promised time and hurries you off across to the mainland. 

I will be following up this article with a special photo essay on Pigeon Island, which has created its own little special island in my heart 😊 Check it out below.


A must have takeaway from Trinco is the palm jaggery and my personal favourite palm jaggery chocolates – a.k.a little pieces of melt-in-your-mouth-heaven – which are sold in small wayside shops. The palm tree is to the East Coast as the coconut tree is to the West Coast, and therefore these sweet treats are also very much a part of the region’s heritage.    

Trinco however, is not just about sun and sand. There are many sites of historical and mythical interest in and around the towns’ area.

Kanniya hot water spring wells

Just a half hour drive off the town takes you to the hot water wells of Kanniya. Seven bubbling spring wells spaced a few feet alongside each other spout out clear piping hot water regardless of the time of year. The tales of their origin date back to an age of the mythical King Ravana of Sri Lanka, and some even consider these well waters to have healing qualities.

Girihandu seya (stupa)

The Girihandu seya though not the most famous stupa in the island is one of great significance. Constructed in 528 BC during the lifetime of the Buddha and prior to Buddhism reaching the shores of Sri Lanka, it is in fact the first stupa to be built in the world. Situated atop a mountain, a viewing requires a short trek at the end of which lies the stupa grounds providing a space of rest and reflection as devotees pilgrimage in hushed silence. At the center of it all lies the Girihandu seya – an unsung yet momentous piece of history – surrounded by a spectacular view of the entire plain below.

Thirukoneswaram kovil (temple)

The historic Thirukoneswaram temple lies right within Trinco city and above Fort Fredrick. The Fort is currently under local military jurisdiction and is not openly allowed for visitors, and therefore is mostly a part of the scenic drive towards the kovil. The kovil is dedicated to the Lord Siva and is one of marked religious reverence to the Sri Lankan Hindu culture. Dating back thousands of years, it has withstood the ravages of many a war, in fact even being destroyed by the Portuguese in 1622.

Looking below to the left of Thirukoneswaram kovil is a breathtaking panorama of the blue watered bay of Trincomalee harbor. This is the largest natural harbor in Sri Lanka and the fifth largest in the world.

Tales of the mythological King Ravana seem rampant on the East Coast, and even beside the legendary kovil lies the Ravana Cut rock; with an equally befitting tale.

Within a few hundred words the wonders of Trincomalee could only be but an abridged and incomplete version of a saga. She has mesmerized me in every way possible and in time to come signs are that my painting will see many more colourful additions. Already, Nilaveli beach has become the region’s hotspot for travellers and gives the choicest of comfortable beach side accommodation. And as Trincomalee is one of many Eastern Coastal zones in high call for travel it is currently undergoing vast development. Tidings are that my painting will soon become a masterpiece; like an uncut gem stone, being shaped into a dazzling sapphire.

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