Koneswaram Temple is a historic and religious place in Sri Lanka
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Places to visit in the East

Let the adventure begin with a trip to the East Coast

By Time Out editors

The sunny East offers a range of activities to do and places to visit regardless of the season. From historical to religious sites to quaint villages, the East is filled with a myriad of things to keep you occupied as you go along to discover an area that is unique in all aspects. Check out our guide to the best places to visit in the East Coast as we list out the most sought after destinations to make your experience of the area all the more richer. Try your hand at golf at the Eagles Golf Link or seek the blessings of the Temple of Thousand Pillars and the adventures has just begun!

Have a wave of a time in Arugambay!
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Have a wave of a time in Arugambay!

Things to do Festivals

Sun, sands and whopping waves, the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka is in its element. Whether you are a beginner or pro, enthusiast or first-timer, grab a surf board and head on over. Along the beaches, nestled amidst forestry or rural villages, there are many surf points in the southeast, some hidden away in the wild terrain. It’s more than waves... There is so much to eat, see and do... Many hotels as well as restaurants are located in the southeastern coast and along the Main Street in Arugambay where the nightlife is especially happening (See East Coast). Relish delicious cuisine from around the world with a unique local twist, enjoy tasty Sri Lankan fare and street food and savour the delightful treats from roadside barbecues. Explore the untouched wilderness and witness herds of elephants, leopards, deer and birdlife at the National Parks, Sanctuaries and even lagoons. If you are lucky you might even catch a glimpse of elephants strolling along the roadside, especially in the evening and at dawn. Arugambay and the surrounding area was once part of the illustrious Magam Ruhunu Kingdom extending to the second century BC. Take some time to discover the ancient mysteries and be enthralled by remnants of structures built by kings of yore. Ride the waves, lounge on the sunny, sandy beach, explore and experience the best of Arugambay. Surf’s up in the East Coast and it is time for a wave of an adventure. Tip: Do not wander into the wilderness and water bodies. Al

Arugambay at night
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Arugambay at Night

Things to do Walks and tours

After a day of sunbathing, surfing and exploring, the cooling night provides the ideal atmosphere to enjoy the many cuisines and snacks available. If you simply want to have a roti, hopper or a crispy vadai you can make a quick stop at one of the food carts while walking along the road. Lamps are lit and grills are fired as the restaurants get ready to serve. Fresh fish and various types of seafood are laid out for diners to make their pick. This area is renowned for its selection of seafood. Thereafter, the dish is prepared according to their preference. Spicy aromas drift in the air, as the BBQ is prepared. There are restaurants that serve delicious pizzas, burgers, Sri Lankan, Italian, Chinese, Mexican and also fusion cuisine. However, if you wish to try something different you could head to some of the hotels such as the restaurant at Blue Wave Hotel, which offers both Sri Lankan and international cuisine. You may also dine at Arugambay Roccos, amidst the relaxing ambience of the Square. The delicious cuisine are freshly made and will be definitely satisfying as you enjoy the evening. Take a short ride to Whisky Point and dine at Dream Garden. With a delectable menu, you can enjoy your dinner while admiring the charming surroundings. Paper Moon Kudils also provides a unique experience as you savour the flavoursome dishes served at the Kusini. Prepared freshly, with many of the ingredients from their very own garden, the cuisine is a blend between Sri Lankan and contin

A marine national Park in Trincomalee
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Pigeon Island National Park

Things to do Pigeon Island

The island just one kilometre and a few minutes by boat, from Nilaveli Coast, Trincomalee is in itself a unique destination. Lush greenery and white sandy shores enveloped by the foaming waves of the bright sapphire ocean, The Pigeon Island Marine Park is a must visit for the ocean lovers and the adventerous; snorkelling amidst the colourful schools of fish and the conserved coral reefs is an exhilarating experience! Make sure you’re well equipped and accompanied by an expert, who will guide you through the sites and even take you to a shark point! 

A wildlife park in Hambantota
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Kumana National Park

Travel Hambantota

Kumana is well known for its wildlife and more so for its migratory and indigenous bird population. Sightings of changeable hawk eagles, painted and rare black necked storks, egrets, godwits, ibis and many more are possible by the many lagoons, and reflected in eyes of curious, wandering jackals.  While on safari, watch out for the elephants, spotted, and sambhur deer. They too are quite active around watering holes like the Kumana Villu swamp, and in pockets of lush foliage. Kumana is situated in the eastern district of Ampara and is 12km south of Arugam Bay. There is a turn off just before the town of Panama, which leads to the National Park. 

Panama is a village in the east coast
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Attractions Arugam Bay

A little distance away from the South of Arugam Bay, you will come to an endearing little village called Panama. Unspoilt and remote, Panama is host to a charmed way of life and century-old traditions unheard of in modern Sri Lanka. Spiritual beliefs and faith intertwine irrevocably with the quiet everyday life in the village. The community of 5000 families harbours much faith in the blessings of the Pattini Deity and is venerated at the Angpiti Devale. Villagers are filled with tales of the past that weave the colourful history of the village. Amidst natural beauty and attractions, such as the Panama Lake and Panama Beach, the village is interspersed with farming lands, paddy fields and greenery. 

A sanctuary and national park in Polonnaruwa
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Somawathi National Park

Things to do Polonnaruwa

Located 266km north-east of Colombo, the 37,762ha park is one of the four under the Mahaweli River development. Home to elephants along with other flora and fauna, the park joins with Trikonamadu Nature Reserve and Flood Plains National Park. The park is home to historic Somawathiya Chaitya, the stupa which was named after Princess Somawathi.       

Underwater Safaris is a travel experience company in Colombo, Sri Lanka
© Underwater Safaris

Underwater Safaris

Things to do Colombo 7

Underwater Safaris has one of the most interesting histories of all Colombo businesses. It was started by the fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke with his partner Hector Ekanayake in the 1950s. Today it boasts two centres, one in Colombo and one in Hikkaduwa. Boats leave at around 9am to dive 28 feet below the surface of the sea, offering ample opportunities to see everything the ocean has to offer. Both dive sites are within range of shipwrecks, which are some of the best places to dive and see wonderful tropical fish. It's an experience which shouldn't be missed.

Fort Frederick is a fort in Sri Lanka
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Fort Frederick

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Trincomalee

Built in the 1600s, Ford Frederick is a colonial fort by the Portuguese in the Trincomalee Town. The Fort is well known to house within it, the Koneswaram Temple, yet another attraction in this area. Captured by a Dutch fleet, the Fort was re-created, to defend against any threats from the British and the French.  Currently, it is manned by the Sri Lankan Army and is an alluring tourist destination depicting the footprints left behind by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Inside, you will also stumble across the Gokana Temple and the Wellesley Lodge, among other historical imprints. The remarkable landmark offers an unparalleled experience, taking you on a journey back in time. 

Surfing in Sri Lanka
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Get ready for the East Coast!

Travel Getaways

From surfing to leisurely evening strolls and exciting whale watching, there are plenty of things to do. Visit religious sites and enjoy safari rides. 

Somawathiya Temple is historic and religious site in Sri Lanka
© BT Images

Somawathiya Temple

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Polonnaruwa

The stupa, shaped like a droplet, was said to have been built by Kind Abhaya for his wife, Queen Somawathie as a place of worship. It is located in the Somawathiya wildlife sanctuary and is said to have enshrined the right tooth relic of Lord Buddha.  It has been renovated over the years, but you will observe a deep cleft left visible in the stupa, displaying the ancient bricks of the original stupa structure.  Interestingly, the altars are within the stupa itself, and devotees are to climb the steps in a single file into the enclosure which accommodates about four people. 


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