5. The food
Perhaps unsurprisingly, seafood reigns supreme in this part of Sri Lanka. You can expect fragrant seafood curries, livened up with local ingredients such as mackerel, green chillies, mustard, turmeric and coconut. Eastern Sri Lanka's culinary offerings are deliciously varied, partly because of the presence of three major ethnic groups: Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil. Make sure you try thosai - delicious lentil pancakes especially popular in both the north and east of the country. Equally delicious are the various breads, whether freshly-baked roti, made with grated coconut, flour, water and salt, or delicious paratha flatbreads.
A street vendor selling fresh bread © Tamara Hinson
6. The history
Sri Lanka has a complicated history. During the civil war, the eastern coast was divided into territories controlled by government and LTTE forces. The latter were driven out in 2007, leaving a trail of destroyed towns, villages and once-thriving coastal resorts in their wake. This is one of the enduring reasons why the eastern coast remains largely untouched by tourism. The Dutch and Portuguese also left their mark, albeit in a less devastating way. Beautiful Dutch and Portuguese buildings dot the coastline - must-sees include Trincomalee's Fort Frederick, built by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century. Another, in Dutch Bay, is the fascinating Maritime and Naval History Museum, housed inside a colonial-style building. This mansion was once the official residence of the Dutch Naval Commissioner.
7. The holy sites
You’ll find some beautiful mosques and temples on the east coast. One such is including Dutch Bay's Koneswaram Hindu temple, teetering on a rocky outcropping overlooking the sea. It's one of the most famous temples in Sri Lanka, where local fishermen ask for protection from mother nature. The ruins of the Buddhist Velgam Vehera temple can be found on the outskirts of Trincomalee. Built in the second century AD, it was destroyed in 992 AD. It was then rebuilt using donations made by the people responsible for its destruction.
Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, may be on the western coast but we’re using the fact that it’s the main entry point into Sri Lanka as an excuse to give a shout out to one of the country’s most beautiful buildings – Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque, otherwise known as the Red Mosque.
Koneswaram Hindu temple in Trincomalee ©saiko3p/Shutterstock
8. The surfing
Yes, really. Sri Lanka is quickly shaping up to be Asia’s hottest new surf spot (read more in our recent article here). The east coast’s weather is the opposite of the west – when it’s monsoon in the west, it’s sunny in the east. The best time to hang 10 is in between April and October. Laidback Arugam Bay is Sri Lanka's most popular surf spot, attracting everyone from locals to pros from around the world. Stand-up paddle boarding has taken off here, too.
A surfer braves the waves in Sri Lanka © Maciej Bledows
9. The improved access
The upside of the eastern coast’s growing popularity is that it’s becoming more accessible. That means more tour operators are offering organised explorations of the eastern coast. With tour operators offering everything from sailing tours to surf camps to completely bespoke itineraries, it's never been easier to explore Sri Lanka's east coast.
Inspired by our reasons to visit Sri Lanka's east coast? Try our new tailor-made travel and enjoy a custom trip designed just for you by a vetted local expert.
Top image: Koneswaram temple of Trincomalee © Cezary Wojtkowski/Shutterstock