Trincomalee, Sri Lanka
Trinco –as locals call it – has shaken off a turbulent past; Dutch colonialists and British troops wreaked havoc by sea before making themselves at home, and the Tamil Tigers’ presence made the whole Eastern Province a no-go area until recently, but now trickles of beach-seeking travellers dot the town’s fishing-boat-strewn, mangrove-fringed shores, buying blue crabs and fat mangoes at its markets, and paying their respects at Swami Rock-perched Koneswaram Temple. Beyond Trinco, white-sand beaches stretch for miles, wild elephants and all manner of colourful critters roam the virgin jungle, and crocodiles lurk beneath lily-pads in far-reaching lagoons. It’s rural, wild and rough around the edges, with sparsely populated villages and ancient archaeological sites, but visit soon: the area’s lushly plant-adorned vistas and glittering bays are slated for grand development projects.
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When to go
The Eastern Province remains temperate throughout the year, but November through to March have ideal sunbathing weather (bar some December showers). Whales breach more frequently from February to March, and if you visit in April flower-garlanded icons are paraded through the streets to music for the Hindu Chithirai Thiruvizha festival.
PlanesFly into Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (www.airport.lk), and hop on an air taxi (www.cinnamonair.com) to Trincolamee China Bay domestic airport; Trincomalee is a 20-minute drive from there. Flights arrive at Colombo from the UK and Europe via Doha International; flights across the Pacific arrive via Kunming Airport, or direct from Australia.
AutomobilesColombo is a four-and-a-half hour drive away, Jaffna, three hours; however, drivers have to dodge tuk-tuks and ox carts in town and wilder beasts beyond. If you’re quick on the draw with the horn and brake, a car will come in handy for exploring, but be sure to get an international driving licence and recognition permit before you go; police are prone to stopping tourists for identification checks.