Sri Lanka is SO diverse – full of wonderful wildlife, stunning scenery, amazing adventures and fantastic food, there’s too much to fit in to one visit and a backpacker travelling its roads can find themselves a little exhausted from fitting so much in (well, this backpacker did, anyway).
This is where Trincomalee comes in, and a chilled-out little place called Aqua Hotel in particular.
The cute little complex on Sri Lanka’s east coast is a world in itself; a hive of activity, food, drink, beauty and backing right onto the pristine Uppuveli Beach, it offers everything you need for a serious session of rest and relaxation.
Trincomalee was about as far north as we were advised to go in the country when we visited in 2015, with the effects of the a 26-year-long civil war between the majority Sinhalese population and the Tamil minority in the northeast still seen in the north. Although the war officially ended in 2009, tensions and recriminations are reportedly still ongoing and the city of Trincomalee certainly had noticeable scars left from both the war and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
There are plenty of things to do and see around Trinco but we were told that Aqua Hotel was the place to go. We were nearing the end of what had been two weeks of late nights and early starts making our way through the country, hiking and adventuring and were a bit burnt out. Trinco was our wee taste of a beach holiday on the beautiful and tropical beaches of Sri Lanka’s north eastern coast.
Aqua Hotel is a draw card with travellers largely down to its unique hobbit-hole style bedrooms – quirky cave ‘capsules’ dug into rock by the beach, where you can drift off to the sound of the sea. It’s hard to envisage and we had many a guest from the complex’s hotel asking to sneak a look inside our hobbit hole, not knowing what to expect.
With a pool, wide choice of food and drink including cocktails, coffee, tea and soft drinks, loads of cool hang out spots and the beach as your back garden, this is the ultimate place to go to just chill out and forget the world for a few days.
We spent a few days here just relaxing, but if total chill time is not your thing, there’s loads on offer. A short walk up the beach leads you to many rental places where you can book trips and excursions including snorkeling and scuba diving (our final morning was spent on a 6am whale and dolphin watching trip) and you can also take part in yoga on the beach at several points throughout the day.
My time in Trinco marked the end of my second week ever backpacking and I was starting to be hit ever so slightly by the homesickness bug, but my days spent chilling on the beach, by the bonfire in the evening, reading, drinking cocktails out of coconuts, enjoying good tea and catching up with friends on the decent wi-fi was everything I needed to reset. It’s a great place to go to just be, and forget about the rest of the world.
Trinco is incredibly rich in history and culture, so of course there’s plenty of the city to explore outside the confines of the Aqua Hotel.
Some key destinations include the old Dutch fort, Fort Fredrick, on a peninsula east of the city’s centre. You can also explore temples, museums and a couple of other amazing beaches in the area, as well as the national park Pigeon Island known for its shark sights.
From what I hear, there’s also a wealth of awesome restaurants worth visiting in the city. This is something I plan to go back and explore, but if the food and drink at Aqua is anything to go by, it’s safe to assume that the rest of the city’s culinary offerings are well worth a try.
In terms of transport, the city has a fairly decent bus station which will take you to a lot of the country’s main cities including Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Batticaloa and Jaffna. On our journey to Trinco from Arugam Bay, in the south east of the country, we caught a bus to Batticaloa and a second bus from there took us to Trinco. Day time buses are fairly regular but crowded and uncomfortable, although it’s a preferable option over the train, which is apparently more crowded and more uncomfortable.
To save on time, on the way back we got a night bus down to Colombo, where we were flying out of. There is only one night bus so early booking is essential as it can get really packed out. As night buses go, it’s not too uncomfortable and is air conditioned, with space for luggage underneath.
Dani, Traveling Voyager x