Returning to the East Coast of Sri Lanka for the first time in a few years, Tom and I were intrigued. Surely the post war boom would have led to dramatic changes along this magnificent coastline, as Sri Lankan hoteliers took advantage of the peace dividend to develop a region long blighted by conflict.
We travelled to Trincomalee from Jaffna via Vauniya and the quality of the road meant the once arduous journey sped by. As you get closer to the coast, the scenery opens from thick scrub jungle to a softer landscape of small hills, paddy, lakes and well-kept village small holdings. The numerous elephant look outs (‘pella’ in Sinhala) attested to the presence of our large friends, though we didn’t spot any this day.
We stopped at Thiriya Wattadge – said to be the oldest Buddhist Temple in the world before joining the coastal road just north of Kuchaveli. Our first beach destination was ‘Jungle Beach’, the second hotel from the boutique Sri Lanka hotel group, ‘UGA Resorts’. What a start! Jungle Beach has been built
into the first leading down to the beach and almost all of the large trees have been preserved within the design. The hotel is built around and with the local environment. You can read more about Jungle Beach in our review here, but in short, Jungle Beach is a completely unique beach hotel in Sri Lanka – there is just nothing else like it.
After a night here, we reluctantly packed our bags and headed a little way down the coast to two old favourites: Nilaveli Beach Hotel and Chaaya Blu. The owners of Nilaveli soldiered on throughout the war and almost heroically kept the hotel going against all the odds. Now the area is booming again, Nilaveli is recognised as one of the finest beaches in Sri Lanka and Nilaveli Beach Hotel has the prime location. The hotel could still use some modernisation, especially in the lead-in standard category of rooms. The new Anilana, Trincomalee will most likely be the best of the bunch in Nilaveli when it is completed later this year.
Further down the coast in Upaveli is Chaaya Blu, the main commercial player in the region and a very decent 4* hotel. They were making a big noise about the whale watching season about to start and had a live in research student determined to set things up properly for them in terms of tracking and monitoring the whale spotting.
You can also read about our experience in Pasikudah further down the east coast of Sri Lanka.