Covering Ampara & Trincomalee in Five Days

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Year and MonthDecember, 2016
Number of Days5
Crew5 (3 kids and 2 adults)
AccommodationKings Jay – Ampara
Vegan Beach Resort – Trincomalee
ActivitiesWildlife, nature, heritage, Photography
RouteDay 1 Colombo -> Udawalawe -> Thanamalwila -> Monaragala -> Inginiyagala -> Ampara
Day 2 Ampara  -> Maha Oya -> Ampara
Day 3  Ampara  -> Batticaloa -> Serunuwara -> Trincomalee
Day 4 Trincomalee  -> Thiriyaya -> Kokilai -> Pulmude -> Trincomalee
Day 5 Trincomalee -> Habarana -> Kekirawa -> Kalawewa -> Galewela -> Colombo
Tips, Notes and Special remarks– Always give due respect for every religious site irrespective of being a temple, kovil or a church
– Be considerate of others around you when visiting any public site.
– Don’t litter – always carry a garbage bag in the vehicle and put all your waste in to that.

It was December holidays again we decided to have a family trip and we opted to cover part of the East this time. On a Friday I made some calls to two friends at Ampara and Trinco and got 2 hotels booked. This was intended to be a road trip with time to rest in between.


Day 1, 3 and 5 were more or less travelling and days 2 & 5 were visiting places at a relaxed pace.

The places visited are not discussed in details. If you wish to know the exact locations, more details or driving directions on google maps you can click on the links below listed places.

  1. Udawalawe National Park 
  2. Veheragala Archaeological site at Thanamalvila
  3. Senanayake Samudraya Fishing Harbour
  4. Senanayake Samudraya Dam (Inginiyagala)
  5. Rambakan Oya Canal Ruins
  6. Rambakan Oya Archaeological ruins near the Dam
  7. Rambakan Oya Reservoir
  8. Niloba Wewa
  9. Kiralagas Wewa
  10. Mahaoya Hot Wells 
  11. Aranthalawa Massacre site
  12. Buddhangala Monastery
  13. Trincomalee Lagoon
  14. Kathiraveli Prehistoric Burial Grounds & Archaeological Site
  15. Pashana Pabbatha Viharaya
  16. Lankapatuna Samudragiri Viharaya
  17. Seruwila Raja Maha Viharaya
  18. Girihandu Seya
  19. Kokilai Lagoon
  20. Arisimale Beach
  21. Kanthale reservoir and the ancient stone sluice gate
  22. Kala Wewa
  23. Awkana Statue

Day 1

So we were off on a Saturday at about 4.30 AM from Moratuwa and we were at Udawalawe around 7 AM. We had our home made breakfast at a peaceful location  bordering Udawalawe National Park.

Just before Thanamalwila Junction, we noticed a Kalu Board called “Veheragala Archaeological Site” and took a turn in to the road. We travelled quite a distance without any success and one elderly gentleman showed us a temple on a rock little away from the road. We could see the site and figured we would take about 1 hour for the detour with the kids and decided to visit the temple on another day due to timing restrictions.

We came back to the main road and a friend at Monaragala recommended us of a nice eating place near the famous Biso Pokuna called Siyambala Sevana for lunch

Our next stop was Senanayake Samudraya Fisheries Harbour point. The waterline of the reservoir has receded about 200 meters at the Harbour since my visit in January and lot fresh growth could be seen on the exposed tank bed. It was about 3 PM now and elephants were already appearing on the dried up lake bed adjoining harbour point. We spent a good 45 minutes there enjoying the scenery and took a tea break.

Then we were off to the Senanayake Samudraya dam at Inginiyagala. After enjoying the scenery we took off on the final leg for the day – destination Ampara. We had booked the Kings Jay, a new hotel at Ampara solely on the friends recommendation but found it to be an excellent place. Rooms were more than we expected and service and the facilities were also impressive.

Day 2

Next day was our visiting day. First, we took off to Mahaoya to visit the Rambakan Oya Ruins which was on my list of places to visit for some time.  The site lies about 12 kms off Mahaoya. The road is being constructed and there are number of stretches lined with crushed stones with sharp edges.

First you will come across the massive ancient canal built by king Giri Abaya in the 3rd century BC of prince Saddhatissa (2nd century BC) about 500 meters before the dam.  Huge Rectangular cuboids cut in granite creates a two channel canal for over 250 feet. Why this project was not completed is unknown.

Next we travelled a further 500 meters to reach the Rambaken Oya Reservoir which was deserted  other than for us. Spending a good time there we came down the gravel path from the bunt to see another “Kalu Board” in middle of shrub jungle declaring it an archaeology site.

The area was completely covered in thorny bushes and creepers. We managed to get in to the area under a large tree with some scratches and found few granite remnants of an ancient building. There should have been more ruins further in but it was not possible go walk any further.

Next we travelled a further 500 meters to reach the Rambaken Oya Reservoir which was deserted  other than for us. Spending a good time there we came down the gravel path from the bunt to see another “Kalu Board” in middle of shrub jungle declaring it an archaeology site.

One thing we noticed was this area was abundant with weaver bird colonies. Some birds had gone to the extend of building two levels in their nests.

So after washing off the scratches we came back to the Mahaoya town.

There are 3 minor lakes which had been renovated with the Rambaken Oya project on the route from Mahaoya to Rambaken Oya. We missed the  Pollebedde tank but made stops at Niloba tank and the Kiralagas wewa tank on the way back.

Unfortunately we were unable to locate the Hinguremada Archaeological site which is supposed to be on this route.

Our next stop was the  to the hot water wells of Mahaoya. After a refreshing bath at the wells, we returned to Ampara and and made a stop at the site of Aranthalawa Massacre. The first time I visited this site was in 2009. The site was in the middle of a jungle with only a footpath towards the monument. It was very sad to see that today it has turned in to a fully fledged business operation. A large area has been cleared, buildings constructed and a temple has been set up to run the business. 

Around 4 PM we took off the Buddhangala Rajamaha Viharaya. The temple is known to enshrine the relics of Sariputta and Mogalana maha theros. Compared to what this temple was in 2009, this temple too seems to be getting more and more commercialised. 

The chances of finding wild elephants on the road to Buddhangala is is quite high after about 6 PM

Day 3 

Day 3 was again a travelling day and our destination was Trincomalee. We drove through Kalmune, Kanthankudi and Batticaloa. Seeing some large flock of birds we got down at the Batticaloa lagoon and found the edge of lagoon infested with Jellyfish. At the rocks on the edge we could see jellyfish in the ephyrae stage. May be it was their mating season.

Click, click, click and we were off again. We stopped at the Kathiraveli Prehistoric Burial Grounds  & Archaeological Site to find that it has been turned in to a Tourist Park.

Its still not opened and gates were locked.

Our plan was to go to Seruwila and then to Lanka Patuna and possibly Foulpoint Light house. But we saw a signboard directing us to Lanka Patuna after passing Verugal, we decided to make this visit first. On the way we came across the Pashana Pabbatha Viharaya, an ancient temple complex which was used as a base for the LTTE terrorists and their transmission station.

After liberation, the incumbent priest has taken over and held on to the site under many difficulties from the politically motivated Tamil community. TNA (Tamil National Alliance)  has made number of attempts to grab the land belonging to the Temple to build an Hindu Kovil.

The priest, Rev Dr Devananda thero is a tough character fighting a lone battle with the Tamil political parties in the east. He is a medical doctor who had taken up robes at the later stage of his life. Without a single Buddhist in area, he stated that he doesn’t even stay the night at the temple due the threats to his life. ‘Is that why I see cops at the entrance?’ I asked. “They not here to protect me but to protect  the Kovil. The kovil owners has put a case against me stating that I have burned their kovil, and the case is still going on” he said. His final words before departing was “මේවා අපි බලාගත්තේ නැතිනම් කවුරු  බලාගනීවිද මහත්තයෝ”

We climbed up to the top of the rock passing few rock inscriptions which had etched the history of this ancient site. At the top you can see remains of a stupa, now overgrown.

Next destination was to be the Lanka Patuna at the end of this road. But we found that the bridge to the other side of the lagoon was still being built and we had to travel on boat to get to the other side. This being a 4 day holiday, there was a quite a queue for the boat. So we decided to give it a miss considering the time we had.

We turned back to the road which we came, and proceeded to the ancient Seruwila Rajama Viharaya built during the reign of King Kavantissa (2nd century BC) containing the Lalata Dathun Wahanse (sacred forehead bone) of Buddha.

Then it was to the hotel we had booked at Trincomalee. After getting lost number of times we finally managed to find the hotel.

Day 4

We planned to go further up for day 4. First stop was Girihandu Seya at Thiriyaya. Driving along the Pulmode Road, there are 2 routes to access Girihandu Seya. One route is from Kuchchaweli, or else you could travel further upto Thiriyaya and then take the turn towards  Girihandu Seya. The road from Kuchchaweli is not carpeted but that is off set by the surrounding natural setting. Considering the drive, this is by far the most picturesque route. 

Girihandu Seya lies on a hillock. 300 steps will take you the main Watadege site. The walls of the Watadage is well preserved and you can observe the pillars which held roof lying all around the temple grounds. This is considered the first ever stupa built in the world and enshrines the hair relics of Buddha.

Our next plan was to find the Divulwewa Samadhi statues which were almost identical to the Samadhi statue at Anuradhapura. 

The location I had identified as this archaeological site was found to be wrong and the villagers didn’t know of such a site in the vicinity. With mobile data signals being almost non existent to do any research we gave up the idea and left the area with the next destination being the Thiriyaya Girihandu Seya

Later after coming home I did some research on the Divulwewa site and found it to be few kilometers towards Hamillewa from the site I had identified. For anybody interested in the location, this has been update here

We drove past Hamillewa, Mahadivulwewa and Gomarankadawala and came across an cleared archaeology site right by the road. The typical ‘kalu’ board just identified it as the Pahalagama Archaeological Site. Too tempted not to pass it we stopped there where we met with few labourers who maintain this site. This site consisted of a Stupa, Bodhigara and a Image House which has been cleared and conserved. Although no historical document had been found here the existence of Sri Pathul Gal indicated to a early Anuradhapura period. 

It was 12.20 when we left this site and arrived at the  Girihandu Seya around 12.45. We climbed and enjoyed the view for about ½ hour but it was blazing hot at the top. 

To the right of the stupa house lies steps going down to a different level of the hillock where you will find ruins of number of buildings which has been used by the monks.

After Girihandu Seya we took the road to Thiriyaya and drove further up to Kokilai Lagoon which is a declared bird sanctuary. We ended up in a fisheries harbour and the lagoon turned out to be an birds paradise. We walked along the edge of the lagoon a bit enjoying the flocks of birds and the eagles surrounding them.

We turned back after about an hour and returned on the Pulmde road until we reached the turn off to the Arisimale. Arsimale is an beach hidden near a navy camp. You need to drive about 2 km on a gravel road to the reach the site. The road is motorable but washed away in few places.

Once you park the vehicle at the Navy camp site you need to walk about 500 meters through thick thicket to reach this beach hidden away from any public view. As the name suggests the sand particles on this beach is large like rice grain.

Although its so much hidden, being a 4 day holiday, the beach was crawling with activity. Most of the people had come here by lorries and 3 wheelers. So probably they were youngsters from  surrounding areas. Since we didn’t find the tranquillity we expected we decided against taking a bath. 

This was the last stop for the day and we returned to our hotel around 4 PM to have a sea bath in front of it.

Few things about Trincomalee. Being on the Eastern beach, sunset and sunrise was awesome, with the sun setting against over the land and rising over the sea, it gives a different view compared to sunset from  west.

We couldn’t find a single decent pastry shop in the town but there are enough Saivar Kada. These didn’t look decent enough for a family, so going out for a meal is a not a option unless you know of a good place.

Day 5

Day 5 was getting back to to Colombo. We left Trincomalee after a late breakfast and decided to make a one last vist to Awkana. Passing Kanthale and reaching Habarana, we took the Maradankadawala Road and took a shortcut to Kekirawa and reached the Kalawewa around 1 PM. After a stop at Kalawewa, we were off to Awkana Statue.

Some attribute Awkana statue to king Dhatusena of the 6th century AD, when he was living in a temple called Sinhagiri Vihara. Still others say it was built during the epic reign of King Parakrama Bahu the Great of the 13th century, AD.

In addition to the massive granite Buddha statue, walking passing stupa will take you to 2 ancient inscriptions, a large rock pond and a fantastic view of the area.

From Awkana, we came back to Galewela and from there it was back to Colombo through Kurunegala, Giriulla and Katunayake ending a 1300+ km 5 day family trip.


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