On 21 April 2019, Sri Lanka was hit by a series of bomb attacks targetting hotels and Christian places of worship. Initial reports suggest this was a one-off attack linked to domestic and international extremist groups. A State of Emergency has been declared and security has been increased across the island. Flights are operating as normal from Colombo, but passengers are advised to check in early for enhanced security checks. A number of foreign governments are now warning against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka - check your government's travel advisory information for the latest advice.
Historic Batticaloa, Batti for short, enjoys a spectacular position surrounded by lagoons with palm-filtered sunlight glancing off the water. There's a mellow vibe to the town, and the compact center and its huge fortress and many churches are well worth a half-day's exploration on foot.
To the east of Batti's center, Kallady is a small town on a long, sandy isthmus. There are some great beaches out here and a growing number of places to stay. Exploring the entire region by bike is a delight.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Batticaloa.
This once-mighty fort is now home to administrative offices, and though large sections of the structure are crumbling, it's still an evocative sight. It was built by the Portuguese in 1628, but the Dutch took over after just 10 years, followed by the British. Inside the courtyard are some dishevelled, yet colonnaded, old colonial buildings. Look for English cannons, surviving watchtowers and a ruined bell tower. Views across the lagoon are magnificent.
This fine new museum plunges deep into the history of Muslims and Arab traders locally. Spread over three floors, it tells a compelling story about centuries of culture through models, displays, recreations, artefacts and more. The English-speaking staff are very happy to show you around.
This long beach follows the peninsula all the way north to the end. The swimming is usually good. With a bike, you can explore the beach, which has access at numerous places from Navalady Rd. Some areas have more shade than others.
At the end of a sandbar, surrounded by lagoons and mangroves, this 28m-tall lighthouse dates from 1913. The sheltered coastline around here is a popular family excursion (avoid weekends) and there's a play area for kids. Swimming in the calm water, surrounded by islands and inlets, is the main draw. Three-wheelers charge Rs 500 from Batticaloa. It's 5km northwest from New Town via the B46.
Built in 1984 as a stopping point on the Pada Yatra pilgrimage to Kataragama, the temple's Murugan image is said to have opened its own eyes before the painter could do the job. The structure was slammed by the tsunami, leaving its small gopuram leaning at an alarming angle. The colourful leaning tower sits near the beach between Third and Fourth Cross Sts in Kallady.
Consider a haircut and head massage (Rs 400) at this utterly bizarre salon, a monument to kitsch. Every centimetre is covered in decorative painting, fake flowers, sequins, filigree, stained glass or tinsel garlands, and at the back of the salon, up towards the faux-sky ceiling, is an interfaith shrine, from where Durga, Mary and the Buddha keep an eye on things.
Of the many Hindu temples, the expanding Anipandi Sitivigniswara Alayar is visually the finest, with a magnificent gopuram (gateway tower) that’s decorated with a riotous festival of intertwined god figures.
The grand, turquoise-coloured St Mary’s Cathedral stands out among the many churches in Batti. St Mary’s was rebuilt in 1994 following its partial destruction during fighting between local Tamils and Muslims.