A Whale Watchtower

Jutting into the ocean on the east side of the city of Trincomalee, Swami Rock has been declared by oceanographers the world's greatest vantage point for blue-whale spotting.

Blue whales are present in the seas off Trinco all year round, though sightings are most frequent between the months of February and November. Sperm whales also regularly cruise by.

So while you're exploring Kandasamy Kovil, spare some time to gaze at the big blue offshore for spouting cetaceans. And bring binoculars if you can.

Worth a Trip: From Trinco South

Drive the 110km on the A15 Hwy nonstop between Trincomalee and Kalkudah and you can do the trip in two hours. But given the myriad attractions worth exploring tucked away in pockets off the road, you can also make an entire day of it.

Heading out of Trinco, the A15 loops around the fringes of giant bite-shaped Trincomalee Bay, passing the airport. After 17km there's a turn-off on the left for Marble Beach, signposted just before the Kinniya bridge, a glorious cove bookended by wooded headlands. Run by the air force, there is a resort at the north end of the cove. But spend your time at the south end in the perfect water, enjoying the emerald and blue views and the sight of the odd passing freighter. Note that on weekdays, it can get overrun by school groups.

Continuing south over the Kinniya bridge, the A15 hugs the coastline until the Muslim town of Mutur, which has shops where you can buy refreshments.

Pushing on, turn off the A15 just south of the 101km post, then follow a partially paved road for 7.5km to Seruwawila Rajamaha Viharaya. (From the south, turn off just south of the 89km post and drive for 7km along mostly paved roads.) This is one of the holiest Buddhist monuments in Sri Lanka, founded in the 2nd century BC, but only rediscovered, and reconstructed, in the 1920s. The stupa pokes above the scrubby plains and was renovated in 2009. The tiny village here has snack vendors.

Continuing south, the A15 cuts through an ocean of rice paddies and then a very sparsely populated region of scrub bush and wetlands.

Just after the town of Vakarai and then the Panichchankeni bridge, at the 58km post, turn towards the ocean and drive 2.5km to the idyllic and untrammelled beach. Should you decide to stay here (and who wouldn't?), Tranquility Coral Cottages offers an unplugged, off-the-grid beach experience. Here you can enjoy empty white sands, explore the Panichchankeni lagoon, snorkel the reefs around Sallithievu (an islet connected by a sandbar to the mainland) and taste home-style cooking. The wooden cottages are spacious, but perhaps a little pricey for true Robinson Crusoes.

Back on the A15, it's only 20km south to the twin beaches of Kalkudah and Passekudah.