A hugely significant place in Hindu-Tamil history, the city of Jaffna is bursting with tradition, culture and colour. The temples are rainbow-coloured, the palms are green, and – as across the rest of the country – the Tamil people are friendly, welcoming travellers and tourists into their lives with positivity and curiosity.
As the capital of the Far North, Jaffna offers a memorable and unique experience – different, in many ways, to the rest of the country. Even as you travel to the north on the train, the landscapes seems to become more populated with palmyra and coconut palms.
Until recently, Jaffna was off-limits to tourists, only reopening after the conflict finished in 2009. This region was a war zone for over two decades and there is still a military presence in the area – particularly north of the city.
But fast-forward to 2017 and the city is welcoming visitors once again
Exploring the city of Jaffna
Jaffna Public Library
A beautiful structure located close by the Fort, this is a true example of British Colonial Architecture. The building that stands today was rebuilt in 2002 after the original was burnt down in 1981. The library is used by locals and is an attraction for tourists visiting the city.
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil
Constructed in 1734AD, this temple is one of the most important in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Its distinctive red and white stripes covering the outer walls are a clear symbol of Hinduism, and the towering golden ‘Gopurams’ that rise nine-stories in height are an undoubtedly impressive sight. Men must remove their shirts to enter and all visitors must remove their shoes.
Make sure you see a puja – a traditional religious ceremony. They take place at 5am, 10am, noon, 4.15pm, 4:30pm, 5pm and 6:45pm.
The perfect place to watch the sun set over the sea, Jaffna’s fort is a large ruin of the prestigious structure that it used to be. Built by the Dutch in 1680, the fort is completely free to visit and you’re free to roam around the grounds as you please.
The Islands and the Far North of Jaffna
It’s not just the city of Jaffna you need to see during your visit to the north of Sri Lanka. A drive along the northern coast will be a beautiful, peaceful experience where you may not see anyone else at all. Jaffna’s Islands are well worth a visit as they offer a totally different vibe to the city.
Naga Pooshani Amman Temple
As soon as you step off the boat – which you can take from Kurikadduwan (KKD), connected by road to the main peninsular – you’ll see the opposing Naga Pooshani Amman Temple towering into the sky. Its colourful detail of statues is mesmerising to look at. It’s free to enter.
The Far North
Take your moped and explore the far north of Sri Lanka. The area is barely visited by tourists and en route, you can stop off and see many a temple or dagoba.
A drive along the far north coast is worthwhile – you may not see any other people at all and the coastline is beautiful.
Kankesanturai (KKS) is the military base. The main road to KKS used to be blocked off but it was open in April 2017 – though the military presence is strong with uniformed soldiers patrolling the area.