Jaffna is very different from other parts of Sri Lanka but it’s the good kind of difference that makes you want to keep exploring. The northern land of Sri Lanka has a rhythm of its own. The city has a strong Hindu culture and is primarily occupied by Hindus; it’s an entirely different way of living.
Jaffna has a dark and gloomy past. It was the city that was most affected by the 25 year-long civil war. Many lives were lost during these years. The people living had to pause their life to give way to a ruthless and futile battle that brought nothing but sadness to the whole nation. It was only in 2009 when the war ended that as a nation we could breathe, travel, and live without fear. That’s when the pointless boundaries that separated us from our brothers and sisters of the North were finally broken. We were given the freedom to finally smell the air of the northern tip, while those living in the North were able to come to visit us without fear.
Today, Jaffna is open to the whole world to see. It remains unique from other parts of the country but that’s what makes it so special and beautiful. We highly recommend you to take a Jaffna city tour during your visit to Sri Lanka. Since tourism infrastructure is still at its infancy in Jaffna, it is the best time to get the real taste of the city.
Travelling to Jaffna
Located in the far north of the country, and off the beaten track, Jaffna is a long ride from other parts of the country. But don’t let the distance discourage you from visiting.
Colombo to Jaffna,
This is one of the fastest and scenic routes to travel to Jaffna from Colombo. Trains that run between the two cities leave five times a day and the trip takes up to 7 – 8 hours. The cost of the trip is fairly cheap.
There are direct overnight buses from Colombo to Jaffna. You can also break up the trip and travel via Dambulla or Kandy. This way you can cover a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in either of the cities. The bus ride is very cheap!
A chauffeur-driven car to travel from Colombo to Jaffna will be the most comfortable and hassle-free mode of transport. However, it’s quite expensive. If you are travelling in as a group or if you come under a tour package then this will be the ideal way to go. A car ride takes up to 6-7 hours.
Where to stay in Jaffna
There are plenty of places to stay in Jaffna. You can find a place to suit your requirements and budget.
Airbnb offers some great options for accommodation in Jaffna, especially if you are looking for cheap places to stay.
Jetwing Jaffna is a high-end hotel located in the heart of the city. Equipped with modern essentials, it offers everything you can expect from a luxury hotel.
D’Vila Garden House
For a mid-range hotel, D’Vila Garden House is the best option for you. All the rooms are spacious, clean, and comfortable. Their breakfast is quite popular and they have some good options for vegetarians.
This is a lovely little hotel with a nice pool area, tastefully designed rooms, and free Wi-Fi. They serve a nice buffet.
Things to do in Jaffna
Explore the Jaffna Fort
The Portuguese built the star-shaped Jaffna Fort in 1618 and the Dutch expanded it years later. It is a major attraction in the city. The almost isolated ramparts with views of the Jaffna city and lagoon at a distance are amazing. It’s much smaller than the Galle Fort so you can easily explore it in a few hours. Watch the sunset from here!
Visit the Nallur Kandiswamy Hindu temple
The Nallur Kandiswamy Hindu temple is dedicated to the deity of Skanda. This incredible temple is located minutes from the Jaffna town. This golden temple is so striking and it had captivated devotees for centuries long. An iconic landmark in Jaffna, you will not see anything like this in other parts of the country. There is a lot of activity going on inside the temple. From people praying, offering fruits and flowers, cracking coconuts, and lighting incense.
If you are travelling to Jaffna in August; you can enjoy the vibrant Nallur Festival. The festivity continues for twenty-five days ending on the full moon Poya day in August. This is a huge event where devotees travel from far ends of the world.
Make sure you dress modestly when entering the temple. Women need to have their shoulders and knees covered while men have to remove their shirts! Do not carry any food items that include fish or meat into the temple and also no animal skin (leather).
Explore the Delft Island
The ferry for Delft Island leaves at 8 am and carries close to 100 passengers at a time. This is a remote island with traces of history left behind over many centuries.
Things to see in the Delft Island
- Portuguese and Dutch Fort
- Huge Baobab Tree – This is a tree native to Africa and was left behind by Arab merchants back in the day
- Pigeon Nest – The Dutch used to retain messenger pigeons in this nest.
- Wild horses – Beautiful wild horses are seen roaming everywhere and they are a spectacular sight
Dining in Jaffna
Eat at Mangoes
The food in Jaffna is mostly influenced by Indian cuisine, this is due to the majority of local being Hindus. You can enjoy some lip-smacking Indian food such as dosa, curry, and lassie drinks at the Mangoes restaurant. It’s very popular among tourists and lives up to the hype.
Rio Ice Cream
A trip to Jaffna is incomplete without visiting the famous ice cream parlour. Don’t expect soft gelato type ice cream here. Rio has it’s own super sweet flavours and texture!