This post was last updated on August 1st, 2019 at 12:49 pm
Slowly but surely, Jaffna welcomes more and more tourists. It is a fascinating, unimposing and usually not so touristy place that for a long time was the undisputed cultural capital of the Sri Lankan Tamils. It is a place that is definitely worth a visit!
Jaffna, the unknown city in Sri Lanka
The city has been impassable for a long time through years of war. This not only led to the loss of human lives but also the historic Tamil city was heavily damaged by the many battles. When you arrive, the consequences of all these battles are clearly visible.
Around you are destroyed houses, bombed churches and public buildings that have been damaged by bullets and shrapnel.
The city was the center of a large number of civil wars. It has been largely inaccessible for more than 20 years. Fortunately, that is now changing. Jaffna is a vibrant city and despite many years of isolation it is still impressive.
Why do you have to go to Jaffna?
They are working hard to restore the region. Refugee residents are back to rebuild their city. The city is surprisingly green with picturesque streets, colonial suburbs and beautiful temples and churches. The roads, railways and air connections have been greatly improved.
Yet the Tamil population in Jaffna and their struggle is perhaps the most important reason to come here. It is a great experience to hear their stories. Jaffna is also the ideal base for trips to the idyllic islands to the west of the city, and the lagoons of the surrounding peninsula.
The surrounding islands are a nice trip from Jaffna.
Attractions in Jaffna
Jaffna is closer to India than to Colombo. When you arrive in Jaffna you get a kind of culture shock when you have spent a lot of time in the rest of Sri Lanka. The Indian influences here stand out immediately.
But while there is a certainly a bit of India in Jaffna, the city has formed its own unique and complex identity with beautiful sights.
# 1 Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil
This huge Hindu temple is one of the most important Hindu religious buildings in Sri Lanka. The current temple dates from 1734. There are friendly priests, some of whom speak English, who answer questions about the temple and traditions.
Visitors must take off their shoes. Men also have to take off their shirts.
# 2 Jaffna Fort
The Jaffna Fort is a piece of Dutch history. Large parts of this impressive complex have recently been restored but it is still a bit messy. The Fort was once one of the largest Dutch forts in Asia.
It was built in 1680 on the site of an old Portuguese fort. From the fort you have a beautiful view over the lagoons.
# 3 Royal Palace
There is not much left of the Royal Palace but with a little imagination you can visualize a part of it. Nallur used to be the capital of the Jaffna Kingdom. A few buildings from that time can still be visited.
For example, you have the Yamuna Eri, a U-shaped swimming pool made of stones. It is believed that this was the royal family’s bath. There are a few more buildings like that.
How do you get there?
The city is located in the northernmost tip of Sri Lanka. It is quite a long journey to get there. Yet the city is easily accessible. There is even an airport that connects the city with the rest of the country. Another option is taking the bus.
Various buses run to and from Jaffna. Buses depart from the CTB Bus Stand. Buses run to the following cities, among others:
- Anuradhapura ➜ takes 5 hours, 250 rupees, $1,40
- Colombo ➜ takes 12 hours, 670 rupees, $3.80
- Kandy ➜ takes 9 hours, 350 rupees, $2
- Mannar ➜ takes 4 hours, 200 rupees, $1.15
Location of Jaffna
Click the image to view the location in Google Maps!