JAFFNA CITY (Northern Sri Lanka)
Though Sri Lanka is a predominately Buddhist country (70% of the population), you will be surprised by the numerous Hindu temples in Jaffna: Hinduism is a strong cultural feature of the Jaffna Peninsula, and is the dominant religion of the local population.
Reportedly, Nallur Kandaswamy Temple was founded in the 10th century and destroyed three times. The current structure dates from the 18th century and would be the “fourth version” of the temple. In July and August, the temple becomes a part of the impressive Nallur festival, the most important Hindu festival in Sri Lanka. A colorful crowd gathers for 25 days to the sound of drums. One may even witness scenes of mutilation of some devotees, performed for the gods in the hope of obtaining protection against pain.
Jaffna Fort was partially destroyed during the war, but its architecture makes it one of the most interesting in Sri Lanka, along with the Galle Fort. Its architecture is inspired by Vauban and its coral rock walls and moats are intact. It was built in the 17th century by the Dutch to control the trade route to Asia. Much of the fort was destroyed during clashes in the 1990s and is currently being restored.
Jaffna Public Library was burnt down in 1981, following clashes between Tamil and Sinhalese groups. Priceless documents were destroyed, including rare manuscripts written by Tamil intellectuals. It is a central cultural venue for the people of the city. The building was rebuilt immediately after the end of the war and its architecture is worth seeing.
ROYAL PALACE IN JAFFNA
This palace was the symbol of the kingdom of Jaffna before the Portuguese invasion in the 16th century. This kingdom extended to Puttalam in the north-west. The royal palace of Jaffna is not a single building, with ruins scattered throughout the city. You observe the Manthri Manai, the former residence of a prince, or one of the ancient palace entrances, the Cankili Thoppu archway.
Visiting Jaffna’s islands is a truly relaxing experience. You’ll enjoy the beautiful landscape from the causeways and the boat ride to the islands.
The closest islands to Jaffna’s city center are Karaitivu and Velanai. Here you will find beaches that are very popular with local families, the most famous being Casuna Beach.
The most popular boat ride is to Nainativu Island (departing from Velanai), where you can visit the Nagadipa Buddhist Temple as well as the Naga Pooshani Hindu Temple. A tuk tuk ride around this island will allow you to discover the coast and the life of the local population.
Finally, Delft Island is worth a visit for its landscape, its ruins and its wild ponies.
This area, 25km from Jaffna, was devastated by the tsunami in 2004. Taking a ride along the shore will make you aware of the extent of damage to this part of the Peninsula. See razed areas and ruins of old colonial houses. You can also admire the work of the fishermen and many boats on deserted beaches, the most famous being Munai Beach.
The Keerimalai Spring, 15km from Jaffna, offers healing waters. Taking a bath here is a good opportunity to blend with the locals for a relaxing moment. On your way, you’ll find temples and ruins, which will make your visit a full day excursion.