Often regarded as the most enticing frontier for visitors exploring Sri Lanka, Jaffna is an exotic and vibrant corner of the country that warrants its own holiday experience. Here’s a list of historical, cultural and recreational attractions and activities that make a trip to the northernmost city a dream come true.
Guests at Jetwing Jaffna will find that they are not only in one of Sri Lanka’s Tamil cultural capitals but also a beach holiday destination like no other. Tourists in search of something different from the island’s south coast beaches will find that Jaffna’s seaside hamlets offer more tranquil and yet water-sports friendly landscapes for beachgoers. Some of the top beaches in the area include the white and sandy Kankesanthurai Beach. As one of the safest beaches in the North, visitors can also catch a glimpse of the Naval Port and the Kankesanthurai Lighthouse. Casuarina Beach is no less spectacular while other beaches worthy of exploration include Akkarai Beach, Charty Beach and breathtaking Karainagar Beach.
When it comes to Jaffna’s cultural highlights, it isn’t just Nallur Kovil and the Naga Pooshani Ambal Kovil that travellers can explore as the area is also home to some iconic Buddhist temples. The Nagadipa Purana Vihara in Jaffna is one such locale while the Dambakola Patuna Sangamitta Temple is another point of interest that will charm the spiritually inclined. A tour of the Jaffna Library which was famously burned but has now been restored is another must for first-timers.
Considered one of the best examples of Hindu architecture, the Jaffna Fort is an archaeological wonder like no other. Constructed by the Portuguese in 1618, the fortress has gone through several transformations in its tumultuous history. Having been used by both Dutch and British invaders, the fortress also nearly burned to the ground but remains intact in spite of the many trials it has faced over the centuries. A church and a garrison parade ground as well as the queen’s house are still part of the fort where one also finds the governors’ residence. Don’t forget to swing by the Keerinalain or Naguleeswaram Temple and the Kandarodei Temple with its ruins of more than 61 dagobas.
As one of the main reasons why foodies vacation in Jaffna in the first place, no trip to the northern capital would be complete without sampling local treats made the traditional way. Spicy Jaffna prawn curry and Jaffna crab curry are two staples that are firm favourites among seafood lovers while those with a sweet tooth must dig into a bowl of Rasavalli Kilangu and Modakam, often called Jaffna’s own version of a Chinese dumpling. Kathirikkai and Murungakkai curry or eggplant and drumstick curry will also be a big hit with curry fanatics as will a bowl of spicy Rasam soup.
Travellers based at North Gate by Jetwing will have easy access to some of Jaffna’s top retail attractions including the Jaffna Main Market and the Jaffna Local Market. Known as the best venues to pick up fantastic souvenirs as well as food and other items made in Jaffna, these bustling thoroughfares are engaging cultural spaces as well. Visitors will enjoy a shopping spree in Cargills Square where one can not only shop but also catch a movie or stock up on essentials and groceries.
Apart from the picturesque Delft Ponds, nature lovers should spend time in Jaffna’s Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary. The Nilavarai Bottomless Well is another attraction worth the trip in addition to day-tripping in the many pristine islands surrounding Jaffna including Kachchathivu Island, Mandaitivu Island and Delft Island.