For the longest time the north of Sri Lanka has been relatively unexplored, but the north and the wonders it holds have withstood the test of time as well as years of strife. Although Jaffna has many beautiful historical and cultural attractions, the city often gets overlooked when planning a trip around the island. Take the road less travelled and head north to wander through untrodden Jaffna.
The Jaffna Fort was initially built by the Portuguese in 1618, and then subsequently taken over by the Dutch in 1680 who re-designed it in the shape of a pentagon, and which housed five bastions each named after a province in the Netherlands. Unlike most of the other ancient forts in the country, the interior of the Jaffna Fort isn’t as well maintained as the others; apart from a belfry that is believed to be from Dutch Reformed Church, not much of the Fort’s interior remains.
Kadurugoda is one of the few remaining Buddhist legacies in the Northern province; it consists of 20 coral-stone stupas that are sprawled across less than an acre of land and surrounded by tall palmyra trees. This is one of the most beautiful ruins in the country, but it can also be an emotional one because when it was first discovered at the turn of the century there were 60 stupas, however over time and the effects of war have reduced the number.
The Nallur Kovil is the most iconic Hindu structure in Jaffna. Situated in the heart of Jaffna town, the golden temple looms over the whole city and stands out against all the usual hustle and bustle. The temple has a long and rich history, originally founded in 948AD and it served as the capital of the Jaffna kings, however, when the Portuguese invaded, they destroyed the temple and built churches. The temple seen today was the fourth Nallur temple that was constructed in 1734 during the Dutch, with many refurbishments done overtime. For a truly memorable experience, the best time to visit the temple is during the Nallur Festival that takes place in August.
Nainativu or Nagadeepa, as it is known in Sinhala, is an important site for both Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed that the Buddha once called upon two Naga kings in disagreement, and the Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya was built on this site. The Nagapooshani Amman Kovil is mentioned in many ancient Hindu chronicles and is one of the 64 shrines in Asia dedicated to Shakthi, the Hindu goddess of power. These two places of worship are situated on an island off the coast of Jaffna and you can reach it by regular ferries.
Locally known as Neduntivu, however, many still call this island after its Dutch name- Delft. Although it is one of the larger islands in the area, it remains largely uninhabited. Delft is known to be haunted by ghosts of a bygone era with a crumbling coral fort, an ancient Baobab tree, and most famously horses. During the reign of the Dutch, the island housed their stables- you can still see the ruins today- and the horses who roam this coastal plain are just another reminder of the colonial era.
Jaffna should definitely be on your itinerary when you visit Sri Lanka, it is integral to Sri Lankan life and culture and is different from any other region on the island. One of the things people are most wary about when visiting Jaffna is where to stay, as there are not as many hotels in this region yet. Jetwing Jaffna would be your best option since it is centrally located and has all the modern-day amenities which assure you a more than comfortable stay. So come, and experience Jaffna like never before.