Located at the northern tip of Sri Lanka, Jaffna is approximately a 7.5-hour journey from Bandaranaike International Airport via Kandy or via Anuradhapura. Jaffna can also be reached through the railway network which runs throughout the week. You can even travel by bus or car and make stops along the way to enjoy the trip in its full essence.
Historically Jaffna has been a contested and a much sought-after location. This city was captured by the Portuguese, who lost it to the Dutch only to lose it to the British. After Sri Lanka gained independence on the 4th of February 1948 from the British, the country was torn apart by a terrorist organisation who was determined to seize control of the island. Prior to the Sri Lankan civil war, Jaffna was the second most populated city after the commercial capital of Colombo. Having recovered from a war that lasted 32 long years, this idyllic destination has been reconstructed and now stands as a symbol of peace, culture and courage.
The best way to absorb the culture, chaos and liveliness of Jaffna is to take a stroll through the market packed with fresh produce, herbs and succulent sweets. You’ll see bottles of Jaffna’s brightly coloured and flavoursome fruit cordial and shops that sell dried fish that makes this place iconic for its vibrance and range of goods. Hand crafted household items made of cane, palmyra and coconut make an ideal souvenir to take home from Jaffna.
Things to do in the Jaffna
The vibrant and cultural city offers an array of activities to engage in, ranging from stunning sights of Hindu and Buddhist temples, the Jaffna Fort and much more;
- Nallur Kandaswamy Temple- An iconic temple in Jaffna, significant to the Hindus has a grand golden exterior adding a stark contrast against its surroundings. This temple is famous for hosting the annual Nallur Festival in August that attracts a vast number of people from all around the world.
- Nagadipa Purana Vihara- Set on Nainativu island and accessible by boat. It is said to be the second place that Lord Buddha visited and is one of the 16 most worshipped places in Sri Lanka.
- Jaffna Fort- Built by the Portuguese in 1618, this is the second biggest fort in Sri Lanka. The ruins of a colonial church remain inside the fort, offering a sense of mystical charm to the area.
- Jaffna Public Library- This is one of the most notable landmarks in Jaffna and in the early 1980’s was one of Asia’s biggest libraries. It was destroyed during the civil unrest but now the building has been restored and the library has sprung back to life.
- Keerimalai Hot Water Springs- These springs are said to have therapeutic values and contain healing powers. The Keerimalai spring is perfect for candid pictures and a swim, to beat the hot and humid weather in Jaffna.
- Delft Island- This island is located in the Palk Strait and can be reached by boat. The Fort on the island was built by the Portuguese. Wild horses graze on this paradise island which makes a lovely sight.
Best time to visit the Jaffna
The weather of the northern coast of Sri Lanka is mostly hot and humid. From April – mid June and August – September, the temperature is at its highest. The north east monsoons are from October – January. The best time to visit the city is towards the end of the year, after the monsoon season, as flowers flourish leaving the surroundings fresh and lush. Soft, comfortable clothes and sunscreen are advised all year round.
Popular events in the Jaffna
This city is known for its cultural diversity and grabs the attention of tourists world over and offers a deep engagement through the religious festivals.
- Nallur Festival- Celebrated towards the end of August every year and lasts for 25 days. Packed with an array of vivid, bright colours and the aroma of incense, this is a fascinating festival worth witnessing.
- Vesak – The Buddhist temples are heavily decorated during the Vesak poya day in veneration of the birth, death and enlightenment of Lord Buddha. The streets are always bright and colourful during Vesak season.
- Poson – This full moon poya day is celebrated by the Buddhist community to commemorate the introduction of Buddhism 2500 years ago. This festival is observed with great fervour throughout the island.