The Best Things To Do In Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Jaffna is the most northern province of Sri Lanka where a hybrid culture and simplified lifestyle exist pretty much different from the central and south parts of the nation. Ranging from pristine natural surroundings and religious monuments to cultural and historic remainings, Jaffna, one of the major tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, has a plethora of wonders and funs to show you and walk you through that shall enlighten you with the eventful history and rich culture of the northern part of the country.
Regardless of age, gender and tastes, anyone shall delight in the diverse tourist attractions across the region. When you plan on visiting Sri Lanka, never forget to reserve a couple more additional days to explore the beautiful Jaffna because it is worth each of your footsteps and moments.
From the very olden times onwards, the Jaffna peninsula used to be largely populated by Tamil-origin people. You can largely observe Tamil culture in here. The peninsula had always been the center stage of fights and rages the whole civil war period of the country that occurred back in 1980. That might be why the region remained unmodernized and pleasingly rustic ever since. Jaffna also has a lot to tell about its colonial past which was quite vibrant and eventful. For its significant coastal location, the province had been occupied by all the Portuguese, Dutch and English.
Here in this blog, let us discuss the best tourist attractions around Jaffna and top things to do. Let's do it!
Nallur Kandaswamy Temple
Originally built in 948 AD, the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, situating in the town of Nallur, is one of the must-visit major Hindu shrines in Jaffna. With considerable renovations, the edifice looks modern but the architecture loses no religious elements in appearance. The Kovil boasts of conducting the longest festival in Sri Lanka, Nallur Festival which is a colorful procession lasting over 25 days once a year. From the city center, the temple can be reached by a 10-minute driver. Tourists and non-Hindus are welcome to visit, but moderate dressing is required.
Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple
The major Hindu shrine on Nainativu island, Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple is a true epitomized display of what a genuine and traditional Hindu religious should look like with its architectural style, wall carvings, and artistic representation of idols and statues on roofs. The Nainativu Temple has over six puja offerings daily and holds several festivals every year. Plenty of local and foriegn travelers and pilgrims visit the kovil every day all year long. Everyone is welcome here in the hopes that you wont mind sticking to appropriate decent dressing on the temple premises.
Nainativu is a small island off the main body of the Jaffna peninsula and can be reached by a combined transfer of road and ferry.
One of the well-preserved colonial forts in Sri Lanka, Jaffna Fort is the still-surviving soul of the eventful colonial past of this northern province of the country. Spanning across the southeastern coastal line of the Jaffna peninsula, this historical tourist attraction in Jaffna from the colonial period with plenty of worth seeing architectural wonders features well-kept open grounds, walls and arches surrounded by cunningly-designed stretch of water. Originally the Portuguese built the Jaffna Fort back in the 17th century. But the works and additions by the hands of the Dutch who succeeded later turned the fort into an attractive landmark with much grandeur.
Never be hesitant to set aside a considerable amount of time to explore this iconic and busier market of Jaffna which acts as the heart to this northern province. With a lot of bustling and noise, this colorful market is pretty much fun to take strolls around. You can find a wide array of local products, art crafts and souvenirs on sale unique to the culture and lifestyle of Jaffna. Open-air places that shell fruits and vegetables, shops for clothes and ornaments and counters that offer various sorts of local refreshments and foods!
Kadurugoda Temple and Ruins
Located in the hamlet named 'Kantarodai' on the outskirts of Jaffna, Kadurugoda is one of the best-preserved Buddhist legacies across the northern peninsula of Sri Lanka. On an excavation taken place in the early 20th century, there had been found 60 gray coral-stone stupas with a tragic history attached to it. It is said that these sixty small stupas, that have been architectured in an unconventional way of grounded form unlike those towering ones, represent those 60 monks who had lost their lives due to the inflicts pulled on them by the then kind of Jaffna. Currently, there are only around 20 stupas visible on Kadurugoda Temple premises that sprawls across less than an acre of open ground fringed by palmyra trees. Read more!
With an unbelievable history dating 1000 years back and a lot of myths and legends attached to it, Keerimalai is a religious arena in the Jaffna peninsula that is home to several sacred kovils dedicated to Hindu Lord Siva and a worth-visiting water stretch that is believed by the locals to have healing powers. This scared landmark is situated overlooking the ocean with the pond having direct and secured open to the oceanwater. Behind the main pond structure, there is a separate bathing area for women. Keerimalai Naguleswaram Kovil, located within the walking distance from the pond, is popular among locals.
Speaking of one of the myths; There had been a sage cursed with a face that of a mangoose. His curse was pulled off and cured once he took a dip in this pond. That myth has won the current title to this scared Hindu devotional place, Keerimala, which translates to mangoose hill. The Keerimalai shall be accessed by a 30-minutes drive from Jaffna.
Off the main peninsula body of Jaffna, there are several small islands located on the ocean with unmatched natural and rustic beauty. Also known as Nedunitivu, Delft Island is a tourist-friendly local island of 20 sq km area (8 km length and 6 km width) populated by Tamil origin people. Along with seeing its old colonial buildings in the dilapidation state, you would like its unsophisticated way of living and unsophisticated geography. The tourist attractions include its adorable white sandy beaches with coral chunks surrounded by shallow waters, fort ruins from the colonial period, the growing rock, freely-roaming wild horses and Baobab tree. The Delft island shall be reached by a one-hour ferry-ride from Jaffna. Read more!
Nilavarai Bottomless Well
Considered as an archaeological monument in Jaffna, Nilavarai Well is antique underground water well with interesting legends among Hindhu and Buddhist worshippers. For its unusual depth, quite strange for a small girthed water stretch like this, Nilavarai Well is regarded as having no bottom end. As a matter of fact, recent excavation and examination of expert divers found out that the well possesses a depth of 52 meters.
But having its bottom measured does not deprive of this well of any of its amusing elements. Several tunnels have been found at different levels down the depth that are said to lead towards different directions, with one of the tunnel supposedly connecting to the Keerimala pond. The first meters of the depth contain freshwater while it turns salty as it goes down. An iconic feature of Jaffna, Nilavarai Well is a place where a plethora of locals and foreigners visit. Make sure you don't pollute the water and the surroundings.
Jaffna Public Library
In a sense, more than the cultural enlightenment you obtain going through the shelves and isles of this iconic Jaffna Library, it would be the eventful history of the northern province that this white-palace like edifice has to tell you that would more interest you and indulge you taking a visit to this vital tourist attraction in Jaffna. First built in 1933, this cultural heritage had to encounter a serious 'book-burning' in 1931 in the wake of the Sri Lankan civil war. The library was home to around one hundred thousand books at the time of biblioclasm. Reconstructed into the modern classic form, Jaffna Public Library is now a must-visit area to know about Tamil literature and the culture of Sri Lanka.
One of the most-demanded beach destinations in the northern province of Sri Lanka with shallow waters and pristine shores, Casuarina Beach is hit by both locals and grand hoards of foreigners all year long. Casuarina shrubbery fringes this golden fine-powdered sandy strip of the oceanfront as a coastal forest providing some cooling shade for the beach bums from the sun. At the eastern tip of the beach, the Karainagar Lighthouse shall be sticking out in all the grandeur. One thing is quite sure, you are going to wind down in the most possible picturesque backdrop of nature. 20 Kilometers away from Jaffna, it shall require a one-hour journey using public or private transportation to reach Casuarina Beach in Karainagar.
Archaeological Museum Jaffna
Located in Nallur, a couple of minutes drive away from the downtown, Jaffna Archeological Museum is an interesting cultural center for peeping into the heritage and history of Jaffna. Showcasing a rare collection of antique things of curiosity from the ancient time of Sri Lanka to the colonial period of the country, this worth going museum has several religiously relevant entities in the forms of metal, wood, and stone that convey the Buddhist and Hindu culture and tradition. Set in a small ground, the museum has several edifices and show centers of rustic look in addition to the cultural hall in the front.
Ruins of Jaffna kingdom
In Nallur less than three Kilometers away from Jaffna, you can visit these remaining building structures of Jaffna Kingdom - the royal abode and the structure of the ruling dynasty of the Kingdom of Northern Sri Lanka that sprawl across an open ground treating you on its architectural wonders. The palace was home to the Aryachakravarti dynasty prior to the advent of the Portuguese. The palace has gone through several damages during the Portuguese conquest of the kingdom. Several literary repositories and temples on the premised were razored to the ground by the colonial force.
In addition to several small monuments on the premise, visitors are able to see the remaining parts of the palace, like Yamuna Eri, Cankili Thoppu archway, Ruins of the foundation of the Cankilian Thoppu and Mantri Manai.
St. Mary's Cathedral Jaffna
There are a few Roman Catholic churches across Jaffna. Among them, St Mary's Catholic Church, located in the Gurunagar suburb, is one of the oldest Christian shrines with notable architecture and exceptionally huge size. It was built by the Dutch in 1789. The popular folklore has it that the ancient king of Jaffna, Cankili, had executed his own son on account of his conversion to catholicism. The son was attracted to Christian faith due to his friendship with one of the Dutch. The prince's ashes were buried where he was killed. Later, paying tribute to him, a small chapel was erected there which later turned out to the foundation for the present cathedral. A multi-symbol of Jaffna's colonial past, hybrid culture, and religious tension, St. Mary's Cathedral Jaffna should not be missed out on during your visit.