Jaffna, located at the very tip of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, has been a famed city fused with history and culture. Since the end of the 30-year civil war, the capital of the northern province of Sri Lanka has warmly invited all to come visit the beauty that was not within reach for so long. The Jaffna peninsula and lagoon are favoured spots to visit, but there is more than just the geographical beauty to be seen, with many cultural and historical attractions to be visited too.
Jaffna was founded officially as a trading town, with roots stemming from European merchants on their trade routes. Findings from recent archaeological excavations link the land to as far back as 2000 BCE, but the chronicles of the Mahavamsa, which originated around 6BC, is more regarded as the more popular historical background to the land amongst locals. Nevertheless, Jaffna was the seat of many a kingdom, through the medieval period up until the Colonial era where Jaffna was used as an administrative centre. There was much unrest during the civil war that ended in 2009, but since then there has been peace and prosperity in the area.
Jaffna is situated approximately 396kilometres away from Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka which connects Jaffna through the railway system and the road networks of Sri Lanka. The estimated time that it would take to travel from Colombo to Jaffna via the A9 Highway is just over 7 hours. Six daily trains depart from the Colombo Railway station and a much more enjoyable transportation option if you are looking for a direct route. Alternatively, you are able to take a flight from the Ratmalana Airport to the Jaffna Palali Airport on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or charter a flight at your convenience with the flight duration approximately one hour. Once you arrive in Jaffna, you may also take a ferry to Deft Island to explore it too! Often, most travellers to Sri Lanka or locals, attempt to include Jaffna in their holiday itinerary when Anuradhapura or Trincomalee are also included, so that there may be a day or two that will act as a buffer when travelling via vehicle.
However, no matter which mode of travel you choose to visit Jaffna, there is much to see and do when you get there such as the following popular Jaffna sites.
Nallur Kandaswamy Temple
One of the most prominent Hindu temples in Jaffna, with the original temple dating as far as back as the 13th century where the presiding Hindu deity being Lord Murugan. The present temple, the fourth that was built in the 17th century also features the recent addition of a nine storey Raja Gopuram in 2011.
Jaffna Archaeological Museum
If you are a history buff, then a visit here is necessary. Located in Nallur, it is home to many artefacts and rare antiquities of Buddhist and Hindu significance, including items collected over the years from the colonial era, temples and even Kandarodai.
Jaffna Dutch Fort
Built by the Portuguese and then taken over by the Dutch in the mid 16th century and further expansions were carried out. It was originally named “Fortress of Our Lady of Miracles of Jafanapatão” by the Portuguese for many miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary statue located within the church of the fort. Some of the buildings the fort include the Governor’s Residence, the Queen’s House, and the Garrison Parade Ground, to name a few. However, it suffered under the civil war being the stage for many a battle. There are only a few sections of the fort open to the public, and currently its undergoing renovations and restorations with the help of Dutch funding.
Nagadipa Purana Vihara
The location is said to be one of the three locations that Lord Gautama Buddha graced during his second time in the island.
Other notable attractions that should definitely be on your places to visit in Jaffna are the Jaffna Library, the Kandarodai Temples, Casuarina Beach, Delft Island, Sangiliyan Statue, and The Clock Tower to name a few.