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Places to visit in Jaffna

Places to visit in Jaffna

The capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, Jaffna, offers a distinctive perspective on Sri Lankan culture. Jaffna and Colombo are separated by 363km. It is known for having a large population of Tamil people, and any tourist will be impressed by the locals’ friendliness. You will notice the influences from the subcontinent in everything from the food to the architecture to the way people dress if you have travelled to India, especially the South. It was a closed destination for many because of a 30-year civil war, but it has now emerged from the ashes to become an amazing city with a distinctiveness that sets it apart from the rest of the island. Here are the top 10 places to visit in Jaffna.

1. Jaffna Fort

Jaffna Fort

Portuguese colonists initially constructed Jaffna Fort in 1619 following their invasion of the Jaffna Kingdom. The fort was known as the “Fortress of Our Lady of Miracles of Jafanapatão” while it was under Portuguese rule, taking its name from the nearby Mary-centered church. Brick, mortar, stone, and corals were used in combination to build the fort’s walls. In 1658, the Dutch, led by Raiclop Van Goins, expanded the Jaffna Fort after capturing it. The fort’s distinctive pentagonal shape, which you can recognise from aerial photographs of the fort, was created in 1792 with the addition of defensive triangles. It is only second to the Galle Fort in size, covering an area of 55 acres acres. Architecturally important buildings can be found inside the fort. One of the most stunning pieces of northern architecture was the church built inside the walled enclosure in 1706. Jaffna Fort was taken over by the British in 1795, and a British garrison ruled there until 1948. It was in the LTTE’s hands from 1986 to 1995, and the Sri Lankan Army finally took it back in 1995 after a 50-day siege as part of Operation Riviresa. With financial assistance from the Dutch government, authorities started the painstaking job of restoration after the war ended in 2009. You can include this place among the top places to visit in Jaffna without any doubt. 

2. Jaffna Library

Jaffna Library

One of the most significant historical and notable places to visit in Jaffna is the Jaffna public library. In 1959, this library first opened its doors. Alfred Duraiappah, who was the mayor of Jaffna at the time, founded it. The building of this library was done in an Indo-Saracenic manner. One of the largest libraries in Asia, the Jaffna Library housed about 97,000 books and manuscripts. However, the library was destroyed by fire in 1981 due to the ongoing civil violence. The entire literary treasure was irretrievably lost. The library underwent extensive renovation in 2001, with the addition of a new building and thousands of new books. Currently, the Jaffna Municipal Council is in charge of running the library. You can still explore the library’s public spaces and the lovely garden that adorns its grounds even though the majority of the library’s wings are inaccessible to walk-in visitors.

3. Nallur Temple

Nallur Temple

The Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is one of the most revered temples in the city of Jaffna. The Hindu God of Love, War, and Beauty, Murugan, is the focus of the temple. The original temple is thought to have been constructed in the 10th century. It was often demolished and rebuilt before the 18th century saw the creation of the ultimate iteration. The main entrance of the temple is on the east side. Its five-story Gopuram tower is intricately sculpted in the Dravidian architectural style. The kovil holds a celebration each year (usually during the full moon in August). The celebration lasts for 25 days and begins with a ceremony to hoist the flag. The entire town adopts a lively and colourful atmosphere. So, it is among the most interesting places to visit in Jaffna. Remember to take off your shoes before entering the temple. Be sure to cover your legs and shoulders as well. Nothing should be worn by men above the waist.

4. Keerimalai Sacred Water Springs

Keerimalai Sacred Water Springs

A well-known natural spring called Keerimalei is located on the northern coast not far from Keerimalai beach, 25km north of Jaffna town. Since the water’s level in the basins is above sea level, it does not originate from the ocean. According to legend, this submerged water source also leads to the Nilavarai bottomless Well, located more than 10km away. Because of its high mineral content and chemical value, the water that seeps through the crevices of carbonate rocks is beneficial to human health. Many Hindu and other followers visit the spring, which is regarded as a holy pond, in search of miraculous healing, an impotence cure, and general health. These factors make Keerimalai Water Springs one of the most popular places to visit in Jaffna. There are two swimming pools: a sizable pool for males that looks out over the ocean, and a smaller one just for women. One of Sri Lanka’s revered Pancha Ishwarams, the Keerimalai Naguleswaram Kovil, is right next door. 

5. Delft Island

Places to visit in Jaffna - Delft Island

The island formerly known as Delft Island also went by the name Neduntivu in Tamil. It is the second-largest island in Sri Lanka and has a more than thousand-year history. Since the 16th century, Ceylon’s interactions with Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonists have had a significant impact on the history and culture of Delft. A daily ferry departs from the Kurikkaduwan Jetty for Delft Island. Although there are ancient temple ruins on Delft Island, there are also recent Dutch colonial fort ruins that show the island’s past. The island was given the name Delft by the Dutch, after the Dutch city of Delft. The colonists first brought wild horses to this area for military purposes, as well as to breed and sell with India. These wild horses are now protected on the Island. A solitary banyan tree, which grows in a seemingly mystical jungle of vines, is another interesting tree. One of the most intriguing Dutch artefacts is possibly the Queen’s Tower. Despite its straightforward design, it may be one of the island’s cutest lighthouses. So, delf Island is surely one of the places to visit in Jaffna during your trip.  

6. Nagadeepa Temple

Nagadeepa Temple

On Nagadeepa Island, there is a historic Buddhist temple called Nagadeepa Temple. One of the three temples that Lord Buddha has visited in Sri Lanka is this one. Therefore, it is one of the most prominent places to visit in Jaffna. According to legend, Lord Buddha resolved a conflict between Chulodara and Mahodara, two tribal kings of the Naga people, over the ownership of a gem-encrusted throne. The two warring kings made peace after hearing Buddha’s Dhamma discourses, offered the throne to Lord Buddha in unison, and he gave it back to the Naga kings. Later, a stupa next to the temple housed the throne as a shrine. The history that came after states that king Devanampiya Tissa rebuilt the Nagadeepa Viharaya and turned it into a holy site. The Temple was destroyed and the worshippers were denied access to the location during the Portuguese colonial period. The temple was renovated later in the 1930s by Buddhists under the direction of Randombe Somatissa Nayaka Thero. Another experience is crossing a causeway via Kites and Punkuduthiv to reach this temple amid palms and beach dunes. It is recommended to use the hourly ferry service, and the boat tour only requires a 15-minute row. 

7. Casuarina Beach

Places to visit in Jaffna - Casuarina Beach

One of the biggest islands on the peninsula, the Karativu islands, which is among the best places to visit in Jaffna. Tourists frequently visit Casuarina Beach because of its distinctive smooth white sands, calm shallow blue waters without waves, and supremely peaceful ambience. Gaining its name from the numerous casuarina trees that can be found along the beach’s edge. Other names and spellings for Karainagar’s Casuarina Beach include Casoorina, Cashoorina, and a few others. Although it is safe to go in the middle of the ocean, it is recommended that tourists travel with skilled professionals or local fishermen. There is vast biodiversity that may be found by visiting. It is the perfect location for your holiday because of the wonderful brown sands, shallow blue sea, and lack of powerful waves. 

8. Hammenhiel Fort

Places to visit in Jaffna - Hammenhiel Fort

In the Jaffna Peninsula, between the islands of Kayts and Karaitivu, there is a fort called Fort Hammenhiel that is constructed around a tiny island. The Portuguese constructed the fort in the middle of 1618 using coral that was mined; it was given the name Fortaleza Real (Fort Royal). In March 1658, the fort was taken by the Dutch under the leadership of Captains Cornelies Reb, Piester Waset, and N. van der Reede. Then, they changed the name to Hammenhiel (which means “Heel of the Ham”) because they thought Sri Lanka looked like a smoked ham. In 1680, the Dutch reconstructed the fort, adding a stone breakwater, filling in the sunken ramparts, adding a stone vault to the upper floor, and creating a brick-lined reservoir to the fort’s north. The fort was later used by the British as an infectious diseases hospital after serving as a maximum security jail. Rohana Wijeweera, the founding leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, was arrested and held in the fort in 1971. The Sri Lanka Navy owns Fort Hammenhiel, which was operating as a hotel at the time. The historic fort’s cells had been transformed into guest rooms. From the fort’s private pier on the mainland, where the restaurant and hotel bar is also situated, visitors can access the fort.

9. Kadurugoda Temple

An old Buddhist temple called Kadurugoda Vihara is located in the nearby town of Chunnakam in a little village called Kandarodai. According to interlinear inscriptions interpreted by Professor Senarath Paranavithana, a prince of the Shailendra dynasty of the Sri Vijaya Kingdom constructed Kadurugoda Vihara. There are currently 20 stupas on the grounds of the viharaya, the smallest being 8 feet in diameter and the tallest 23.5 feet. They have a really distinctive pattern with tiny holes all over them and are made of grey coral stone. Those stupas are thought to have been built to house the remains of Arahath monks who resided in the Punkuduthiv region. A shrine room’s ruins, coloured tiles, pieces of Buddha and Bodhisattva sculptures, Buddha foot imprints, a guard stone with Punkalasa, ancient coins, and more were discovered during excavations on those grounds. Some of these artefacts are now on display at the Jaffna museum. The Sri Lankan army currently maintains this temple, which has been designated an archaeological site in the Jaffna District. 

10. Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary

Places to visit in Jaffna - Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary

The Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary provides a caring home to a variety of feathered locals and visitors. Chundikulam Lagoon and its environs have been recognised as a bird sanctuary since 1938. The Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka is in charge of managing it as a national park since 2015, though, following the end of the civil war in 2009. The Sri Lankan army is in charge of managing the sanctuary, which covers a sizable 49.2 sq km of the Jaffna peninsula. Seagrass and mangrove marshes encircle Chundikulam Bird Sanctuary primarily. Scrubby woodlands, palmyra palm trees, and numerous types of arid zone flora are also included. The park is home to a variety of animals, including wader and water birds like the godwit, gull, stilt, flamingo, sandpiper, and ibis as well as mammals such as the sloth bear, leopard, and deer. From November until mid-January, migrating birds swarm the sky of this area, and the park serves as their breeding grounds. 

Places to visit in Jaffna

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