February 26, 2018
7 Things We Love About Jaffna in Sri Lanka
Jaffna in far north Sri Lanka is an intriguing place – slowly emerging from decades of isolation from the rest of the country. Though only about 400 kilometres from the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, the two places are worlds apart.
During the country’s decades long civil war, Jaffna and the north were cut off from the rest of Sri Lanka. Indeed, when we first travelled to Jaffna in 2014 we discovered a place where time seemed to have stood still.
Now, Jaffna is becoming more accessible to visitors wanting to travel to northern Sri Lanka on a tour of Sri Lanka. There’s a new express train to Jaffna from Colombo – the Queen of the North – which you can also board at Anuradhapura, and the arrival of Jetwings Hotels to Jaffna. Though still not a destination visited by many travellers on a tour of Sri Lanka, we can already see signs of that changing.
After several visits, Jaffna has become one the most interesting parts of the country for us and one we love to share with people. That’s why we’ve included it in our latest series of small group tours – Insights of Sri Lanka. To travel to Jaffna is to gain a deeper understanding of Sri Lanka, its people and its history.
Here are seven things we recommend to see and do in Jaffna, based on our first-hand experience after visiting the region again recently. This isn’t a full list of the things to see and do in Jaffna as part of travel in far north Sri Lanka – just a selected few of our favourites. (Please excuse the quality of the images as most of these are shots were simply snapped first-hand on our iPhone. They are truly authentic. We are hoping to send our travel photographer on a trip to Jaffna this year to get some better images for us. )
#1 Visit Nallur Kandaswamy Temple
One of Jaffna’s key attractions is the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple – the largest Hindu temple in the country. Leave your shoes at the gate as you take in the soaring two spires of the temple complex, and inside discover the temple paintings of the various Hindu deities and legends, including the 108 dancing Shivas. Visit during one of three morning or evening prayers and be mesmerized as local devotees pay homage to their gods. Nallur temple holds a festival in August each year and the city and temple see increasing numbers of visitors at this time.
# 2 Explore Jaffna by bike
Leave your vehicle at your hotel and jump on a bicycle – preferably one of Sri Lanka’s old style Lumala rides – and explore this city. Our gentle, guided Jaffna bicycle tour will take you through the back roads and lanes of the city, past the fishing village, to the largest church in the north, through quiet streets and areas, past the library and buildings destroyed by war. A wonderful way to get a sense of the city and the everyday lives of the people in it.
# 3 Visit Rio’s for Ice Cream
Everyone in Jaffna knows Rio’s. This local institution is a must visit during your tour of Jaffna. Rio’s is the city’s famous ice cream parlour – where you will find locals devouring sundaes and ice cream at all times of the day. The ice cream is made fresh on site each day. There’s the Rio special – a sundae of 3 scopes of ice cream, 2 flavours of jelly, fruit salad, cashews and a wafer. We went for the simpler options of vanilla with chocolate and nuts and mango, but did eye off the chocolate sundaes being had at the table next to us. (And we also went back the following day for a second tasting!)
#4 Visit Point Pedro
If the hot weather is getting to you and you want to cool off in the sea then head to Point Pedro for what could possibly be one of Sri Lanka’s best beaches. Point Pedro is about an hour north of Jaffna and is the most northerly part of the country. Here you will find beautiful soft white sand and cool blue sea. The facilities are really limited there (no change facilities or toilets), but the day we went we had the beach to ourselves! No doubt a resort or two or a major hotel will pop up at this beautiful beach soon enough. Take a drive from Jaffna to Point Pedro and see it first-hand.
#5 Travel by ferry to Delft Island
For the more adventurous or those wanting to get a greater sense of the history of this region and the country, head to Delft Island – the remotest part of Sri Lanka. A journey of about an hour’s drive from Jaffna, followed by a local ferry ride of another hour will take you to Delft. The island is best known for the wild horses that inhabit Delft – a legacy of the Dutch rule more than 300 years ago. Today the island’s attractions may seem non-descript, though for curious minded travellers, Delft’s strategic importance historically and its shear remoteness should appeal. A journey to Delft will really stoke your inner adventurer. We’ll take you to Delft on Day 5 of our upcoming Insights of Sri Lanka group tour – travelling by local ferry and returning by private boat. During the day we’ll stop and enjoy and freshly cooked traditional Sri Lankan lunch in a local family home. Read the full tour itinerary here for more details of this small group tour to Sri Lanka.
#6 Dine in a local family home
Jaffna cuisine is unique and differs greatly from the Sri Lankan you will eat in other parts of the country. With dishes based on the fresh seafood so readily available (especially crab and prawns), and featuring exotic and unusual flavours. The best way to get a true sense of local food is to dine with a local family and experience Jaffna home cooking. Be prepared to have your plate refilled many times!
#7 Take a walk in the local central market in Jaffna
Jaffna’s main street and market, or `downtown Jaffna’, as we refer to it, is an easy place to take a stroll. Small in size, take a walk through the fruit and vegetable stalls, past the fabric shops and small stores and get a glimpse of locals going about their everyday business.
Discover Jaffna for yourself
Jaffna and far north Sri Lanka are remarkable places to travel to during a tour of Sri Lanka. We invite you to discover them first-hand with our all-inclusive, small group tour Insights of Sri Lanka. The tour is one of 5 of the new tours from Remarkable East. Our tours are led by an Australian host and are limited to 8 to 12 passengers per tour.
Our other small group tour to Sri Lanka from the new brochure is Sri Lanka in Style, our first group tour of 2018, departing in June 2018. Our small group tours are divided into two themes this year – the Insights series and the InStyle tours.
Visit Jaffna now before everyone else does!