A Bucket List for Exploring Jaffna
Far away from the city of Colombo, at the northernmost tip of the island lies Jaffna; a vibrant city that was isolated from the rest of the country not too long ago, but is finally getting its time in the sun. Jaffna is a kaleidoscope of colour and sound, it offers special and unique experiences which are markedly different from anything you will encounter in the southern or central provinces of the island. Here’s a bucket list to help you guide your travels through Jaffna.
Visit the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple
The Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil rises tall and proud, its heavily decorated, colourful walls and gleaming golden gopuram beckoning at any passerby. When you enter, you will see devotees deep in prayer, women wearing vibrant sarees and the men in white sarongs. The air is heavy with the smell of fresh flowers and burning incense. Normally there is a hushed silence as you make your way around the temple, however, during a pooja or the Nallur Kandaswamy Festival, the temple is full of noise and energy.
The temple was originally founded in 948 AD and is one of the holiest Kovils in Sri Lanka. This important Hindu temple should be at the top of your list. To make the most of your experience, try and visit the Kovil during a pooja.
Drop by the Jaffna Library
Located in the heart of Jaffna is the Jaffna Public Library, one of the city’s most notable landmarks. The library is a beautiful building and the large ivory structure stands stark against the surrounding colour. Although the library was built in 1933 during the British colonial era, it was burned down in 1981 despite being one of Asia’s largest libraries. Since then, the library has been rebuilt and now almost all of its 97,000 burnt books have been replaced.
Wander Through the Jaffna Fort
Jaffna Fort is another remnant of the colonial era. Originally built by the Portuguese in 1618, the fort passed through the hands of other ruling powers, but has still managed to maintain its imposing structure. The real beauty of the fort is best seen from above as it closely resembles a star.
Take a Boat to Nainativu Island
Just off the coast of Jaffna, there are several islands which have gone untouched by mass tourism, and are certainly worth a visit. Nainativu, also known as Nagadeepa, is one such island. Unlike the other islands, this one gets a fair number of visitors as it is a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists, with a story that goes back to the time of the Buddha who is said to have settled a dispute between a Hindu and Buddhist king. Today the island hosts a Kovil as well as a Buddhist temple which neighbour one another, a microcosm of the country’s diversity. To get to the island you must drive to the pier from the city centre and get on an often crowded fishing boat.
Explore an Island of Ponies
Another offshore island is Delft Island also known as Neduntheevu, famous for its inhabitants– ponies! The island is small and arid, apart from a scattering of Dutch ruins, the ruins of a 1,000-year-old temple built during the Chola Dynasty, and a handful of people who live on the island, there’s not much else. However, Delft’s most interesting feature are the ponies that inhabit the land, descendants of the Dutch horses who were bred on the island.
Relax by its Uncrowded Beaches
The Jaffna coastline is desolate and picturesque. A world away from the crowded golden beaches of the south coast are the white sand beaches of Jaffna with its clear blue waters. This is a great place to relax after a day of sightseeing and enjoy the coastal beauty of Sri Lanka.
Jaffna is a bustling city which has so much to offer and gives you another perspective on Sri Lankan life. Couple it with a trip around the north-west coast to experience the country in a unique way.