Jaffna is a city on the northern tip of Sri Lanka. Nallur Kandaswamy is a huge Hindu temple with golden arches and an ornate gopuram tower. By the coast, star-shaped Jaffna Fort was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century and later occupied by the Dutch and British. Jaffna Public Library is a symbol of the city’s post-war regeneration. Jaffna Archaeological Museum has Dutch cannons and pre-colonial artifacts.
Nallur Kandaswamy Temple A bustling and beautiful temple which is worth to have a look. Note that you must be barefoot to walk the temple grounds and men will need to remove their shirts to enter the temple. Free entry.
Nagadeepa Island You need to get to Kurikkaduwan Jetty and jump in the boat. Half an our later you will be in front of the temple! It’s worth going! Note that the usual ferry route drops you off at Nagadeepa temple (500 m to the south) but departure is from the Nainativu North jetty. Arguably one of the most visited of Jaffna’s islands, Nainativu, or Nagadeepa as it is referred to in Sinhala, holds an important place in Buddhist and Hindu histories. For the former, the Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya is worshipped as one of Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist sites where the Buddha was said to have once called upon two Naga kings in disagreement with each other. And for the latter, the Nagapooshani Amman Kovil, which is referred to in several ancient chronicles as one of 64 Shakthi Peethams located across South Asia – shrines dedicated to Shakthi, the Hindu goddess of power.
Jaffna Library First built in 1933, the Jaffna Library has long been a symbol of northern heritage. The Jaffna Library is a pleasant escape in the early evening, before it closes at 6 PM. As a sign of respect to the culture preserved by this iconic building, visitors must remove their footwear before entering the library. Although most wings are inaccessible to walk-in travellers, you are still able to explore the public areas of the library, along with the beautiful garden that adorns its grounds.
Jaffna Fort Some nice views over the peninsula from the Fort. It’s not the most incredible Fort in East Asia but is certainly worth a wander round, particularly on a clear day. Look out for the hordes of ravens circling. Free entry.
Point Pedro Worth a half-day trip. To the west, the Point Pedro Lighthouse stands in the shadow of a telecommunications tower, while to the east; a concrete flag of Sri Lanka sits at the edge of the shore to indicate your arrival at Sakkotai Cape.
Casuarina beach Stretched across the northern perimeter of Karainagar, Casuarina Beach welcomes local and foreign holidaymakers for its wide expanse, shallow waters, and characteristic trees that lend the beach its name. The characteristic shrubbery serves as a compact coastal forest, serving as the ideal spot for some shade from the northern sun. The Karainagar Lighthouse is also located at the eastern tip of the beach, making this shoreline one of the most picturesque in the region.
Kadurugoda Buddhist Dagoba ruins Temple and Ruins are one of the few remaining Buddhist legacies in the northern province. Paul E. Peiris, the Jaffna Magistrate at 1917, documented nearly 60 gray coral-stone stupas when he discovered the ruins at the turn of the 20th century. Today however, only about 20 stupas remain sprawled across less than an acre of open land under palmyrah trees. Located a half-hour’s drive away from Jaffna, the Kadurugoda Temple and Ruins are found on the outskirts of the city in Kantarodai.
Dambakola Patuna Following the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka over 2000 years ago, Sanghamitta, the daughter of ancient Indian emperor Ashoka, landed at the ancient port of Dambakola Patuna with a sacred sapling from the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. The Sri Lankan King Devanampiyatissa later used this sapling to plant the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi at Anuradhapura, which today holds the honour of being the oldest surviving human-planted tree in the world. A temple was built here to commemorate the arrival of the sapling, however no remnants of this ancient landmark exist today. The Sri Lankan Navy however, has since built a new temple named the Sri Sangamitta Viharaya, and is one of the key Buddhist landmarks of the northern peninsula.
Keerimalai sacred water spring Keerimalai translates to ‘mongoose hill’ in the regional vernacular of Tamil. This refers to the local legend of a sage cursed with a face likened to a mongoose, who was later cured upon immersing themselves in the healing waters of the Keerimalai Sacred Water Spring. Today, the spring remains popular among throngs of local men and boys who splash about in a picturesque ancient pond overlooking the sea. The bathing area for women is separate, and can be found behind the main pond structure. Just next door, is also the Keerimalai Naguleswaram Kovil – one of Sri Lanka’s sacred Pancha Ishwarams, or shrines dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva, who is worshipped as the destroyer of evil. Dating back over thousands of years, it is said that the same cursed sage established this kovil in gratitude of the adjacent pond’s healing powers. Keerimalai sits at the top edge of Sri Lanka and can easily be coupled with a trip to Dambakola Patuna in one journey. The sacred water spring and Naguleswaram Kovil are also within walking distance of each other, giving you ample time to explore both attractions in all their glory.
Delft Island Although locally known as Neduntivu, Delft Island is still commonly referred to by the name it inherited from the Dutch in colonial Jaffna. Vast, yet largely uninhabited, Delft Island is known for wild horses that roam its coastal plains. Explored best by tuk-tuk, Delft Island also features remnants of a bygone era such as an ancient Baobab tree, a Dutch East India company ‘post office’ consisting of tens of mail pigeon cages, as well as a dilapidated colonial fort constructed mainly out of coral – much like most of the architecture present on the island.
At equal distance between Sri Lanka and India, Delft Island can be reached via a daily ferry that leaves the Kurikkaduwan Jetty, see bus instructions above for Nainativu. The Sri Lanka Navy operates one round-trip service a day – leaving to Delft at 9 AM and returning to Kurikkaduwan at 2:30 PM. Although these ferries are able to hold a maximum of 100 passengers, preference will be given to Delft residents. It is best option to reserve a full day for combining Neduntivu and Nainativu; first Delft and upon returning there is enough time to catch the (frequent) ferries to Nainativu.
Elephant Pass’ Not really a day trip from Jaffna but an almost unmissable sight along the main access road. Elephant Pass controls access to the Jaffna Peninsula, therefore it is referred to as the Gateway to Jaffna. It is very crucial as it is on the isthmus connecting the peninsula to the Sri Lankan mainland, and to territory in the Southern Jaffna peninsula. Elephant Pass connects the militarily significant town of Chavakacheri in the Jaffna peninsula to the Sri Lankan mainland (the other route is through the lovely Pooneryn bridge and then on to Mannar). The name is derived from the Dutch East India company days, when elephants were exported to India and transported over this route to the Jaffna peninsula ports. There are nice salterns in the area, a rebuilt railway station, and a monument covering one of the several battles that were fought here during the civil war.