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Jaffna

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Jaffna District, the northernmost region of the island of Sri Lanka, is one of the oldest inhabited places in lower South Asia and populated mainly by Tamil speaking people. Jaffna is within ten degrees of latitude to the north of the equator and separated from the sub-continent of India by the Palk Strait and the Bay of Bengal.

Get in

By plane

To get to Jaffna, fly into Colombo the southern capital and get a domestic flight to Palaly.

  • 1 Jaffna International Airport (JAF IATA ), Palaly. (Formerly known as Palaly Airport) . யாழ்ப்பாணம் சர்வதேச விமான நிலையம், பலாலி) (is in Palaly). Reopened in October 2019 after being closed due to the civil war (updated Nov 2019)


There is air service to and from Colombo, however it is no longer provided by the national airline Sri Lankan Airlines (May 2014). This means you need to fly with Helitours or if in a group charter a flight from Fits Air. Helitours flight goes via Trincomalee and is reasonably priced at 8750LKR (67USD) and 4150LKR (32USD) from Colombo and Trinco respectively (one way - May 2014).

Flights are available to Colombo from origins throughout Europe, United States, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. Other airlines, include Qatar Airlines and Emirates. Colombo's international airport is at Katunayake.

By bus

There are several private bus services operating from Colombo to Jaffna, cost varies from LKR900. The drive takes half a day to complete (9 hours +) following the A9 motorway which runs through the middle of Sri-Lanka. Tickets can be purchased online on 12Go Asia website.

By train

Daily Intercity trains connect Colombo with Jaffna, with the journey taking approximately eight hours. The easiest way to check for the latest updates is with the excellent Seat 61.

  • 2 Jaffna railway station. (updated Dec 2019)

Get around

Once in Jaffna, there are several modes of transport.

By tuk-tuk

These are three wheelers which are very common in Southeast Asian countries. These are the quickest and probably the cheapest way to get around.

By bus

Public transport system available in Jaffna are the buses.

By minivan

These are private hire minivans, best if you need transportation for the whole day.

Other

The locals get around on cycles and mopeds. Cycling is not safe with the number of dogs on the street.

See

  • 1 Nallur Kandaswamy temple. (updated Apr 2015)
  • 2 Thondaimanaru Selva Sannithi Temple (Selvach Sannithi Murugan Kovil). (updated Apr 2015)
  • 3 Nagapoosani Temple (On Nainatheevu island). (updated Apr 2015)
  • 4 Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya (On Nainatheevu island). (updated Apr 2015)
  • Sri Naga Vihara Temple. (updated Apr 2015)
  • Vaddu Kannaki Amman Temple. (updated Apr 2015)
  • Palaly Raja Rajeswary Amman Kovil Temple, Palaly East (nearly 0.5 mile from Jaffna International Airport.). (updated Nov 2019)
  • 5 Jaffna Library (யாழ் பொது நூலகம்). This magnificent library, built in 1933, once housed the largest collection in Asia, with over 97,000 individual books. It was burnt in 1981 by an ethnic mob. As a precursor to the Sri Lankan Civil War, the burning of Jaffna Library remains a controversial and traumatic issue among many in Jaffna. Restored and reopened, it now houses a much smaller collection. (updated Apr 2015)

Do

There isn't a lot to do in Jaffna unless you arrive at festival times. Nallur Kovil Thiruvizha (festival) is the biggest event in the Jaffna calendar when all the faithful come home to pray.

Festivals

  • Nallur Kovil Thaer Thiruvizha (Chariot Festival) This is one of the biggest festivals in Jaffna at the greatest temples in Sri Lanka. This is a feast for the senses while the faithful are praying and the chariot is being pulled through the temple grounds.
  • Thai-Pongal (harvest festival) Thai Pongal happens on 14 January and it is the celebration of good harvest. There will be fireworks and celebrations all through the day and night. All temples hold special Pongal poojas where people make pongal in front of the temple.
  • Theepavali The festival of light.
  • Tamil Sinhala New Year the Tamil/Sinhala new year is celebrated on the 14th of April.

Buy

The purchases that are mostly made in Jaffna are savory food items.You can buy minor souvenirs from stalls which are usually planted in tourist sites and railway stations.

Eat

Jaffna has a very unique cooking concept, famous for its savory treats such as Wade (වඩේ- pronounced as wah-dei) and Dhal wade which comes as an appetizer of Indian Cuisine. Jaffna Kool (கூழ்) is very famous food in Jaffna; it is very spicy.

  • Akshathai/Nila (Akshathai), 60 Stanley Rd, ☏ +94 212219946. Delicious vegetarian restaurant serving good Tamil food. Left side of the restaurant is a lunch buffet, the right side ("Nila") is where tourists will be directed. The thaali (meal set) in particular is worth getting. 
  • 1 Rio Ice cream, 448A, AB20, Jaffna 40000, ☏ +94 212 227 224. open daily from 9AM to 10PM. (updated Aug 2019)

Drink

Water isn't good because of mineral content. The local brew is toddy, from the coconut or the palmyrah tree. Toddy from the palmyrah tree is sweeter. You can buy special 'Nelli' Cordial from the nearest shops.

Sleep

  • City Hotel Jaffna, No: 70/6, K.K.S. Rd, ☏ +94 217 200 707, ✉ info@tilkohotels.com. Comfortable and furnished rooms, all equipped with LCD TV, safe and Bathroom with hot and cold water. Restaurant, Bar and Gymnasium. From USD 29 (2019). (updated Jun 2019)
  • 1 Uthayan Guest House, 392/6, Navalar Rod (Close by Nallur Temple), ☏ +94 21 567 7608. USD25. 
  • 2 Nallur Residence, ☏ +94 77 244 6241. Tranquil environment with meals available and friendly hosts. Rs 3536. (updated Jan 2021)
  • 3 Thambu Illam, 107 Brown Road, ☏ +94 76 455 0644. Another homestay place, with a pool and meals available. Rs 2978. (updated Jan 2021)

Splurge

  • 4 Jetwing Jaffna (ஜெட்விங் யாழ்ப்பாணம்), 37, Mahatma Gandhi Road, ☏ +94 21 2 215571. upscale hotel with rooftop bar and nice restaurant (updated Apr 2017)
  • 5 The Margosa Villa, ☏ +94 21 2 240242. Small boutique hotel located midway between the airport and city centre. (updated Apr 2017)

Stay safe

Despite the fact that it is a great place for vacation, Jaffna also has many dangers. Landmines from the civil war might still even be active in deep forests. When you are visiting, make sure that you keep your child with you at all times. Dangers such as child abductors and poisonous animals lurk everywhere. When walking along the beaches, be aware of jellyfish, as the usually wash up onto the beach at dawn. Do not go swimming beyond the Styrofoam borders. When venturing in shrubs be very careful, lethal creatures such as sand flies could easily harm you.

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