Jaffna is the northern headquarters of Sri Lanka, a place which is very seldom visited by travellers while on their trip to this island country. Jaffna has a lot to offer from pristine beaches, islands and religious places of worship. It’s the kind of place a backpacker will love to explore and a tourist will hate. Here are some things to do here:
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Stay close to the city centre
This is the single most important aspect which will help make your stay in Jaffna worthwhile. Since tourism is just reaching this part of the country, staying close to the city centre has a lot of perks. Jaffna is a town which sleeps early and by early we mean post sundown everything starts to shut. Only a few restaurants are open around the city centre. This is easily the single most important perk of taking a place close to the city centre.
Visit the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil temple
The most spiritual temple while in the north of Sri Lanka is just a short one-kilometre walk from the city centre. The presiding deity is Lord Murugan or Katharagama Deviyo in the form of the holy ‘Vel’ in the sanctum. Photography and videography is strictly prohibited and guys need to enter without any shirt while girls need to be dressed appropriately (full length lowers and no sleeveless). Even if you’re not the spiritual kind the architecture of the temple is worth checking out.
Try Rio ice cream in Jaffna
Located close to the Nalluri Kandasamy Kovil temple is arguably the best local ice cream brand there is in all of Sri Lanka. From various flavours, sundaes and even fresh fruit juices; Rio ice cream centre is the place you have to stop by at. The Rio special sundae is their flagship drink and is totally worth a try.
Travel by the local bus
The local bus service in Jaffna both private and government have come a long way in the last few years. Nearly every place that there is to cover in the tourist circuit now has a bus. Delft & Nainativu island along with the magical Keerimalai water pond are all connected by local buses and this just helps make your entire journey a lot more affordable and stress-free.
An island which was once ruled by the Dutch and today is nothing more than a deserted island with random wild horses, a host of ruins and a handful of hardbred people who call this place home and have settled on this island over the years. Taking a ferry is the only way to reach the island. Kurukum jetty is the base to reach the island. The last ferry out of the island is at 14:00 HRS.
Another island which is only accessible via a ferry from Kurukum Jetty but unlike the one above this is a religious island which is famous for its Hindu and Buddhist temples. Ferries to this island are a lot more frequent and the journey to the island is roughly 30-45 minutes depending on the water current.
Interact with the locals
The people of Jaffna are extremely friendly and knowledgeable, interacting with them is a must. This is the best way to get additional information about the best place to eat and things to keep in mind. Since the locals know best, interacting with them is the only way to go about getting the best ground information.
Keeramalai water pond
A short bus ride from the town of Jaffna and you will reach the ends of this island country. At this very end is a Hindu temple which has a water pond located close to the sea bed. It’s believed that back in the day, the princess had a wash in this water pond and her skin ailments were cured once and for all. Believers from all around Sri Lanka and neighbouring India come for a dip in this pristine clean beach.
Explore Jaffna bazaar
This is a town which is rich in culture and heritage, a short walk around and you’ll understand what we mean. The best way to explore is on foot and you’ll find plenty of stalls selling fruits, bakery products, regular household and lifestyle products. A walk around and you’ll get a first-hand feel of the colonial architecture.
Experience a homestay
Since tourism is still very raw homestays are actually the best way to experience and get a feel of the place. There are many homestay options in and around the city centre area most run by locals who have lived abroad and have returned back to Jaffna post the civil war to share their stories and help travellers get a more enriching experience of their city.
Yes, you read it correctly, this is actually the only place where you’ll get the real exchange rate that your Google app shows. The difference in exchange value is a good 300-500 LKR depending on where your travelling to and if you’re on a budget 2-3 week trip around the island country, it’s advisable to consider exchanging majority of your money at Jaffna.
Go for a swim
If you want to beat the scorching heat, then a dip in the Indian Ocean is an absolute value for time deal. There are plenty of coastal beach areas around Jaffna which are ideal for a quick swim. The water current and tide around this city is conducive to swimming and is actually a must-do to avoid the extreme afternoon heat. Delft & Nainativu island are great hotspots for the same.
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