Jaffna District is the northernmost region of Sri Lanka, and one of the oldest inhabited places on the island. It is populated mainly by Tamil speaking people. It is separated from India by the Palk Strait and the Bay of Bengal.
Jaffna is connected by air to Colombo (both airports) and the Indian city of Chennai.
- 1 Jaffna International Airport (JAF IATA Formerly known as Palaly Airport. யாழ்ப்பாணம் சர்வதேச விமான நிலையம், பலாலி). Reopened in October 2019 after being closed due to the civil war. The sole international route is a daily flight from Chennai arriving at 11:30. The return flight to Chennai departs at 12:30. Two other airlines use light aircraft on their routes to both Colombo Ratmalana airport and the main Bandaranaike airport.
There are several private bus services operating from Colombo to Jaffna, costing around Rs 900. The drive takes half a day to complete (more than 9 hr) following the A9 motorway which runs through the middle of Sri Lanka. Tickets can be purchased online on 12Go Asia website.
Daily intercity trains connect Colombo with Jaffna, with the journey taking approximately eight hours. As of mid-2023 there are three services per day, one of which is an overnight train with 2nd and 3rd class "sleeperettes" (reclining seats) only. The easiest way to check for the latest updates is with the excellent website Seat 61.
- 2 Jaffna railway station.
Once in Jaffna, there are several modes of transport.
These are three wheelers which are very common in Southeast Asian countries. These are the quickest and probably the cheapest way to get around. A rule of thumb is Rs 100 per kilometre.
Jaffna has a public bus system.
These are private hire minivans, best if you need transportation for the whole day.
The locals get around on cycles and mopeds. Cycling is not safe with the number of dogs on the street.
- 1 Nallur Kandaswamy temple.
- 2 Thondaimanaru Selva Sannithi Temple (Selvach Sannithi Murugan Kovil).
- 3 Nagapoosani Temple (On Nainatheevu island).
- 4 Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya (On Nainatheevu island).
- Sri Naga Vihara Temple.
- Vaddu Kannaki Amman Temple.
- Palaly Raja Rajeswary Amman Kovil Temple, Palaly East (nearly 0.5 mile from Jaffna International Airport.).
- 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.
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.
- 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.
The purchases that are mostly made in Jaffna are savory food items. You can buy souvenirs from stalls in tourist sites and railway stations.
Jaffna has a very unique cuisine, famous for its savory treats such as Wade (වඩේ- pronounced as wah-dei) and Dhal wade which is an appetiser in Indian Cuisine. Jaffna Kool (கூழ்) is very famous food in Jaffna; it is very spicy.
- Akshathai/Nila (Akshathai), 60 Stanley Rd, ☏ . 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, ☏ . open daily from 9AM to 10PM.
Tap water isn't good for drinking 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 shops.
- City Hotel Jaffna, No: 70/6, K.K.S. Rd, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).
- 1 Uthayan Guest House, 392/6, Navalar Rod (Close by Nallur Temple), ☏ . USD25.
- 2 Nallur Residence, ☏ . Tranquil environment with meals available and friendly hosts. Rs 3536.
- 3 Thambu Illam, 107 Brown Road, ☏ . Another homestay place, with a pool and meals available. Rs 2978.
- 4 Jetwing Jaffna (ஜெட்விங் யாழ்ப்பாணம்), 37, Mahatma Gandhi Road, ☏ . upscale hotel with rooftop bar and nice restaurant
- 5 The Margosa Villa, ☏ . Small boutique hotel located midway between the airport and city centre.
Despite the fact that it is a great place for vacation, Jaffna also has many dangers. Landmines from the civil war might still exist in some places. When walking along the beaches, be aware of jellyfish, as they usually wash up onto the beach at dawn. Do not go swimming beyond the Styrofoam borders.