In Jaffna; a smile goes a long way. That small piece of advice should set you up for an incredible trip. But there are more things to do in Jaffna than just smiling. Here’s why.
Predominantly Hindu with some Christianity in the area, you’ll see temples galore plus a few churches in the mix in Jaffna. Which makes for some colourful and impressive views as you cruise around. The entire area is still relatively untouched by tourism, which is why this part of Sri Lanka is so charming. So although you won’t find snorkelling trips or hiking trails handed to you on a plate, there’s still some rad things to do in Jaffna – you just have to get a bit creative with google maps and be prepared to get lost. But to help you find your bearings and set you on your explorer way, here a 9 things to do in Jaffna.
If you love exploring uncharted territory and getting off the beaten track, you’ll LOVE Jaffna.
#1 Swim at Manalkadu beach
Complete isolation (bar a few fisherman bringing in the daily catch); that’s what you’ll find here. Oh, that and ridiculously gorgeous and deserted turquoise waters. Don’t let the entrance to the beach out you off, have a walk to the north or south about 100 metres and you’ll find a beautiful little area to have to yourself. If you’re feeling adventurous head down the long stretch of road which leads to Chundikulam National Park. We stopped off at the end of the road which has Kannakai Amman Kovil temple on, and again shared yet another stretch of beach with no one but a few local fisherman.
#2 Visit Kalikai Kanthan temple, point Pedro
Colourful and brand new! This temple was built just last year – before that it was just a small little run down temple – and it makes for a beautiful stop off if you’re headed through Point Pedro on your way to Manalkadu beach. Set on a sleepy crossroads out of the centre of town, YOU will become the local attraction too (which is part of the joy!). Walk around the temple and chat to the locals before continuing on your way.
#3 Hunt for Sand dunes
At Manalkadu beach there are sand dunes set back from the beach down the whole stretch of coast. You just have to search for them. Although we didn’t find any spectacular ones ourselves but we spied a few from the road, so if you love sand dunes, do go in search of them. And then let me know what you find, I’d love to know!
#4 Chill at Kankesanthuri beach
If you’re looking for a beach a little closer to Jaffna. This one should tick the box. Why not try it on day 2 of a 2 day scooter trip in and around Jaffna? Or just get a tuktuk there. Whatever way you want to explore, dive right in as this is probably one of the closest beaches to Jaffna.
#5 Take A day trip to Delft Island
This one is so good that I wrote a whole blog about it! In Delft, walls and houses made of coral, turquoise waters for bathing and wild scrublands where horses, cows and goats roam free. Going to Delft Island is like going back to another era. And with a tranquil beach to finish off the ‘sightseeing’ there’s nothing not to love about Delft.
#6 Eat South Indian food
If Delft is like good big back in time, then simple being in Jaffna is like going through some crazy vortex into south India. In fact, we didn’t see a Sri Lankan curry in sight in the restaurants up here. Think masala dosha, vada and paratha, plus all the Indian curry’s you can name. If you’ve been to south India you’ll feel right at home. If not? Get stuck in you’ll love it! Here’s a few restaurants to try… Malayan Cafe (go in the daytime), Mangos, Nallur Bhavan and finish up with a sweet treat from Rios Ice Cream.
#7 Visit Nallur Kandaswamy Temple in Jaffna
Monumental. That’s the best word to describe this temple. It’s huge and hard to miss! With candy striped walls and hundreds of small gold statues that make up the magnificent facade, this place is well worth picking up your camera for. Drive around it or get out and take a hike – it should be enjoyed from all angles.
#8 Take a Morning Stroll at the Dutch fort
Stroll along the meandering promenade beside the Dutch fort early morning in the cool air. Why not ride your bike there to get your heart racing, park up, have a stroll and take in the morning views. You’re likely to see fisherman wade through the ocean picking up their catch which is mesmerising to watch. And of course enjoy the Dutch fort while it’s quiet and cool. This activity is best enjoyed before 9am.
#9 Get lost cruisin’ the streets
Simple, yet effective. Especially if you like exploring with a camera in hand. Just get your scooter or your push bike, switch off google maps until you’re too lost you can’t even handle and cruise the streets of Jaffna. You’ll find colourful walls, cute backstreets and all the friendly smiles you can imagine. If you have a scooter, head just outside the centre up Jaffna – Kankesanturai Road for a huge figure of Hanuman the Hindu Monkey God (HUGE!) and you’re sure to see heaps of other temples on the way.
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