West of Jaffna city and 30 km off the mainland coast of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province is the unique Delft Island. Sitting on a bed of coral and limestone with expanses of arid land and towering Palmyra palms, it’s not your stereotypical picture perfect island paradise. Which is part of the allure. If you’re headed to Jaffna and the north, you mustn’t miss a day trip to Delft Island.
Delft has its own beauty; it’s relatively untouched by tourism, all houses and walls on the island are made of coral* and wild horses, goats and cows roam free across the huge expanses of semi-arid land. The southern coast of this little island remains exposed to the open ocean, while a small part of the northern coast remains so tranquil it’s more like being in a Caribbean island than in Sri Lanka. All of this means only one thing; uncharted territory and the opportunity to drop all expectations and explore!
This is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Jaffna. In this post, I’m going to cover all the essential information you’ll need to take a day trip to Delft Island including how to get there, boat times and other top tips.
What’s the deal with Delft?
Perhaps why Delft (aka Neduntheevu) has managed to stay so remote and off the beaten track to high frequency commercial tourism is partly because it’s so far away from the beaten track (think Ella, Arugam Bay and the south west coast), but also because it featured in the recent civil war. Just 10 years ago, in 2008, a naval war was fought off the coast of this island. It may seem like a long time ago, but in terms of a region opening it’s doors to tourism after years of civil unrest, it’s actually very recent.
Boat To Delft Island
There are two boats which departs Kurikadduwan Jetty, one at 8am and another at 9am. The return boat from delft island departs at 14:30pm to Kurikadduwan jetty. Sometimes the boat times change… the boat we took was supposed to leave at 9am but departed at 9:30am instead.
Getting to Kurikadduwan Jetty
Kurikadduwan jetty is about a one hour drive from Jaffna. I’d recommend to arrive at least 30 minutes before the boat departure time as they only let 100 people on the boat (most other people will be going to Naindavu island so don’t panic if you see heaps of people at the jetty). You can either drive there yourself by scooter, take a taxi or the local bus.
Rent one from Cosy Restaurant for 1500 LKR per day.
Take the #776 from central Jaffna Bus Station.
Arrange through your accommodation for best prices.
Transport on the island
You will need to take a tuktuk around the island which should cost you no more than 1500 LKR for the day. They will stay with you from the moment you arrive to the moment you depart the boat jetty again.
If you take the tuktuk tour it’ll take about 1.5 hours before you are left at the swimming beach to enjoy it in your own time. Be aware that if the swimming beach is important to you, you’ll want at least 1 hour there to eat your snacks (for your lunch) and enjoy the beautiful beach.
The attractions you’ll visit
On our visit we went to 8 of the main attractions on the island (including the swimming beach). This was plenty, I wouldn’t recommend seeing any more. After about 3 of the attractions you kind of get the idea. It’s well worth seeing them and having the opportunity to drive around the island. If you love history, you’ll love the sightseeing. Likewise if you love exploring the natural landscapes of a place (which I do!), you’ll also love it.
- Wild horses
- Hanuman footprint
- Horses stables
- Dutch Fort
- Pigeon Hole
- Babao tree
- Growing rock
- Swimming beach
About the Sightseeing
Delft Islanders are very proud of their local attractions – some of which may seem questionable to us as travellers. I would recommend seeing some of these and emphasising that you’d like to go to the swimming beach. It’s definitely worth exploring in the tuktuk and seeing a few of the attractions, plus asking to stop if you see something you want to take a picture of. Even just walking around the little coral walled pathways and photographing the towering Palmyra palms is an awesome experience.
At time of writing there’s no activities to do on the island. We think a fishing trip with the locals or a paddle close by the swimming beach in a traditional canoe would be awesome but we can’t see any of that happening yet.
If you get seasick?
Bring a sick bag, you won’t be handed one on this boat. It’s not too choppy but you will sail through the exposed Palk Strait where the swell could be unpredictable at times.
Bring snacks & water
Convenience stores are few and far between and have limited choices and there’s one restaurant on the island. We recommend to stock up on fruit and biscuits or Sri Lankan sweet bread from the Cargills Food City in Jaffna centre the night before departing.
Meet the locals
If you’re lucky, while waiting for the ferry at K jetty, you might get chatting to any of the locals. Embrace it they’ll become your friend we promise!
Can you stay overnight on Delft Island?
Yes you can. There is one hotel on the island, so be sure to enquire or book before you go.
The swimming beach
Girls, you might feel more comfortable if you bring a t-shirt and shorts just in case there are lots of people around who may stare if you’re in a bikini. However, when we went it was isolated, so I felt comfortable in a bikini while getting in and out of the ocean and I have been assured by a local that it’s not disrespectful to wear a bikini.
Find your bearings
Here is a map which pinpoints a few of the locations you will go to on Delft Island.
Back in Jaffna
It’s been a long day, I know. Head back to your guesthouse for a shower before making your way to the Jetwing rooftop for a sundowner (happy hour is 4pm – 8pm).
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More from Jaffna & the Northern Province
*While I don’t agree with destroying coral reefs, assuming this is an age old tradition before environmental issues emerged, its actually pretty awesome and a sight to behold.