Getting off the beaten track in Jaffna couldn’t be easier. In an area of Sri Lanka that still feels like uncharted territory, you’ll see just a few other travellers here and few to none of your average holidaymakers. So, ditch the guidebook for this one, drop a pin on google maps and go with your own flow and adventure feels. Jaffna by scooter just became a thing.
And that’s exactly what we did on our recent trip to Jaffna. In this account detailing our two day trip exploring Jaffna by scooter, I’ve included diary excerpts, maps, top tips and restaurants to try at the end of each day to inspire your own adventures in and around Jaffna. Snacks optional, but recommended.
Point Pedro & enjoying isolation at Manalkadu Beach
The AB20 main road which took us north east towards Point Pedro was a wonder in itself! We waved and smiled at so many locals along the way, it was so refreshing. We haven’t experienced anything quite like it yet in Sri Lanka, almost as if they hadn’t see a tourist before. I feel like the scooter breaks a barrier for interaction – a simple smile and a wave – that can’t be obtained through taking a tuktuk or a taxi. We saw rural life and town life, but the best views were undoubtedly the seemingly neverending banana plantations and swaying coconut palms either side of us.
When we reached Point Pedro we stumbled on this colourful temple, where I asked Mark to pull over so we could take in it’s beauty and relieve the numb scooter bum! A guy yelled out at us “HEY!” Then he continued “HOW ARE YOU?!” (still shouting lol!). I could hear pure excitement in his voice. He was so thrilled to see us! The locals started gathering at the corner of the crossroads staring at us and we had such a good chat with the yelling guy; turns out the temple belongs to his family – he built it! It felt even more special. The name of this temple is Kalikai Kanthan Temple, I’ve marked it on the map below.
Then there was Manalkadu Beach (take the B370 coastal road if you’re doing this!). It was pure MAGIC; Isolated, bar a few fisherman bringing in the daily catch, with picture-perfect turquoise waters. We were actually in search of sand dunes but we found so much more than those in the beauty of the beach. The B371 (which comes off the B370 road) is just as stunning, it feels like you’re in the arid badlands of Africa, not somewhere in Sri Lanka. We swam, we snacked, we rode and we saw enough Palmyra palms to keep me and my camera happy!
- Trip duration
1 hour 45 minutes (approx) to reach Manalkadu with the stop off in Point Pedro. This trip doesn’t have to be an early start! We left at 9:30am and had a really cruisy day of exploring, returning to Jaffna at about 16:00pm.
- Adventure fuel
At the end of the day, head back out into Jaffna and try Mangos restaurant. Order a Masala Dosha to stock up on the adventure fuel for the following day.
Total isolation at Manalkadu Beach & taking in the ever-changing arid landscape
- Things to do in Jaffna ticked off: #1 #2 #3 #6
Kankesanturai Beach and Karaitivu Island
As we headed out of the city we took the route that would take us past the almighty Nallur Kandaswamy temple – we stumbled upon it and it took us by surprise, in a really awesome way! Then we took the AB16 main road up to Kankesanturai Beach, which was such a fascinating road. We even saw a GIANT statue of Hanuman the Hindu monkey god.
Then we headed to Keerimalai Springs – the pictures on blogs we researched make it look amazing, but it really wasn’t, the water was dirty and there were heaps of people there. So we ditched the idea of Keerimalai Springs and went across the road to the big temple instead (not sure of the name of that temple!). I’m so stoked we discovered it, there’s a picture of it above!
We continued on the coastal road bound for Karaitivu island, cruising through a couple of tiny fishing villages on the way with their daily catch drying roadside. Joined to the mainland by a road, Karaitivu island is just 22.5 km squared and has a few little spots to explore. First, we headed up to Casuarina Beach to dip our toes and eat lunch (BYO!) before continuing the adventure down to Kovalam Beach. We cruised through the sandy backstreets around Kovalam as we made our way to the jetty at the far south of the island, where we took the FREE ferry over to Velanai island to continue through to Jaffna on a big round trip.
- Trip duration
Another one that doesn’t need an early start! Take your time to wake up and leave around 9:30am. The cruise up to Kankesanthuri beach will take 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on how long you stop at the Hanuman statue or any other temples on the way. It’s then quite a ride from there to reach Karaivitu island. After the boat crossing it’s about half an hour back to Jaffna. Much like day 1 you’ll probably be set to arrive back at your guesthouse around 16:00pm.
- Adventure Fuel
Head to Nallur Bhavan for south Indian style cuisine before hopping over to Rios Ice Cream for a tasty sweet treat!
Driving around sandy backstreets in the village of Kovalam & taking the ferry!
- Things To do in Jaffna ticked off: #4 #6 #7 #9
Top Tips For Your Scooter Adventure
Scooter rental in Jaffna
Ask at your guesthouse first. But if your guesthouse doesn’t offer rental, try Cosy Restaurant. It should cost around 1500 LKR per day. If you’ve been quoted a higher price, go to Cosy Restaurant where the price is 1500 LKR at time of writing. Scooter rental is more expensive in Jaffna than other parts of Sri Lanka FYI.
Stock up on petrol before you leave the city, especially on day 2 stations can be harder to find and not always convenient.
Take snacks and plenty of water
Small shops and restaurants are few and far between once you reach some of the off the beaten track locations in this post.
In Jaffna; a smile goes a long way. Don’t be afraid of the overfriendly locals. They WILL call out to you, they WILL ask you where you’re from and some WILL just stare at you with a glazed look on their face. It’s beautiful, I promise you. Embrace it!
Cows, dogs ‘n’ goats
Are likely to step out in your path as you drive. Be aware that cows are sacred and always have right of way. Honking your horn at dogs and goats to alert them of your presence usually sees them wandering off into the side of the road. If a dog does start to follow you barking, don’t panic! Just speed up a little to get away from them safely.
Ferry Times for Day 2
At time of writing, these are the ferry times to take you from Karaitivu to Velanai (right hand side) and the other way (left hand side) in case you want to do day 2 in reverse. Thanks to the local policeman for being my glamorous assistant for this snap.
Short on time?
If you have a short time only in Jaffna, do Day 1 of the scooter itinerary and for day 2 take the day trip to Delft Island.
Most important tip!
EXPLORE! Ditch the guidebook, use this as your itinerary guideline and check google maps or the horizon to see what attracts you.
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