Jaffna District, the northernmost region of the island of Sri Lanka, is one of the oldest inhabited places in lower South Asia and populated mainly by Tamil speaking people. Jaffna is within ten degrees of latitude to the north of the equator and separated from the sub-continent of India by the Palk Strait and the Bay of Bengal.
The airport is in Palali, but due to the current circumstances there are no international flights to Palali. To get to Jaffna, fly into Colombo the southern capital and get a domestic flight to Palali.
There is air service to and from Colombo, however it is no longer provided by the national airline Sri Lankan Airlines (May 2014). This means you need to fly with Helitours or if in a group charter a flight from Fits Air. Helitours flight goes via Trincomalee and is reasonably priced at 8750LKR (67USD) and 4150LKR (32USD) from Colombo and Trinco respectively (one way - May 2014).
Flights are available to Colombo from origins throughout Europe, United States, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. Other airlines, include Qatar Airlines and Emirates. Colombo's international airport is at Katunayake.
There are several private bus services operating from Colombo to Jaffna, cost varies from LKR900. The drive takes half a day to complete (9 hours +) following the A9 motorway which runs through the middle of Sri-Lanka.
Before the escalation of the war there was a train service running from Colombo to Jaffna. During the war much of it was damaged but the government has been rebuilding it steadily. As of May 2014 it had reached Pallai on the Jaffna Peninsula. Probably the easiest way to check the progress is with the excellent Seat 61
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.
Public transport system available in Jaffna are the buses.
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.
- Sri Naga Vihara Temple.
- Vaddu Kannaki Amman Temple.
- Jaffna Library. This magnificent library built in 1933 once housed the largest collection in Asia with over 97,000 individual books. It was however 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.
Jaffna Kool (கூழ்) is very famous food in Jaffna; it is very spicy.
Water isn't good because of mineral content. The local brew is toddy, from the coconut or the palmyrah tree. Toddy from the palmyrah tree is sweeter.
- City Hotel Jaffna, No: 70/6, K.K.S. Rd, ☎ +94 21 222 5969. Comfortable and furnished rooms, all equipped with LCD TV, safe and Bathroom with hot and cold water. Restaurant, Bar and Gymnasium. From USD73.20.
- Blue Haven, 70 Racca Rd, ☎ +94 21 222 9958. Air-con suites equipped with cable TV, broadband internet access, private toilet and bath. Some of its facilities and services are banquet hall, swimming pool, restaurant and ample parking. From LKR3,664.32.
- Uthayan Guest House, 392/6, Navalar Rod (Close by Nallur Temple), ☎ +94 21 567 7608. USD25.