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.

Get in

Asian palmyras in Jaffna

By plane

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.

By bus

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.

By train

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

Get around

Once in Jaffna, there are several modes of transport.

By tuk-tuk

These are three wheelers which are very common in Southeast Asian countries. These are the quickest and probably the cheapest way to get around.

By bus

Public transport system available in Jaffna are the buses.

By minivan

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.


The restored Jaffna Library.


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.



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.


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