Jaffna is Sri Lanka’s Northern capital and undoubtedly the pillar and bastion of Hindu culture in the country. Post-war Jaffna is booming, combining the old ways of living with modern conveniences.
While Jaffna is a dry zone, the city is refreshingly green, shaded in palm trees with the atmosphere of a colonial suburb in most places, albeit strewn with kovils and Christian churches, creating a hypnotic sense of old-world charm. Ignore the city’s new shopping mall and you just might feel like time has stood still.
Technically, Jaffna is an archipelago – a collective of islands that surround the mainland making it a unique peninsula, strewn with multicultural ways of life. The once separated islands are now connected with causeways that let you drive on to almost every little landmass, requiring you to hire a boat only for specific places. Velanai, Punkudivitu, Nainativu, Kayts, Karativu and Delft are must see islands, each with its own way of life, home gardens strews with tobacco plants, old kovils dedicated to gods whose names are still as powerful as when they were first invoked and an ancient charm you really won’t find anywhere else on the planet.
When you get to Jaffna another thing to immerse yourself in is the Jaffna cooking. While it’s mostly vegan cooking the combination of spices and herbs are unique to this part of the island and some establishments do serve meat. The Jaffna crab curry is the stuff of legends and if you dare to go spicy with your diet – this is one messy curry you don’t want to miss.
While you can’t escape the ravages of the country’s 30 year ethnic conflict with shell shocked buildings and crumbling structures, a sense of hope and regeneration are evident wherever you go. If you don’t wish to travel by road which will take you a near day, you could easily fly directly to the city and begin your journey with a view of the old city from the skies.