Delft Dutch Fort
Ralph Henry Bassett describes the Delft Dutch Fort in his book “Romantic Ceylon: It’s History, Legend and Story” in great detail. It was first said to have been built by the Portuguese during their occupation of Ceylon and Ralph describes it as being a “very strong, fortified fort”. We would highly recommend this book as some quality reading material on your travels through Sri Lanka to help you develop an understanding of how life was during the Colonial period through the eyes of a European traveller.
Delft Wild Horses
It is truly interesting to see how an animal species entirely alien to this island, has made their home here for the last 300 years. The Delft Wild Horses were originally brought here by the Portuguese for trading purposes and to bolster their army. Since the end of the Portuguese Occupation, these 2000+ wild horses roam around and seem to enjoy blocking the non-existent traffic by walking along the roads. The laws of the sanctuary within the island allow this luxury, by providing them with protection, food and water to sustain them.
There is some speculation as to whether it was the Dutch or British who originally built this tower during their occupation of Ceylon. The Queen’s tower was built to serve as a point of recognition for oncoming ships to help them safely navigate the waters. A fire would be lit at the base of its 55-foot-tall construction, and its light would be reflected up through the tower and redirected towards the oncoming ships. There is also evidence to suggest that the British had been using another tower known as the King’s Tower which has since been destroyed.
This 100-meter-long horse stables have been built by the Dutch to provide protection to their horses. The pillars on which the horses had been tied had survived the test of time and still you can see 64 of these pillars with 32 or either side. These horses have been used for the army’s use and also have been traded with the merchants.
Sacred Bo Sanctuary Temple
The Sacred Bo tree in Anuradhapura is the oldest living tree in the world with a known planting date. This Bo tree is a sapling from the original Bo tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The Sacred Bo tree sapling was brought from India to Sri Lanka by “Sangamiththa Thero”. On the way to Sri Lanka, it’s said that they have rested at this place upon which a temple had been built later. This is the tallest place in the island. Today the temple is in ruin.
During the colonial times, birds were used for communication. Pigeons are said to have a good memory and hence they have been used to fly from one location to the other. It’s a one hour’s boat ride from Delft Island to mainland and to think that pigeons flew over the Indian ocean for over an hour is quite amazing. The message was written on a piece of paper and have been tied to the leg of the pigeon. This pigeon’s nest has been constructed using corals from the ocean, by the Dutch.
Seven Wells Beach – Delft Island
One of the best white sandy beaches in Sri Lanka is located inside Delft Island. If you are in the habit of collecting shells off the beaches around the world, this is the place to be. The water is noticeably clear as well.
These unique trees have been planted in 34 places in the Northern province and one of them is inside the Delft island. The Baobab tree is unique to Africa which had been brought to Sri Lanka by the slaves who were traded in the Delft island by the Dutch during their occupation. The locals have a legend connected to the Baobab tree where the God gifted many trees to different types and the “Yaksha” tribe had no idea how to plant their tree and that they planted it upside down and now all the roots are sticking out towards the sky at the top, with the trunk stuck to the ground. Today the trunk of this tree has a huge opening which can easily fit around 3 adults inside.
Similar to the growing stone in Nagapooshani Amman kovil, there is another lesser-known growing stone in the Delft Island. The history behind this stone is lost in time but the elderly locals who have lived in the island their whole life tells that they have seen this stone grow over the years. The locals worship this stone and it’s considered as a small shrine where lamps are lit and offerings are made.
There is a huge footprint that the locals believe is the footprint of Lord Hanuman, made during his journey from India to Sri Lanka with a part of Himalaya mountain on his back to save Lord Lakshman when he was gravely injured. Those who are on the Ramayana trail make it a point to visit the Delft island to witness this amazing footprint of Lord Hanuman.
Lord Buddha visited the Nagadeepa Island to settle a dispute between two kings – Chulodara and Mahodara over a gem-studded throne. Lord Buddha preached the “Dhamma” to the two kings about compassion. The two kings were astonished by the “Dhamma” and they settled their dispute and offered the gem-studded throne to Lord Buddha. It is said that the Lord Buddha donated this throne to the ruler of Kelaniya who enshrined it and built the Kelaniya temple which is located close to Colombo today. In Buddhism in Sri Lanka, there are 16 venerated places identified as places of worship due to their direct connections to Lord Buddha. Nagadeepa temple is one of those 16 places in Sri Lanka.
Nagapooshani Amman Temple
There are 51 sacred shrines in the world according to the Energy Worship / Shaktism which is a Goddess centric tradition in Hinduism. Out of these 51 shrines, many are in India with 7 in Bangladesh, 3 in Pakistan, 3 in Nepal, 1 in Tibet and 1 in Sri Lanka. Naagapooshani Amman temple is the only shrine in Sri Lanka mentioned in Shaktism. The Nagapooshani Amman temple was first published in a book called Shakti Peetha Stotram in the 9th century by a Hindu philosopher. That is how far the temple’s history and popularity travel back to.
A 400-year-old Fort built by the Portuguese stands to this date as being one of the oldest structures in Sri Lanka to see most battles. During the 25-year-old civil war in Sri Lanka, Jaffna fort had been bombed, shot at and destroyed in several parts, many times over. The first battle it saw was in 1658 when the Dutch attacked the fort and captured it. This fort has seen so much violence and it has so many stories to tell. Kruys Church was built inside the fort by the Dutch in 1706 and it stood strong until in the 1990s. Now the Dutch government is investing in rebuilding this church back to its former glory.
This used to be one of the top libraries in all of Asia in the 1980’s before it was burnt down to the ground in 1981. Before it caught fire, the library had over 97,000 books. There were so many old palm manuscripts that were used to write down historic events before paper was invented.
Jaffna Archaeological Museum
A small museum compared to the other museums in Sri Lanka, this has a rare collection of Buddhist and Hindu antiquities. The artifacts are made out of wood, metal, and stone. This is a good location to understand a little bit about the lost culture in the Jaffna kingdom. The museum also has a cultural hall. Many who visited the museum had commented that this was more of a collection than a museum.
Nallur Kandasamy Kovil
This temple is dedicated to God Murugan who is the God of war, who is also called the philosopher-warrior god. He is the son of great Shiva and Parvati and is the brother of Ganesh. This temple is one of the most famous temples in Sri Lanka. It had been destroyed many times by the invaders but has always been reconstructed. This temple hosts one of the most popular festivals in the country called “Nallur Festival”. It is located in the heart of the city and the male visitors must enter the temple topless as a way of respecting God Murugan.
Jaffna Kingdom Ruins
Sankillian Thoppu had been the main entrance to the ancient palace of Jaffna and unfortunately, only the entrance still stands. The statues of King Sankillian riding a horse with a sword in hand can be seen in the town. Also, the Rajamantri Palace is believed to be the manor house of an ancient minister from the court of the king. Structurally it is a two-story house, but due to the site being neglected, the second story is no more. Parts of the staircase that led up to the second floor can be seen from some areas of the house.
This is one of the oldest and historical Portuguese forts which had also been used as a prison up until the 1980s. Today the fort is run like a resort and they provide you with the accommodation option of sleeping in a cell. If you want to be “locked up” for the night, then this would be the ideal place to be knowing that there’s a 100% guarantee that you will be let out of your cell at any time you want.
Varatharaja Perumal Temple
The temple is dedicated to Lord Perumal which is another name for Lord Vishnu, who is one of the main deities of Hinduism. Lord Vishnu is the protector of this universe whereas Lord Shiva is recognized as the destroyer and Lord Brahma is the creator. Every year there are two local festivals that happen in the months of August and December. On Sundays you can see a lot of devotees gathering to this temple for its weekly pooja.
This is where Sangamiththa thero landed in Sri Lanka with the sacred Bo sapling from the tree in India under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The King and ruler of the country at the time King Devanampiyatissa came to Dambakolapatuna to welcome Sangamiththa thero and escort them to Anuradhapura to plant the Sacred Bo tree which stands to this day.
In ancient times, there had been 5 Ishwaram kovils (dedicated to Lord Shiva) that had been built in Sri Lanka to protect the country from invaders. One is in Trincomalee – Koneshwaram, one is in Chilaw – Muneshwaram, one is in Mannar – Thiruketheeshwaram, one was in Mirissa but this was lost in time and the last one is in Jaffna which is Naguleshwaram Kovil. The Portuguese destroyed much of the temple and later it was reconstructed to its present glory. Visitors can still see the ancient temple’s gopuram which is incredibly beautiful and rustic.
Selva Sanidhi Murugan Temple
The Pada Yatra or the Foot Pilgrimage is a 2-month long walking journey undertaken by devotees to show their respects to their Gods. They travel from one sacred place to the other and it is a very long and hard journey. The devotees travel from the North to the South of the island on foot. They start the journey from Selva Sanidhi Murugan Temple and finish off in Kataragama temple. They start from Jaffna, then walk through Trincomalee and Batticaloa and all the way through the thick jungles of Yala national park filled with leopards, bears and elephants. The only occasion that the Government gives permission for anyone to walk inside Yala national park is if you are participating in the Pada Yatra. This temple is dedicated to God Murugan.
Point Pedro Lighthouse
Point Pedro is the northernmost point in Sri Lanka facing the Bay of Bengal. The lighthouse was built by the British in 1916 which stands 105 feet tall. Sri Lanka Navy has a basecamp close by and there is a huge communication tower next to the lighthouse. However, the lighthouse is in a rundown state and the staircase is broken in so many places, hence no one climbs to the top of the lighthouse now.
Earlalai Elu Kovil
The temple at Chunnakam village is a famous temple which attracts a lot of devotees from all around Jaffna, even though the temple is only functioning at certain times of the year. The temple sits proudly amidst agricultural fields acting as their protector.
One of the few Buddhist temples in Jaffna, which is also an archaeological site, maintained by the Sri Lanka Army. The Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Sri Lanka is from a sapling from the sacred fig tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. The Sri Maha Bodhiya was brought into Anuradhapura (it is current resting place) from India. The sacred bo tree sapling was first brought to Dambakolapatuna (in Jaffna) and én-route to Anuradhapura, it is written that Sangamitta thero visited Kadurugoda temple. At present one can see around 20 smaller stupas (records show in 1917, there had been 56 stupas) on site which are believed to house the remains of 60 monks who have attained Arahath status.
Maruthanamadam Anjaneyar Kovil
One of the few Lord Hanuman kovils in Sri Lanka is the Maruthanamadam Anjaneyar kovil located near Maruthanamadam junction on the Jaffna-Kankesanturai road. The Brahmachari Hanuman was one of the main characters depicted in the epic Ramayana. Today at one of the far corners of this island you can witness a 72 feet high statue of Lord Hanuman which can be seen from far away. Apart from the daily poojas in the temple, special poojas are held on Tuesday and Saturday which are the days dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
A small kovil on the side of the Kadduwan – Mallakam – Chankanai road. It is the kovil is surrounded by a wall and the trees around it provide lots of shade. The locals come to worship this kovil everyday asking for blessings to protect their agro fields in the area.
Navatkuli Bridge and Dam
This is an exceptionally good bird watching location since many migratory bird species can be seen feeding off the edges of water. Many duck species can be seen floating over the water in the dam which is a very pretty sight. Going to the dam early in the morning will be the way to go, if you are expecting some good bird sightings.
Keerimalai Sacred Water Springs
This is close to the Naguleshwaram kovil. There are two sections of the hot springs where the large pond is for men and there is a smaller pond which is covered inside for the ladies. The locals believe that these water springs have healing properties that can cure illnesses. The best time to visit the water springs is early in the morning before all the crowds come in. Even though there is only a thin wall that separates this pond with the Indian ocean, the water springs are pure and is not mixed with salt water.
Keerimalai naguleswaram kovil
Destroyed by the Portuguese and later restored to its present glory. Visitors can still see the ancient temple’s crowning glory, the gopuram which itself is incredibly beautiful and rustic.
A natural cave system can be found in Jaffna which is called the Periya Mandapam limestone caves. This is a lesser-known place even for the locals. A huge tree in the middle of the cave entrance stands guard providing shade to the entrance. The government had not taken any effort to build these caves into an attraction and therefore not a lot of research had been done before. We recommend you take a ladder to get into the entrance and explore the caves from outside and not go in since no one knows what could be down there.
Manalkadu Sand Dunes
This is an amazing stretch of sand dunes which towers up to 16 meters at certain points. There are many ruins buried in these dunes, one of them being an ancient catholic church from the Dutch era, dedicated to St. Anthony’s. The walls of the church can be seen when the sand dunes move from time to time.
Karaveddy, also known as the “Coastal Strip” in local Tamil language is close to Point Pedro. The lagoon attracts a lot of migratory and endemic birds. This is a great location for bird watching and good for Sunrise and Sunset photography as well.
Sarasalai Mangrove Ecosystem
A beautiful mangrove ecosystem exists in Sarasalai. This is an especially important area for the ecosystem of Jaffna. There are many reptiles and amphibians living in these mangroves. For those who are interested in photographing mangroves and the animals living in it, this is a very good place to be.
Nilavarai Bottomless Well
There are many legends related to how this well with no bottom was created. There have been many European professional divers who have tried to find the bottom of this well with professional gear, but they have given up since the well keeps on going endlessly. The locals say that the well’s water level never goes down. Some believe that this well is connected to the Keeramalai pond.
This is the most famous beach on the Northern province with its shallow waters and white sandy beaches. There are small trees and shrubs that provide perfect cover from the hot sun if you feel like taking a break. The shoreline of the Casuarina beach is incredibly beautiful which ends in one corner with the Karainagar lighthouse. It is an hour’s drive from the Jaffna city to the beach.
Another famous beach, which is filled with white sand, coconut and palmyra trees. A 20-minute drive from the city, this area is also called as Kayts. There are a couple of beach resorts in the vicinity which allows the visitors with the option of accessing this beach better from their hotels. There are several huts along the beach which allows visitors to take a break from taking their tan.
KKS or Kankasanthurai has another long beach and crystal-clear water. This beach used to be the naval hub of the Sri Lankan Navy. But today this is a family friendly beach where many locals come to visit. The beach is not crowded at all. The KKS lighthouse can be seen from a distance as well. This is a famous fishing village where the harbour is located close by as well.
A fishing village sits next to the beach which connects to the Manalkadu sand dunes with its ruins buried inside, the famous one being the Dutch built St. Anthony’s church. It is a long beach which is ideal for walks next to the waves.
The Nagarkovil beach is connected with the history of Jaffna is a major way. The remains of an Ayyanaar temple can be seen on the beach. It is said that there had been a Jain temple built long ago and the beach had eroded over time and now this temple is under water in the Indian Ocean. Another white sandy beach with a village closes by with a famous Murugan kovil with its own festival.