Home to the majority of the Tamil population, Jaffna, the northernmost city in Sri Lanka, is still largely unmodernised and recuperating after the civil war that raged for almost 30 years until 2009. This is a place full of beautifully ornamented Kovils (Hindu temples), ancient Buddhist temples and a community bouncing back and rebuilding. Here are the best things to see and do in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.
Step out of the Nallur temple, and look down the street, beyond the surge of motorbikes and buzzing tuk tuks carrying passengers. You can’t miss Rio Ice Cream Parlor; the giant red and blue sign is a landmark in itself. Don’t be fooled by the name – there are cakes on offer too. But most people roll up for the cold stuff, served in old fashioned sundae glasses, and sprouting wafers. Pick from flavours including blueberry, mango and pineapple. And get licking.
As Jaffna recuperates from a 26-year civil war, renovation works are breathing new life into the city, and traces of the overwhelming conflict are disappearing little by little. But if you want to pay your respects, you can find remnants of life before: destroyed buildings, forts and train stations. Don’t leave without heading to Old Park to see the palatial but eerie ruins of British colonial buildings.
After exploring, head to the rooftop of the Jetwing Jaffna for the best views of the city and the peninsula beyond. Order a cocktail, or two, as you sit back and enjoy the moment: the setting sun projecting sharp silhouettes of palmyrah trees, as the headlights of tuk-tuks and mopeds on the streets below blink in the grey dusk.
This is an updated version of an article by Orana Velarde.