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En route to Jaffna on the Yal Devi

Written by
Swetha Rathnajothiee

The Yaal Devi, the northern train to Jaffna is a must for those who seek to witness lovely landscapes and scenic views. The trains chugs on from Colombo to KKS, Jaffna and Anuradhapura being one of the major stops along the way. Passing through the heritage cities, witness the historical landmarks such as the Abhayagiriya Viharaya, see verdant paddy fields while passing Gampaha, Polgahawela, Kurunegala and Galgamuwa, and feel the sea breeze as the train crosses the Elephant Pass causeway.

Be prepared and take your own food and water to avoid disappointment as the train does not stop for breakfast or lunch.


Jaffna welcomes you with homely ambience. Palmyrah trees flicker in a distance over green paddy fields. There are hotels, private villas and luxury boutique hotels, located proximate to the town centre. The hotels promise comfort and elegance, influenced by the exotic culture of Jaffna. 

Things to do in Jaffna 

Fervent worship

The heart of the island’s Hindu culture, Jaffna has many kovils. The Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil in the town is opulent with elaborate carvings and a decorated history. From July to August, thousands from around the world, visit to attend the annual festival.

The ancient Nagadeepa Viharaya in Nainativu isle is a Solosmasthana, one of the 16 consecrated sites in Sri Lanka, believed to have been visited by the Gautama Buddha. Other important places of worship include the Nagapoosani Amman Kovil and St Mary’s Cathedral.

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Shop till you drop

The Jaffna market in the heart of the town is a bustling row of buildings and shop. The Jaffna Market building has an elaborate façade, which keeps changing colour. Within one can find the treats of Jaffna such as kuttan (palmyrah jaggery), odiyal (kotta kilangu), paruthithurai vadai (Point Pedro vadai) and peanut cookies. Fresh vegetables and fruits are also available in the market. Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of nelli cordial or Jaffna grape wine.  

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Colonial remnants

The Jaffna Fort is one of the best preserved and the second largest fort in the island. Walk the ramparts to get a good view of the town and sea. Other colonial buildings include the Jaffna Library, one of the town’s most notable landmarks due to its iconic architecture. Travelling along the streets of the town, one is sure to encounter Victorian and Edwardian style colonial houses, some well preserved. Watch out for the Jaffna kachcheri, another colonial architectural feature.

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 Pastel sunsets

Stroll along the Jaffna lagoon at sunset and be mesmerized by the beautiful shades of the sun. Ride a paddle boat, or walk along the Pannai bridge. The park nearby has benches and street food vendors selling a range of crunchy snacks. Make sure to try the unique flavours of Jaffna ice cream.

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