Jaffna is indeed a liberating place of history and tradition of times past. Visiting Jaffna is to walk into a treasure house that needs to be explored. The town is generally a hive of activity, with women on scooters and bicycles, buses and other vehicles tooting their horns. Begin with the Jaffna New Market where the theme of bright colours complements the variety of commodities on sale. Locally grown grapes are a must to be savoured, so are locally made nibbles from the famous Palmyrah palm, including many handicrafts. Besides the remnants of the glorious kingdom of ancient Jaffna and equally magnificent Hindu temples, have emerged churches and houses that boast of beautiful colonial architecture. Especially, the Nallur Temple, popular for its festivals where huge crowds gather to take part in the rituals. The kovil carries its historical roots back to 17th cenury where it was constructed. There’s so much to explore in Jaffna, and a visit to the Jaffna library and the historic Dutch Fort will complete a journey along the realms of history lived by the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.
The beautifully laid out road that makes the famous 18-hairpin bends or ‘Daha Ata Wanguwa’ as it is popularly known is a 6km drive situated along the Kandy-Mahiyangana road. A spectacular journey of twists and snaking through the arched bends, the journey set amidst a spectacular landscape is anything but difficult. Of course a journey along this lovely road surrounded by stunning vistas of nature, is ideal for the adventurous, as the 18-bend stretch is the perfect tract for a motorcycle-ride. So, here’s a tip. Pack long-range binoculars, some nibbles and a bottle of water or even an excess of fluid, and hey presto you could have a picnic on the ‘shoulder’.
Polonnaruwa, the 11th century kingdom and capital of the island boasts of ancient architecture that displays a fine blend of Hindu designs with that of Buddhist. Spread across a vast terrain, the best, fastest and the most practical way to enjoy the beauty of ancient architecture is by bicycle. Accompanied by a tour guide, who will provide the nitty-gritty details of a Buddhist stupa or a Siva temple, while you stand inawe at the statue of a sculptured sage, also believed to be the image of Parakramabahu, the greatest ruler of Polonnaruwa and experience the craftsmanship displayed at the Gal Viharaya (The Rock Temple of the Buddha), Thuparamaya and the Vatadage.
The highest lookout point that opens to the misty mountains the famous Lipton’s seat in Dambetanne, Haputale is an excellent destination for a terrific trekking adventure that provides a splendid view across acres of mist filled mountains, amidst cool weather conditions and of course a pleasant walk through Sri Lanka’s finest tea plantations. Lipton’s Seat is located in Poonagala Hills in the Dambetanne Tea Estate. The place derives its name from Sir Thomas Lipton, a 19th century Englishmen whose name is synonymous with the Lipton brand of tea. This place used to be his regular look-out point of his tea estates. After a short journey of trekking across rugged roads surrounded by tea gardens, the Lipton’s Seat offers a spectacular view over Southern (Galle, Matara, Devundara, Hambantota), Uva, Sabaragamuwa, Central and Eastern provinces of the country.
Bold sacred architecture reaching the spiritual sky of all the sacred architecture in Colombo that are brimming with tradition, cannot compare with the modern boldness of the skyward design of the stupa of the Sambodhi Chaitya. The primary Buddhist landmark is the large dome-shaped dagoba. The elevated bell-shaped stupa, with a circumference of 158 feet, provides an extraordinary sight. Four pale yellow arches – one straddles the road – consist of sloped slabs of concrete with curvatures that intersect at a height of 107 feet underneath the square platform on which a stupa is based. The dazzling white stupa is 154 feet tall, and the whole structure reaches 261 feet into the sky.
What makes the stupa even more extraordinary is that alongside is an 11-storey tower-like stair structure at the top of which is a steel bridge that leads to the stupa. As you ascend the 258 steps, the breathtaking views of the port and Colombo city are revealed.