The A9 road runs smooth for miles down the middle of Sri Lanka, bursting forth from the jungles of the Wanni to cross the Elephant Pass causeway over a shining lagoon before it comes to a stop in the historic Jaffna town. Constantly abuzz with energy, it still maintains a sense of calm that is unlike most cities on the island.
Jaffna’s recent past is known the world over but its ancient history is rooted deeply in the lives of its people. The heartland of Tamil culture, Jaffna is a wealth of insight to the arts, religion cuisine and warm hospitality of its people.
The Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil stands majestic in the centre of the town, the most prominent place of worship on the peninsula that is dotted with monuments of the Hindu faith. Overlooking the lagoon, its walls holding strong after centuries, is the Jaffna Fort, the second largest in the island that offers a view over the fishing boats moored and nets cast over the gleaming water.
The peninsula is also a place of myth and mystery – the Nilavarai Well, whispered to be one of King Ravana’s secret pathways, and the healing waters of the Keerimalai tank lend magic to Jaffna’s story.
A drive over the causeways leading off the peninsula takes you to quiet islands that are miles of undiscovered beauty along bumpy roads, a peaceful contrast to the pulsing atmosphere of the Jaffna town. Walk along the white sand Chatty Beach on the island of Kayts or dip your feet into the waters at the famed Casuarina Beach on the Karainagar island.
The island of Nainativu or Nagadeepa offers a harmonious spiritual experience for those of both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. The iconic temple and vihara are a short boat ride from the mainland, across the blue waters of the Palk Bay. A few kilometres from the town, through fields of crops and endless palmyrah growth is the northern shore of Sri Lanka at Kankesanthurai. The calm Indian Ocean stretches for miles at Point Pedro, the northernmost point on the island.
The nerve centre of the Jaffna town is its market, a colourful maze of produce and products that dizzies the senses. Expect to find a range of palmyrah products as the tree grows there in abundance. Alongside these, dry fish are a northern staple and the grape wine made by Rosarian nuns must be sampled when visiting the region.
Indulge in some of the finest thosai on the island while you savour the depth of the classic Jaffna crab curry, laden with a heady blend of spices. Stop by Rio ice cream, now a landmark in Jaffna that is loved by locals and travellers alike, for sweet treats to beat the dry heat outside. And now, located on the historic Mahathma Gandhi Road is Jetwing Jaffna.
The first luxury hotel project in the area, Jetwing Jaffna stands proud – a testament to the splendour of the North. Featuring 55 rooms, the hotel is designed by internationally renowned firm Design Group 5 to be influenced by the rich heritage of the area, complete with the legendary Jetwing brand of hospitality.
Jaffna’s journey as a destination for travel has only just begun. The opening of Jetwing Jaffna in partnership with MMBL Group, Regency Teas and other partners, is a symbol of Jetwing’s vision for a city that has come so far and has the potential to go even further.