Explore the Northern Maritime Province (NMP)

 
Places of Interest

Northern Maritime Province (NMP) consists of the districts of Mullativu, Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mannar. affna Peninsuala, is the northernmost peninsula of Sri Lanka. The distance form Colombo to Jaffna is about 420km by A3 and A9 main motor roads.

 

Together Palk Bay and Palk Strait form a nearly enclosed body of shallow water, or inlet, known in India as Sethsamudram. It is roughly 17,000km2 in extent, separating Sri Lanka from India and opening eastward into the Bay of Bengal.

 

Jaffna and its surrounding areas has an abundance of places of interest and scenic beauty. Its low-lying tropical islands are all dotted with Palmyra palms and surrounded by shallow waters. Causeways and ferry connections link the islands, making a number of idyllic daytrips possible.

 

The main draw is the fascinating waterscapes and the escapist feeling of boat rides to end-of-the-earth villages. The islands' beaches are not a great attraction as those on other coastlines, but they do offer pleasant swimming in balmy weather.

Highlights

 

  • Exploring the Jaffna islands by road and ferry (ancient monuments, fantastic seascapes, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, long water-skimming causeways, fishermen at work)

 

 

  • Exploring Mannar Island (historic fort, lighthouses, Adam's Bridge National Park, Vankalai sanctuary, ancient baobab tree and remote beaches).

 

  • Scenic coastal road drive from Karainagar to Pooneryn.

Point Pedro (PPD)

The name of the town in Tamil is Paruthithurai, which translates to 'Cotton Harbour' as it has exported cotton to South India for centuries. There are no remains of a fort built during the colonial era. Sri Lanka’s northernmost town is Sakkottai which is just a few kilometers north of PPD. The northern most point is marked and located next to the harbour. To the south are  sand dunes known as Manalkadu Desert

 

Sights & Activities

Northernmost Point (Sakkottai) | Port | PPD Lighthouse | Customs Jetty | Fisheries Harbours along coastline | Manalkadu Desert.

Kankesanthurai (KKS)

Restricted area. Entry to this area is by vehicle & driver permit issued by combined armed forces. The northern railway line ends here. The port (mini harbour) is controlled by the Navy and not accessible to the public. There are no remains of the fort that the Dutch started to build here. To the west is the beach of Keeramalai where there are a few fresh water springs.

 

Sights & Activities

Lighthouse |Port | Sea Swim at Thal Sevana or Keeramalai Beach.

 
Dambakola Patuna

Dambakola Patuna is located about 20 km from Jaffna town and 10 km west of Kankasanthurai (KKS). It is the seaport where the Buddhist nun Sangamitta Therani arrived in Sri Lanka bringing the southern sapling of the Bo or Peepal tree, the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi at Bodhgaya in India, in whose shelter Prince Siddhartha attained supreme enlightenment, thereby becoming the Gauthama Buddha.

 

Today, the sacred tree, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura is known as the oldest recorded tree in the world. The small stupa and the temple at Dambakola Patuna are modern constructions. The statue of Sangamitta Therani was established there in 2010.

Sangamitta statue, Dambakola Patuna
 
 
Jaffna Islands
Velanai (Kayts)

Kayts is sometimes referred to as Leiden, its Dutch name, or Kayts, after the village on its northeast coast. The island is connected to mainland Jaffna by a causeway. A beautiful but sparsely populated island and has a deserted feel with many abandoned structures.

 

Sights & Activities

Fort Eyrie | Karampan Ferry | Causeways | Seabirds | Chaatty Beach.

Karainagar

In Tamil, Karai-nagar translates to ‘Coastal-town’. The island is accessed by crossing from mainland Jaffna across a long, water-skimming causeway, with views of wading fishermen and shrimp traps. There is a passenger only ferry crossing between Karainagar and Kayts.

 

Sights & Activities

Fort Hammenheil | Kovilan Point Lighthouse | Snorkelling | Coral Reefs | Seabirds | Swimming at Casuarina Beach | Swimming with Milk Shark.

Punkudutivu

A long, delightful causeway links Velanai (Kayts) to the island of Punkudutivu. While crossing observe lagoon fishermen that use wade-out traps and sail little wind-powered canoes. Another causeway links Punkudutivu to the ferry port at Kurikadduwan (KKD) for boats to Delft (Neduntivu), Analaitivu and Nainativu.

 

Sights & Activities

Causeways | Lagoon | Vallam Tower (fire lighthouse) |Kurikadduwan (KKD) Jetty.

Analaitivu

Aka Rotterdam in Dutch and Annaladoova in  Sinhala. Analaitivu is located west of Punkudutivu and between the islands Nainativu to the north and Eluvativu to the south. Access by ferry from KKD pier.

 

Sights & Activities

Analaitivu Tower (fire lighthouse) | Sea Grass bed on leeward side | Coral Reef on windward side.

Delft Island National Park

Aka Neduntivu in Tamil it was named Ilha das Vakas by the Portuguese and later renamed Delft by the Dutch, after the town in the Netherlands. Delft is the island furthest off the Jaffna peninsula, with the exception of uninhabited island of Kachchativu.

 

It is a magnificent island with rich history from the Chola Dynasty, and was occupied by all three colonial powers in succession, the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. It covers approximately 4,700 hectares and is roughly oval-shaped. Its maximum width about 10 km.

 

Getting there: The Road Development Authority operates ferry boats which can carry 100 passengers between Kurikadduwan (KKD) and Delft. There are two departures in the morning and travel time is about 1 hour. Getting around by tuk-tuk or TATA Ace available for hire at the port.

 

Sights & Activities

Dutch Fort | Queen’s Tower | Chola Ruins | Pigeon Holes | Stables | Wild Ponies | British Court House | Baobab Tree | Growing Stone | Giant's Footprint | Coral Boundary Walls.

Jaffna

Jaffna (Yalpanam in Tamil) is the capital city of the northern maritime province. It became a colonial port during the Portuguese occupation of the Jaffna peninsula in 1619. The area is dry and flat, surrounded by sea and lagoon with a fertile natural vegetation growing over sand and limestome soil. The Palmyrah Tree is charasteristic in this region. The large Dutch fort built built in a star like configuration is one of the main attractions.

 

Sights & Activities

Jaffna Fort | Jaffna Archeological Museum | Causeway | Lagoon Fishermen.

Elephant Pass

A strategically important narrow strip of land that links Jaffna peninsula to the mainland.

 

Sights & Activities

Ruined Fort in rubbles overlooking Jaffna Lagoon | Chundikkulum National Park | Bird Watching.

Pooneryn

Located south of Jaffna lagoon, the remains of a fort combined with the rest house can be seen by the roadside. Sangupiddy Bridge (Changkupiddy Bridge) is a road bridge across the mouth of  Jaffna Lagoon.

 

Sights & Activities

Portuguese Fort | Sangupiddy Bridge | Jaffna Lagoon | Bird Watching.

Arippu

This is an important coastal village in Sri Lanka’s history. Located on the northwest coast 21 km south of Mannar.

 

Sights & Activities

Pearl Banks | Coral Reefs | Snorkelling | Doric House | Doric Tower | Arippu Fort | Bird Watching.

 
 
 
 
Mannar Island

Mannar Island is a beautiful peninsula with lots of white sand, Palmyra trees, quaint little lanes, fishing boats and wild donkeys. Bird life includes seabirds such as terns and gulls, and also waders. The island is connected to the mainland by a 3 km long causeway.

 

At the other end of this long Island and projecting out into the Palk Strait, is Talaimannar town that is only about 30km from India. Adam’s Bridge, is a chain of shoals and sandbars that connects Talaimannar with India. A few species of pelagic and neritic seabirds are known to nest on the sandbars.

 

Sights & Activities

Adam's Bridge National Park | Dolphin Watching | Mannar Fort | Pelagic and Neritic Seabirds | Vankalai Sanctuary | Bird Watching | Talaimannar Lighthouse and Pier | Oorumalai Tower | Baobab Tree | Mannar Donkeys | Flamingoes.

 

Northern fishermen-at-work

© Howard Martenstyn

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Mannar Causeway

© Howard Martenstyn