Cycling in Sri Lanka 2 – Jaffna and Around

#13 Jaffna

May 22: On my first day in Jaffna, feeling a bit tired after the long ride from Mannar the previous day, I decided to go for a short ride in the afternoon. My hotel was located next to the railway station, which happened to be closed due to ongoing upgrades to the northern rail line. From there, I proceeded to see the beautiful clock tower, one of the finest I have seen in Sri Lanka. It was built to commemorate the visit of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to Ceylon in 1875.

Across from the clock tower stood the Jaffna Public Library, unfortunately closed that day due to a holiday. This library, constructed in 1933, once held the distinction of being one of Asia’s largest libraries during the early 1980s, boasting over 97,000 books and manuscripts. Tragically, it fell victim to an arson attack in 1981, resulting in the destruction of over a million books, including some ancient Sinhala and Tamil texts that were never recovered.

Following my visit to the library, I headed to the post office to send out a few postcards. To my surprise, I came across another mailbox adorned with the British Royal Emblem of King George VI.

Continuing my exploration, I visited Jaffna Fort, a fortress initially constructed by the Portuguese in 1618 under the leadership of Phillippe de Oliveira during their invasion of Jaffna. The fort earned the name “Fortress of Our Lady of Miracles of Jafanapatão” due to the numerous miracles attributed to the statue of the Virgin Mary in a nearby church. In 1658, the Dutch, under Rijcklof van Goens, captured and expanded the fort. It remained under British control from 1795 to 1948, serving as a garrison. Today, it is occupied by a detachment of the Ceylon Army. During the Sri Lankan Civil War, the fort became the site of pitched battles, resulting in the destruction of most of its structures. Currently, efforts are underway to renovate the fort, primarily constructed from coral stones, with funding from the Dutch government.

Wrapping up my day, I visited the local market, where vibrant murals adorned the walls.

Stay: Valampuri Hotel, Jaffna
Distance 15.68 km
Elev Gain 51 m
Time 2h 44m

#14  Point Pedro – northern most point of Sri Lanka

May 23: Today, I ventured to Point Pedro, the northernmost tip of Sri Lanka. Departing early, I passed by the impressive Nallur Kandaswamy temple complex and a beautiful yet sadly dilapidated bungalow, said to have once served as the residence of a minister during the reign of King Sangiliyan, whose Kingdom had its capital in Nallur. On the way to Point Pedro, I observed several beautiful Hindu temples and a church dedicated to St. Thomas.

At the northern palm pole point, I witnessed fishermen bringing in fresh fish of their boats. Unfortunately, the lighthouse in the vicinity was inaccessible.

A few kilometers further, I arrived at Sakkotai Cape in Point Pedro, marking the northernmost point of Sri Lanka. This significant landmark stood adjacent to St. Xavier’s sports club’s playground. Overlooking it was a church and a school dedicated to St. Francis Xavier.

Instead of cycling back to the hotel via the same route, I opted for a different path, passing through Valvettinurai and Kankesanturai. At Kankesanturai, I passed by a charming hotel operated by the Sri Lankan navy, which is open to tourists.

At Point Pedro, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a statue honoring MGR, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, a state in South India.

Stay: Valampuri Hotel, Jaffna
Distance 88.11 km
Elev Gain 179 m
Time 7h 46m

#15 Jaffna Town

May 24: After yesterday’s long ride to Point Pedro, today, I decided to explore Jaffna. My first destination was St. James’ Church, where a poignant plaque bears the inscription, “Honour to the Dead, Warning to the Living.” This plaque serves as a solemn reminder of the tragic events during the civil war, especially the aerial bombing by the Air Force on November 13, 1993, which tragically claimed the lives of several innocent civilians gathered there for worship. Another plaque chronicles the historical events of the church, including the visit of St. Jose Vas as a missionary in 1687.

Continuing my exploration, I visited several more churches, as well as a Buddhist and Hindu temple. During my journey through the city, I also encountered statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Baden Powell, the founder of the Scouts and Guide movement.

As the day neared its end, I concluded my ride with a visit to the popular Rio Ice Cream center to enjoy a delightful and refreshing ice cream shake.

Stay: Valampuri Hotel, Jaffna
Distance 14.03 km
Elev Gain 54 m
Time 2h 9m

#16 Nagadeepa Island

May 25: I had planned to explore Delft Island, situated halfway between India and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, after watching Shenell’s video about their trip to the island. The jetty at Kurikadduwan, which serves as the gateway to the island, is approximately 35 km from the hotel where I was staying in Jaffna. Initially, I estimated it would take me an hour and a half to reach this destination. However, my departure at 6 a.m. was met with massive headwinds that significantly slowed my progress. Consequently, upon reaching the ferry wharf at 8 am, I received the disappointing news that the ferry had been canceled due to low tides.

PS: People have told me different ferry departure times for Delft Island. Most said it leaves at 8 am and again at 2:30 pm. Check the ferry schedule before setting off on your journey. If you still miss the ferry, there are a couple of affordable hotels to stay near the wharf.

Faced with the setback of a missed ferry, I decided to make the most of my day by going to the nearby Nagadeep Island, which offered boat services departing every hour. The boat journey took about 20 minutes to reach the island’s jetty. The boat is used not only to transport passengers but also to carry an assortment of goods, essential supplies, livestock, and two and three wheeled vehicles too.

The island, measuring just 4 square km, has two important religious places located within walking distance: the Hindu shrine of Nagapooshani Amman Temple and the Buddhist shrine of Nagadeepa Viharaya, which provide a captivating spiritual experience. After paying my respects and soaking in the tranquility of these sacred sites, I took another ferry journey to return to the mainland.

On my way back to Jaffna, I took a detour of 3 kilometers, a few kilometers from the wharf, to see a majestic baobab tree.

Stay: Valampuri Hotel, Jaffna
Distance 83.08 km
Elev Gain 158 m
Time 6h 31m

#17 Delft Island – half way between Sri Lanka & India

May 26: I opted for a bus ride to reach the ferry point instead of battling headwinds and the bad roads, as I had encountered the previous day. I boarded the 2:30 pm ferry bound for the island, a journey that took more than an hour.

Here’s a helpful tip: To stay dry and comfortable, choose a seat behind or atop the cabin to shield yourself from the splashes of waves hitting the boat.

Measuring 8 kilometers in length and 6 kilometers in width, this island is relatively undeveloped, with a modest population. The island was known to the Portuguese as Ilha das Vacas (“Island of the Cows”) and later renamed Delft by the Dutch after the city of Delft in the Netherlands. However, the island is officially called Neduntivu. Upon my arrival on the island, I checked into the only reputable lodging option, Hotel Samudra.

After refreshing myself, I embarked on a cycling adventure around the island, making stops at two churches: one dedicated to St. Francis Xavier and another to St. Anthony. I also came across a stone that is said to grow over the years. The locals worship this stone, and it’s considered a small shrine where lamps are lit, and offerings are made.

Nearby, is the island’s famous baobab tree, which is said to have been planted by Arab sailors, presumably during the 7th century. There is a large hollow within its trunk with enough space for two or three people.

I tried to find the Delft wild horses but couldn’t locate any. These horses were initially introduced to the island by colonial settlers for various purposes and were eventually allowed to roam free.

By the time I reached the Queen’s Tower, located on the southeastern end of the island, darkness had descended. This historical structure, constructed by the Dutch, once served as a lighthouse and navigation point for both Dutch and British sailors.

It’s worth noting that coral stones are the primary building materials for most of the structures on the island, and you can find them scattered all across the island.

Stay: Samundra Resort, Delft Island
Distance 23.68 km
Elev Gain 44 m
Time 2h 10m

#18 Delft Island

May 27: In the morning, I set out once more in search of the wild horses. On the way, I saw the remnants of an old Dutch fort. This two-story structure was constructed entirely from coral and limestone and near to the fort’s ruins lay a cemetery adorned with uniquely shaped crosses.

Another captivating structure that I saw was the Pigeon Cote. This structure, still standing today, features eighty pigeonholes that once housed messenger pigeons responsible for carrying mail between the island and the mainland.

Nowadays, there is a fully operational post office on the island, from which I was fortunate to receive two postcards that the hotel manager kindly posted for me.

Since the wild horses remained elusive, I decided to return to the hotel. I needed to check out by 9 am because the hotel was fully booked for the day, with a group scheduled to arrive on the island by the 8 am boat. Subsequently, I boarded the 11 o’clock ferry to the mainland and, upon arrival, took a bus journey back to Jaffna.

Distance 14.30 km
Elev Gain 27 m
Time 1h 41m

Cycling in Sri Lanka 1 – Colombo to Jaffna
Cycling in Sri Lanka 2 – Jaffna and around
Cycling in Sri Lanka 3 – Jaffna to Arugam Bay
Cycling in Sri Lanka 4 – Arugam Bay to Colombo


Back to top