From the Jaffna Fort to the architecturally marvelous Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, a Hindu temple adorned with brasswork and staggering murals, Jaffna is a relaxed change from the rest of the country. Here you can immerse yourself in the culture and heritage of Sri Lanka’s largest ethnic minority: the Tamil people.

Once under Portuguese and Dutch occupation, today’s Jaffna is revitalized with up-and-coming restaurants. Of the several islands off the coast of Jaffna accessible by roads and ferries, Kayts – a hauntingly beautiful, quiet island of fishing communities – and Delft, with its wild ponies descended from horses abandoned by Dutch colonists, are worth a visit.

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