Settled by Indian Tamil migrants some thousands of years ago, northern Sri Lanka was the center of the vicious civil war that raged from 1983 to 2009, making tourism relatively unseen in the region for decades. Since the end of the war the region has rebounded with a vibrant enthusiasm, bringing its unique cultural landscape, and its beautiful physical landscape, into the global eye. The capital of the north is eclectic Jaffna, which is closer to mainland India to the west than it is to Colombo to the south. Jaffna is the undisputed center of Tamil life and culture which makes for a much different experience than you will find traveling in the Sinhalese south.

The landscape of the north is relatively flat compared to the rolling hills and highlands of the south, making for easier cycling as you pedal between remote villages and nature reserves. The lands between the Tamil Tiger holdouts of Kilinochchi and Vavuniya are known as the Vanni; this is the most war ravaged region in the entire country. However, the coastlines of the region are beautifully remote and virtually devoid of the tourist crowds found in the south. The remote temples of both Hindu and Buddhist faith draw more local pilgrims than tourist spectators, making the north one of the most intimate and authentic regions of Sri Lanka.

The road from the Jaffna Peninsula leads straight south through some of the most remote and unspoiled areas of Sri Lanka and into the most culturally rich regions of the central highlands. The north may be lacking the large cities and tourist centers found in the south, but authenticity and culture abound in every small village and off the grid temple. The north is for those looking for a more off the beaten path and relaxed look into the Tamil side of Sri Lanka.

Best Seasons:Jan - Feb; Jul - Nov
Popular Locations:Jaffna, Mannar Island, Giant’s Tank