North of the city of Jaffna is a land criss-crossed with small country roads, lined with palmyrah fenced gardens and smallholdings in which the peninsulas famous mangoes are grown. This belt of fertile land produces a wide variety of cash crops including chillies, onions, bananas, jackfruit, tobacco and grapes. Vegetables such as brinjal, tomato, long bean, okra, snake gourd, bitter gourd and other leafy vegetables are cultivated throughout the year with the help of irrigation from the approximately 28,000 wells found in the peninsula. Other more exotic vegetables like cabbage, leeks, beet, beans, and carrots are also cultivated in large plots.

Herds of goats and cattle wander through large open tracts of lightly grassed land usually watched over by a herder wielding a long stick. The ubiquitous palmyrah palm seems to grow where it will but large orderly groves of coconut palms provide food, coir, thatching and timber to the local inhabitants. Coconuts which are common in Sri Lankan cuisine, are the main source of dietary fat and can be found throughout the whole country.


To the north of Jaffna on the Point Pedro Road is the Nilavarai Well. The well is believed to have been the work of Rama himself, who created it by sticking an arrow into the ground to relieve his thirst. Its waters are said to be bottomless and appear to be somehow connected directly to the sea; the water being fresh near the top but increasingly salty the deeper you go. To the west at Kantharodai, reached only by driving down narrow winding country lanes lined with palmyrah fences, are a collection of ancient Buddhist stupas which once served as a monastery for Tamil monks.

The sunny coastline of the peninsula is lined with palmyra palms leaning into the wind, busy fishing villages with their boats drawn up on the sand, technicolored Hindu temples and old Catholic churches. In the west, Shiva devotees from all over the peninsula and beyond come and make their offerings at the Naguleshwaram temple and bath in the Keerimalai pond hoping for good health. It is long believed that the water in this pond has healing powers, especially for giving fertility to those that bathe in it.

While the northern and eastern coastlines were badly affected by the tsunami that took many lives, life on the western coastline and southern islands have continued relatively unchanged for centuries. Glorious temples filled with worshippers and colonial era buildings in desolate ruin are scattered everywhere.


All along the northern coastline, from Valvettithurai to Point Pedro which is the northernmost point of Sri Lanka, fishing villages sit behind man-made coral breakwaters in tiny harbours. Whole families huddle around the boats sorting the fish caught that morning in buckets while others sit in groups untangling and mending the long nets in preparation for the coming nights fishing.

The peninsula which has emerged from a 26-year civil war has vast areas of untapped potential for investment. Tourism is growing fast and the future of the region looks good for economic growth.