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Kilinochchi

A drive of more than 7 hours away, north of Colombo lies Kilinochchi, a town surrounded by what many would claim to be a savannah-like environment of soulful beauty. However, what lacks in natural beauty makes up in historical significance, as the town in northern Sri Lanka was at the centre of attention during the 3-decade long Civil War that ended in 2009. With a great many vestiges of the war torn past scattered throughout the town, it serves to be the ideal setting for the traveller intrigued by the country’s recent turbulent history.

Top Reason to Visit

Boasting the remnants of Sri Lanka’s more recently ended conflicts, proving that the town was indeed the de-facto capital of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and constantly in the crosshairs of one of the most brutal battles that took place between the warring sides. The top reason to visit the town of Kilinochchi is due to its more recent history. Therefore, making it an imperative destination for the history lover.

While You’re There

Lasting images of the war:

During the brutal conflicts that unfurled in the 30 year long Civil War, Kilinochchi was at the centre of attention, as the town was the de-facto capital of the LTTE, an organization in conflict with the Government of Sri Lanka. In the years it served as the de-facto capital, the town was a hub for the administration and training of cadres in the use of weapons and implementation of guerilla warfare.

Although the Sri Lankan Army gained control of the town in January of 2009, many reminders of the Battle of Kilinochchi and the Battle of Elephant Pass that still remain to this day. Some of the notable monuments being the water tank that was destroyed by fleeing LTTE cadres, the War Memorials in the town and at Elephant Pass. Apart from the town’s monuments reminiscent of the war, symbols of the LTTE’s administration too still remains, in the form of the Black Tiger Training Base, the Vishwamadu Prison and the very residence of the leader of the organization.

An agrarian society with strong beliefs:

Another intriguing feature of the town is its resilient people, who even after being victims of war, have reconciled and now its society is emerging as an important economic contributor to the country.

Upon entering the district of Kilinochchi, it is quite common to come across agriculture plantations, be it paddy, coconut, chilli and onion cultivation, accentuating the otherwise dull savannah-like environment. The reason for its lands being fertile for agriculture pursuits, is due to the Iranamudu Tank, considered to be one of Sri Lanka’s largest man made reservoirs, believed to have been initially constructed during the reign of King Dhatusena of Anuradhapura.

Accentuating the agrarian society is the strong beliefs that still prevail among the people and is best reflected in the many temples and festivals that take place, the most notable being the Kandaswamy Kovil and the Murukkandi Kovil festivals, making it an ideal setting for the traveller looking to understand the unique culture that prevails in the area.

Basecamp for northern wildlife:

Although void of the natural splendour Sri Lanka is popular for, Kilinochchi still proves to be a great basecamp for the wildlife junkie and nature lover to experience a variety of flora and fauna, as the town is located in close proximity to one of the few national parks in northern Sri Lanka, in the form of the Chundikkulam National Park. A reserve teeming with an abundant variety of birds, mammals and reptiles, along with some exquisite flora. A visit here would definitely be a treat to the nature enthusiast.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about Kilinochchi can be quite difficult, due to its under-developed status. However, there are quite a number of tuk-tuks for hire and quite a number of busses to hop in to. Do research on the distance of your destination, as tuk-tuks may overcharge.

Weather: On average, the town of Kilinochchi experiences a hot and humid climate all year long with temperatures reaching up to 34°C. However, the months from January to July have shown to be the period in which the town experiences a stable and bearable climate with an average of around 29°C.

Money: It is imperative that you carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s for easy transactions. This is because many of the shops, apart from the supermarkets, do not accept any credit or debit cards.

Clothing: It is best to be clad in light, comfortable clothing, so as to traverse through the heat and humidity of the town. Do keep in mind though to be clad modestly when visiting the places of worship.

Safety: Ever since the end of the Civil War in 2009, the town of Kilinochchi is slowly emerging from the ashes of war, which has made Kilinochchi a very tourist friendly destination, making it a safe town. Do avoid travelling in the nights though, as the town gets quite desolate during nightfall.

Meals and refreshments: There are some basic eateries and food shops along the main road, should you choose to opt for local cuisine. However, your accommodation provider should be able to provide you with the necessary arrangements on request as well.

In conclusion, the town of Kilinochchi may be reemerging slowly from a 3-decade long Civil War and may not offer much to the traveller in terms of lush green landscapes and thriving wildlife, however, it makes up for that absence with an intriguing history that would entice many a traveller journeying across the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

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