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Fort Hammenhiel

Initially built by the Portuguese in the 17th Century AC, Fort Hammenhiel was a strategic fortress that was built to oversee the sea routes of Northern Sri Lanka and protect the Palk Strait that divides the island from India. Eventually transformed into a prison that housed some high profile inmates and now a resort, Fort Hammenhiel now affords travellers an experience of colonial heritage combined with Sri Lankan hospitality.

Best Known For

  • Fort Hammenhiel is best known for being one of the northernmost fortresses in the country that was built by the country’s previous colonial rulers that still stand today in its original grandeur.
  • Coupled with its illustrious history, along with being a resort, boasting of the hallmarks of Sri Lankan hospitality, the fortress serves as an ideal destination for travellers journeying across the Jaffna Peninsula.

Interesting Facts

  • The original fortress, which was called ‘Fortaleza Real’ (Royal Fortress), was built by the first Portuguese colonisers in 1618.
  • Originally serving the purpose of protecting the Jaffna Peninsula, the fortress came under siege when the Dutch took control of the island in 1658 and it was subsequently expanded.
  • The Dutch colonials renamed it ‘Fort Hammenhiel’ (translated to ‘Heel of the Ham’), as it resembled the shape of a smoked ham.
  • Until the year of 1795, Fort Hammenhiel operated as a 17-gun fortress, thereafter, it was captured by the British, whence it was transformed into a maximum security prison and subsequently a hospital.
  • After gaining independence, the fortress was used as a maximum security prison once again by the government and housed inmates.
  • One of them a far left-wing prisoner that caused much trouble during the early 1970s, called the ‘JVP insurrection’. Other notable inmates were collaborators of the insurrection.
  • Presently though, the fort is under the authority of the Sri Lanka Navy and has been transformed into a resort.
  • It is now possible to glimpse the lives of the inmates that were housed during the turbulent times of the island, albeit with a number of luxuries. Thus making it the perfect destination for the history enthuse.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The fort in the Jaffna Peninsula can be visited throughout the year, however, the ideal time to visit the historical fortress is during the warm period that lasts from January to July.
  • Do keep in mind that the conservation of Fort Hammenhiel is administered by the Sri Lankan Navy, therefore entering will require permission from the navy beforehand.
  • It is also important to note that the historical monument of Northern Sri Lanka is now a resort that allows you to stay in the actual cells that once housed enemies of the state, thus is it is highly recommended that you stay a night or two; just one of the many things to do in Jaffna.
  • Please adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the navy, as the fort is a heritage site.

The little fortress sandwiched between the islands of Karaitivu and Velanai Island of the peninsula, known as Fort Hammenhiel, is a monument symbolising intriguing history and exemplary hospitality.

Title image by: Fort Hammenhiel The information displayed is provided by Fort Hammenhiel

Season

January - July

Type

Culture and Heritage

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