Jaffna Fort

Top choice in Jaffna

Jaffna Fort, built by the Portuguese near Karaiyur at Jaffna, Sri Lanka in 1618 under Phillippe de Oliveira following the Portuguese invasion of Jaffna. Fortress of Our Lady of Miracles of Jafanapatao

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Long the gatehouse of the city, the vast Jaffna fort, overlooking the Jaffna lagoon, has been fought over for centuries. Today you can wander its walls, gateways and moats, see the barracks that once housed thousands of troops and civilians, and view the city from its ramparts.


A fort was originally built in this location by Portuguese colonialists in 1619 during their invasion of the Jaffna Kingdom and was held for nearly 40 years, during which they fought off three Sri Lankan rebellions against their rule. In 1658, the Dutch captured it when they briefly joined forces with the Sinhalese and then used it as a base to consolidate their own power. 

The Dutch expanded it, and defensive triangles were added in 1792 to produce the fort's defining pentagonal shape you'll recognise from aerial imagery of the structure. However, British colonial powers seized control of the garrison just three years later without firing a shot.

Following Sri Lanka's independence from Britain, the fort became a focal point of the country's civil war between Tamil groups and the the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan Government, with government forces using it as an encampment. In 1990 the LTTE (also known as the Tamil Tigers), who were at the time in control of the rest of Jaffna, forced out government troops after a grisly 107-day siege. 

After the war concluded in 2009, authorities began the painstaking task of restoration, with financial help from the Dutch government. Restoration of the coral, stone, brick and mortar walls is still ongoing.

Visiting the fort today

Alongside the wonderful views from its walls and ramparts, visitors can check out exhibits relating to the archaeological history of the structure in a room inside the main portal. The entry fee for the fort is US$2 for children and US$4 for adults.