Tour guide to Vavuniya Sri Lanka !
Vavuniya is the gateway to the Vanni, the region covering Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, once ruled by Vanni Tamil feudal chiefs who paid tribute to Jaffna kings.
The strategic location of the town, recognised as early as the medieval period, was restated during World War II when the British built an air force base for no less than eight RAF squadrons. The base is now used by the Sri Lanka Air Force and is part of an even larger military base.
Vavuniya used to be the front line town in the civil war and the many years of violent clashes have stunted plans for major cultural investments. Vavuniya can however serve as a halt if you wish to cross to Jaffna early.
How to get to Vavuniya and how to move around
Getting there - By rail:
The Yal Devi, a popular Inter-city express (ICE) train run from Colombo to Vavuniya. In September 2014, the train connected Colombo to Jaffna after a 24-year gap due to the civil war. There are five other trains operating on the same line. The travel time to cover the 250 kilometres depends on your choice of train.
The night train used to be very comfortable but as of October 2014, it departs at 8:15 pm from Colombo and reaches Vavuniya at 2:40 am, an unsuitable hour if you are travelling with children (Please check service availability and up-to-date timings on www.railway.gov.lk). As mentioned in the appropriate section, train trips are not very expensive in Sri Lanka.
By bus, you can get to Vavuniya (and further) on both CTB and private buses. If you are travelling from Colombo, take the air-conditioned bus service to make the five-hour long journey through Puttalam and Anuradhapura bearable. The Anuradhapura-Vavuniya leg is just over an hour and cost barely $1.
From Vavuniya, you can get to Mannar by bus in just over two hours or to Trincomalee in around four hours.
Top things to see in Vavuniya
Vavuniya Archaeological Museum
The Vavuniya Archaeological Museum is located at the town centre and can be easily reached on foot from the market. The white building of this small yet interesting museum houses a good collection of terracotta figures from Kilinochchi dating back from the 4th and 5th century. The central chamber, hexagonal in shape, has a few Buddha statues in limestone dating from the 5th to the 8th century.
Entrance to the museum is free.
The museum is open on all weekdays.
The Kandasamy Kovil is a beautiful temple dedicated to Murugan, the Hindu God. The gold clad image of Murugan can be seen in the sanctum. The temple is recognisable by its quite old yet interesting “gopuram” (ornate monumental tower). The Kandasamy Kovil is one of the most famous Hindu temples in the northern part of Sri Lanka.
Vavuniya Grand Jumma Mosque
The Sunni Muslim community of Vavuniya has a green-coloured mosque complete with an onion-shaped dome and minarets. It is situated in a busy area of the town and is very easy to be spotted. The mosque lights up during the Ramadan period especially in the evenings for ifthar.
A choice of appealing places to visit outside Vavuniya
Five kilometres off Vavuniya town along Horowpothana road is the Madukanda Village. According to local history, it is said to have been the 4th resting stop of the sacred tooth relic on its way from Mullaitivu to Anuradhapura. On site, you can see the remains of an ancient stone structure with pillars, a beautifully carved guard stone and balustrade. The image house with a Buddha statue commemorates the arrival of the relic. The two ponds nearby form an integral part of the site. The nearby jungle houses the ruins of a Stupa.
Admire wildlife in natural parks near Vavuniya
Wilpattu National Park
Southeast of Vavuniya is Wilpattu National Park, one of the oldest and largest parks of Sri Lanka. It remained closed for many years during the civil war.
Ever since it reopened in 2010, it has proved to be a hit with tourists.
Wilpattu' means “land of lakes” and you wouldn't be surprised to know that this park contains about sixty natural lakes of different sizes where water birds of every hue and size flock almost all year round.
Wilpattu is an ideal park to visit especially if you are not planning to head to the south of the island.
Places to visit in Vavuniya
Our Lady of Madhu Shrine
Considered to be one of the most revered Christian churches in Sri Lanka, the Our Lady of Madhu Church holds a historical statue of the Blessed Virgin and Child Jesus that is said to have been carried to Mannar in 1670 by Portuguese Catholics fleeing persecution by Dutch Protestants.
This statue is said to have worked miracles (especially in cases of snake bites) and the church has ever since been a pilgrimage spot. The feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, held every year on 15th August, brings in thousands of devotees to this place from all over the Sri Lanka.
The church is located between Mannar Island and Vavuniya on the Andakulam Madhu Road. To reach it, you need to take the Puliyadi Irakamam Madhu Road that branches off the highway at Paraiyanalankulam just next to the Madhu Road Railway station.
During his visit to Sri Lanka in January 2015, Pope Francis visited the church and urged Sri Lankans as a whole to forgive one another "for all the evil which this land has known."