An island having coral houses, coral fences, an ancient fortress made of coral stones, white sandy beaches, and wild horses!
Yes, it is real! And it’s right here in Sri lanka!!!
The island has a number of ancient ruins from centuries ago, from the Chola Dynasty through Portuguese, Dutch and the british Colonnial Periods. Amongst the palm trees and gentle sea breeze, the remnants of the island’s past are dotted throughout the quaint little village houses.
Delft Island is not very touristy or commercialized, which in my opinion adds to the rustic charm of the island. I loved the authentic experience I had there, getting to know the locals and their culture.
There’s plenty to see and do, the locals are wonderfully friendly, and it’s entirely possible to fill a day or two of sightseeing without any hassle.
After an eventful, yet fun trip, below is all the information you could need to make your own way to the Island, including how to get there, how to get around, and where to stay and get food!
Where exactly is Delft Island?
Delft island is located in the the Palk Strait, in northern Sri Lanka. The island is about 30km west of Jaffna city, and is just 8km in length and 6km at its widest.
How to get to Delft from Colombo
You need to get to Jaffna, and then drive another 1 hour to the Punkudutivu pier. If you’re traveling by public transport, get the 776 from Jaffna bus station (LKR 90 pp) departing at 6.30 am, or hail a tuk-tuk (approximately LKR 2,000).
From there, you need to take a ferry to the island. These public ferries are operated by the Sri Lanka Navy. While quite safe, the ferry does not have comfortable seating and it can get quite humid when you’re on board. There will be local passengers on board, too. I loved this experience because I got to travel like a local, and it was amazing. The journey to the island takes approximately 45 minutes (the ferry moves very slowly). It’s a very rocky ride but very enjoyable. You can either go on the deck of the ferry, or inside. Here’s me on the deck. I loved it coz the endless views and the sea breeze kept the sea-sickness at bay!
The ferry to the island leaves the pier at 8.00 or 9.00 am (LKR 100 per person). The ferry ride takes maximum 100 passengers on board, so make sure to get to the pier at least 30 minutes before the departure time. If you want to return on the same day, I would recommend catching the 2.30 pm ferry back to the Punkudutivu pier. If you choose to stay the night, you can either go camping like I did, or stay at a hotel in the island.
How to get around Delft Island
Upon arrival at the island, there are a number of tuk-tuk drivers waiting to take you to all the major attractions in the island. This tour will take 4-5 hours, and will cost around 1,500 – 2,000 LKR.
I went on the Delft tour with Ceylon Ramblers Club, which is a specialized travel agency in Sri Lanka. It was a two-day camping and cycling tour, and they arranged all the camping gear and the bicycles.
I can’t cycle (seriously – to this date I cannot cycle!). So on the first day, I got to ride around the island on the back of the motorcycle of the owner of the hotel we stayed at, and on the second day I rode in a tuk-tuk they arranged for me.
What to see and do in Delft Island
Surprisingly for a secluded little island in the middle of Sri Lanka and India, Delft Island is full of historical ruins to see and things to do!
Local tuk-tuk drivers will greet you at Delft harbor and offer to take you on a tour of the island, which takes around four hours and visits all the main sites and attractions. I definitely recommend taking them up on this as the island is hard to navigate, and the major sites are dotted randomly throughout the island. It also gives you the opportunity to witness the island’s unique landscapes, while getting a local’s insight to life here.
1. Roam around the island and see the Wild Horses
Delft is famous for it’s wild horses roaming around the plains. Away from the village, there are beautiful plains where you can go on bicycles or maybe in a tuk-tuk (I’m not sure), and witness these magnificent creatures moving around in small herds, grazing on the green grasslands.
2. Delft Dutch Fort
This ruined ancient Fort (originally built by the Portuguese) constructed out of limestone and coral, was eventually turned into a Fort by the Dutch. You can climb up to the top of the dilapidated walls, and the view from up there is incredible!
3. The famous Baobab Tree
Baobab with a hollow so big you can actually get in! Delft is proud to be the home of one of the three biggest Baobab trees of Sri Lanka. More than 500 years old, this Baobab tree is believed to be brought into the island by seafaring traders from Arab in the 16th century. But some believe that it was brought by the Portuguese from Africa to cure the diseases of their horses.
4. Pigeon Nest
Set in the gardens of the Old Dutch Hospital is a unique structure used to house messenger pigeons during the Dutch reign. The pigeons used to carry messages between Delft island and Jaffna.
5. Dutch Horse Stables
The island of Delft was used as a breeding ground for Dutch horses, so there are a number of ancient stables on the island. The stables are now in ruins, with 64 pillars visible where horses used to be tied up.
6. The Beach
Delft Island is home to one of the most pristine and beautiful beaches I have ever seen! The white sand and turquoise waters of several shades of blue made it look like absolute paradise!
Where to eat and drink in Delft
Food is a bit hard to come by in the island if you’re visiting for a day-tour. There’s a small hotel close to the jetty called ‘Island Hut’ which serves curries and fresh seafood. I highly recommend you bring food and water (at least 2 liters) for the day with you.
Where to stay in Delft
The Delft Samudra hotel is the best hotel in the island. It has comfortable rooms, good food and the nicest staff you’ll ever meet.
They will even arrange bicycles or a tuk-tuk for you to explore the island.
Delft Island is a very interesting and a unique place to visit in Sri Lanka. The fact that it’s not very touristy adds to it’s charm, and will give you an amazing experience to explore the island like a local. When you visit, pay attention to the fences of the village houses, the walls of the ruins and even the ground… All of it is all made of coral. I mean ALL of it!