OK, so Sri Lanka is made up of at least 7 ethnic groups. WIth the main two being Sinhalese and Tamil.
Sinhalese account for roughly 75% of the population and live predominantly in the South and Eastern part of the country.
The Tamils account for between 11 and 12% and live in the North and North Eastern parts of the country.
Due to the overwhelmingly large population of Sinhalese, a number of policies soon came into place in the 1900s (after the British rulers left) which made the Tamil population feel isolated and abused.
Such as a policy brought in around 1970 which ultimately made it harder for Tamils to gain entrance to university due to them needing higher scores on exams.
This policy was never designed to have such an outcome, however, it’s just one example of an initiative that led to the Tamils feeling like second-rate citizens who were not properly represented in the country.
This is a rather dumbed down recount of what occurred. But ultimately, there was a huge political divide between Tamils and Sinhalese which eventually led to the formation of LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).
This group wanted to create an independent state in the north and eastern parts of Sri Lanka that could be ruled as a Tamil state.
It was founded in 1976. 7 years later, the war began between this group and the Sri Lankan army, a war that would last for 26 gruelling years.
Throughout the course of the war, each side committed a number of horrifying atrocities which ultimately led to the deaths of tens of thousands of ordinary civilians.
For example, in the final days of the conflict, the Tamil army went around and forced every family to surrender at least one male family member to the army.
In some cases, the Tamil forces even used civilians as human shields.
Ultimately, the war came to an end in 2009 after a massive government offensive in Mullaitivu by both land and sea.
In such a short explanation, it is impossible for me to do justice to what actually occurred in the country during this bloody period.
There is no known figure of exactly how many people died during the conflict. Many believe it to be at least 100,000. Other estimates exceed 200,000.
As such, almost all families in the North Eastern part of Sri Lanka would have been affected in some way by the conflict. To find out more about what really went down, I recommend reading the following articles before visiting Mullaitivu.
To be clear straight away, there’s not a tremendous amount to do in Mullaitivu. Especially when you compare it to areas like Ella and Nuwara Eliya.
But don’t worry, we did some digging and drove all over the area so found some top things to fill at least a few hours. So, let’s get started …
1. Visit the War “Museum” (+Monument Of Victory)
Notice how I’ve said “Museum”? Well, that’s crucial. Seeing as the War Museum is not actually a museum!
Below I’ve included a picture of what to expect. Aside from some images plastered on the wall, there is literally nothing to see.
There are no explanations of what the images show and offer no insight into the conflict that occurred there.
Instead, the best thing to see here is the large monument next to the so-called museum.
It’s called the Monument of Victory.
No doubts this monument alone has caused further resentment amongst Tamil groups as the government have arguably not done enough to help rebuild this region.
Instead, they build a large, glamorous monument in the heart of the area once held by Tamil forces, proclaiming how they beat them.
In my view, not the best way to help build peace and prosperity. Just saying ...
2. Visit the hijacked ship
In December 2006, the LTTE hijacked a government ship and then shipwrecked it just off the beach in Mullivaikkal.
Once there it was used as target practice by troops.
You can still see it there today. You just drive up a sandy/dirt track from the main road the whole way up to the beach.
From there, you can park up and walk down to it.
There are signs warning you not to swim in the water as there’s loads of dangerous, sharp metal all over the seabed.
3. Explore the LTTE’s secret submarines
During the war, LTTE commanders commissioned the construction of a number of submarines.
Some say these were then going to be used to launch missiles at major coastal cities, such as Colombo.
Well, as far as I know, they never got that far. Instead, you can visit the old naval station where they were building their submarines.
At the point marked on the map below, you will find one larger submarine (half-built and falling apart), as well as numerous smaller submarines.
From the people we spoke to there (other Sri Lankan tourists) we discovered that these were models built, upon which larger submarines could then be designed.
They are actually very fascinating, curious little ships and well worth checking out.
To get to this yard, you have to drive up another dirt/sand road that looks abandoned and is filled with potholes. Halfway up you’ll find a guard at a gate. He will let you through, you just need to say you're there to see the submarines.
4. Watch the daily catch
At the end of your day, you should head back into Mullaitivu and watch the fishermen bringing in the catch.
Ask your hostel/hotel owner what time this is. For us, we arrived at around 5:30 and it lasted for about half an hour.
It’s quite a sight to see, as 20 locals lowly pull in a huge net full of fish, which are then used to feed local families.
It’s a bit different to the sort of fishing you'd be used to and draws in huge crowds of local families to come and see the spectacle.
They do this every day, except Sundays.
Yep, you heard me. That’s about it!
We heard of a few other things to see, such as an old LTEE swimming pool and a fort.
However, it turns out both of these, and likely most other things, have been destroyed or aren’t open to the public.
Ultimately, if you find yourself this far north, then I recommend either stopping in on your way through or just relaxing on the beach.
Life up in Mullaitivu is slow, but the drive along the coast is rather lovely.
So take simple enjoyment in speaking to locals and relaxing by the sea.
The lady who ran our hotel was very friendly and told me more about the history of fishing in the area and also things about the war.
Getting to all of these Mullaitivu attractions
In order to see all of these things to do, it’s best to sort out your own form of transport. For us, we had our trusty tuk-tuk that we rented in Colombo.
Thanks for signing up! Check your inbox for your first lesson. Also, you will need to verify that you are happy for us to store and use your email to contact you. You might need to check your spam just in case
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Make sure you filled out both sections correctly
I'm an Economics graduate with a passion for travel. In 2016 I decided to ditch the office environment, work from my laptop and travel to every country in the world. You'll find me working out of a cafe in Bali, perhaps on a riverboat in Brazil or maybe even an airport lounge in New Delhi.
Sign up for our newsletter and access our brand new 5-part crash course on travelling with type 1 diabetes
It covers all of the essential elements of travelling with type 1 diabetes. Better yet, there's a free gift at the end! Don't worry if you're already an email subscriber, you can still take part.
Thank you! Please check your inbox and spam folder to verify it's you and that you are happy for us to hold and use your email. Add our email address to your contacts list to avoid missing out on any future giveaways and updates :) email@example.com
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Be sure to fill out both blocks correctly :)