A closer look of the Fort Hammenhiel

Hammenhiel Fort: Once A Prison, Now A Hotel

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Hammenhiel Fort is an island fort just a stone’s throw away from the Karainagar or Karaitivu island of the Jaffna Peninsula in Sri Lanka. The walls of this fort span across the entire island and can be accessed only via marine transportation. What’s truly fascinating is that the structure used to be an abode for prisoners but today is transformed into a historic hotel where people stay. In fact, guests and tourists can even stay in the prison cell. 

In this blog, we’ll take you through all the details about this intriguing island fort so you can also experience it. Let’s get right to it.

Hammenhiel Fort, Karainagar

History & Architecture

Prison cells at Fort Hammenhiel

Since its construction, the island fort’s name, purpose, and occupants have changed multiple times. The compounds and the walls of the Hammenhiel Fort are witnesses to significant events spanning centuries. It’s truly fascinating how this fort came into being, how different colonialists conquered it, and what it has turned out to be today.

In the early 17th century, the Portuguese built the fort to protect Jaffna’s entrance, naming it Fortaleza De Caes (Fort Royal). However, 4 decades after its establishment, in 1658, the Dutch captured the fort and renamed it Hammenhiel (Heel of the Ham). In 1680, the same people reconstructed the fort, and later the British established their foothold here. At first, they used it as a prison and later as a hospital. 

Prison beds

During World War II (1944), the fort was called “Camp Hammenhiel.” From here, the Special Operations Group emerged. During the 1970s, the Sri Lankan Army reigned the fort and used it to detain prisoners and sailors accused of wrongdoings.

Today, a portion of the fort is renovated into a hotel where visitors can stay. The stone walls and the architecture are preserved for the guests to see and know what it was like to walk through these halls, rooms, and corridors centuries ago. You will also visit the nine large dungeons with stone beds. Overall, the place is a paradise for a history buff who can wander around the island, find new corners, and truly immerse themselves in the heritage of the building. 

Hammenhiel Fort Resort & Hammenhiel Fort

View of the Fort Hammenhiel from the Fort Hammenhiel Resort

Hammenhiel Fort Resort and Hammenhiel Fort are two different properties. While the former is a restaurant on the Jaffna Peninsula, the latter is on the island. The Sri Lankan Navy manages the two places and you can access the fort only via the resort. The fort on the island comprises several prison cells and air-conditioned rooms where guests can stay.

How To Reach Hammenhiel Fort?

Fort Hammenhiel Entrance, Jaffna - Sri Lanka

You can use the road to reach the fort resort and marine transportation to reach the island fort. When you reach the Hammenhiel Fort Resort, you must show a valid ID and pay a fee of LKR 3300 (1 – 14 persons) for the boat ride to Hammenhiel Fort.

If you’re traveling by public transport, hop on a bus to Karainagar (Bus Number: 782) and ask for the Hammenhiel Fort. You must walk a Km from the gate (where the bus stops) to reach the resort. The direction marks are on the way, so you don’t have to worry.

Network Availability

A good network is observed in Dialog. Not sure about Mobitel or other network providers.

Languages Spoken

Sinhalese is spoken by the people of the region. Very few people speak limited English or Tamil.

Parking Facility

An ample amount of parking space is available near Hammenhiel Resort.

Best Time To Visit Hammenhiel Fort

Between September and January is the best time to visit the fort. The weather is pleasant, and you can explore the place without being drained by the summer sun. Try to go to the island in the morning or evening to beat the heat.

The Restaurant & Accommodation

Accommodation at Fort Hammenhiel

The restaurant at the Hammenhiel Fort Resort serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, and authentic Sri Lankan food around the clock. It also has a vast, spacious garden overlooking the fort.

Inside look of the rooms
  • Cost for the stay: LKR 20500 for AC rooms with food, LKR 11500 for AC rooms without food, and LKR 2200 to stay in the prison cell. The price includes the ferry charges from the resort to the fort.
  • Cost for the visitors: Ferry charges – LKR 3300 for 1-14 persons (two-way). 
  • No separate entry fee.
  • For reservations, contact +94 217508072, +94 763728816, +94 769795842, or visit www.forthammenhielresort.lk

If you opt for the prison cell stay, you’ll be given a pillow, a trunk box for your belongings, utensils like a tumbler and a plate, black and white striped pajamas, and a shirt.

Twin’s tip: The weather in Jaffna is super hot. So it is best to check the weather before opting for the prison cell stay as there are no fans or modern facilities.

fort hemmenhiel walls sri lanka 1 - TwinsOnToes

I visited the Hemmenhiel Fort solo by public transport while traveling in Sri Lanka. The fort is remotely located but safe, as you’ll find thriving villages and the Sri Lankan Navy nearby. I did not stay overnight, but you should definitely consider the unique experience of staying in a prison cell on an island fort while in Sri Lanka.


Hope the information given in this guide was useful to you. Feel free to comment if you have any queries.

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