Mannar, Sri Lanka: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

Mannar is a large town and the main town of Mannar District, Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It is governed by an Urban Council. The town is located on Mannar Island which overlooks the Gulf of Mannar. It is also home to the historic Ketheeswaram Temple. The town is known for its baobab trees and for its fort built by the Portuguese in 1560 and later taken by the Dutch in 1658. The town was occupied by LTTE during Sri Lankan Civil War until 2009. The town is on the mainland within the arid and dry zone. It has a high temperature and low rainfall. It is located approximately 300 km away from Colombo.

Getting There

The options to get to Mannar are rather limited. There is no train service beyond Medawachiya  to the Northern parts. On the other hand, it is not possible for the travellers to visit there now because of the numerous checkpoints and the necessity of getting defence ministry clearance for non-residents of the district. There are buses from/to Mannar from/to Colombo, Jaffna, Tallaimannar, Thirukketeeswaram Kovil and Vavuniya.

Places to Visit

Adam's BridgeAdam's BridgeBaobab TreeBaobab TreeKetheeswaram TempleKetheeswaram TempleMadhu ChurchMadhu Church

Ketheeswaram Temple

It is an ancient Hindu Temple located in Mannar. It is believed to have been built around 600 BC. There is no clarity about the time it was builtMany believe that it has been around for at least 2400 years.  It is also known as Thirukeetheswaram and it is one of the five Ishwarams dedicated to Lord Shiva. That means that it is one of the five most important Hindu temples in Sri Lanka. It was destroyed by the Portuguese; however it was rebuilt in 1903.

Ram Setu Adams Bridge

Adam’s Bridge is a man-made causeway that was built by limestone shoals. It is approximately 30 km long and it is located between Mannar Island in Sri Lanka and Rameswaram Island in India. The bridge is 1.750.000 years old and the first inhabitants of Sri Lanka date back to around that period. According to a legend, Lord Rama built a bridge called Setubandhanam in order to rescue his wife Seetha from her prison in Sri Lanka where his enemy Ravana kept her captive. According to another myth, Adam used the bridge to reach Adam’s Peak.

Madhu Church Palampiddi

The Madhu Church in Mannar is the centre for pilgrimage and spiritual worship. It attracts million worshippers and non-worshippers every year during the Church’s annual feast. The walls shelter Our Lady of Madhu, a Madonna-and-child statue brought here in 1670 by Catholics. According to local stories, the statue has a reputation for wonders such as protecting against snakebites.

Baobab Tree

Mannar is famous for Baobab Tree. The tree has a huge trunk which is possible the largest trunk in Sri Lanka. It is 19.5 meters and it is 7.5 tall. It is not a native plant of Sri Lanka but its roots are formed in Africa, Madagascar and Australia. There is no evidence about how this tree found its way into Sri Lanka. Many assume that the tree were introduced by either Arabian traders or by the Portuguese.

Star Fortress

This is a star shaped fortress located right by the causeway to the island and ringed by a moat. It has an imposing Portuguese-Dutch construction. It was built by the Portuguese in 1560, captures by the Dutch in 1658 and the fortress was rebuilt in 1695 by the Dutch. It was added four bastions.

Restaurants

City Hotel

It is a hospitable restaurant and serves good value range of dishes. Meals change between Rs 180 – 300. Address: 42 Grand Bazaar, Mannar Town, Mannar, Sri Lanka.

Colombo Pilawoos

This Asian restaurant serves rice and curries, kotthu and hoppers. Meals change between Rs 140 – 300. Address: Grand Bazaar, Mannar Town, Mannar, Sri Lanka.

Choice Hotel

It is a simple place on a Grand Bazaar alley with friendly service. Main dishes change between Rs 100 -300. Address: Grand Bazaar, Mannar Town, Mannar, Sri Lanka.

Top Cream House

This restaurant is an ordinary eatery with extensive and high quality selection of curries with fresh rotti or string hoppers. Meals start from Rs 50. Address: Grand Bazaar, Mannar Town, Mannar, Sri Lanka.

Where to Stay

Hotel Juli ReceptionHotel Juli ReceptionShell Coast ResortShell Coast ResortShell Coast ResortThe Palmyrah HouseThe Palmyrah HouseThe Palmyrah House

Shell Coast Resort

This resort features an outdoor swimming pool and stylish guestrooms. It also features an on-site restaurant. Rooms come with rustic Sri Lankan style furnishings, garden views, a mini fridge and a seating area. Guest will find a private beach area and free parking facilities. Other facilities include car rentals, meeting facilities and barbecue facilities. Guests can enjoy Indonesian-style cuisines at on-site restaurant. Address: Uvari, Pesalai, Mannar, Sri Lanka.

The Palmyrah House

The guest house feature free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool, barbecue and sun terrace. Guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant. Free private parking is available on site. All rooms are fitted with a private bathroom. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. The guest house also offers car hire. Address: Thalaimannar Rd, Mannar Island, Viyayadippannai, Mannar, Sri Lanka.

Hotel Juli Reception

The hotel features free Wi-Fi. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free private parking is available on site. Rooms come with air conditioning and a flat screen TV. Certain rooms come with a seating area and views of the sea or city. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. The hotel also offers car hire. Address: 298 St Sebastian Church Road, Mannar, Sri Lanka.