5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Mannar
The gorgeous turquoise ocean glistens in the sunlight, making it seem like a thousand sparkling diamonds lie beneath its surface, as the water gently laps against the warm canary yellow coastline of Mannar. Situated on the north-west coast of Sri Lanka, Mannar has attracted many travellers from the time of the great explorers. This often-overlooked town is entrenched in history and myth and has some wonderful activities on offer. Here are 5 reasons why you should visit Mannar.
Mannar lies on a golden strip of land that juts out westward from the mainland. Mannar Island, as it’s often referred to as, is an interesting place where the old and new harmoniously blend together. Amidst the bustling town, there are fascinating historical sites like the ancient Baobab Tree, the Doric at Arippu and Mannar Fort. However, the most intriguing part of Mannar’s history is how it used to be home to world-famous pearl fisheries.
The ancient Greeks and Venetians fabled Mannar for its pearl fisheries, and long ago, before wetsuits and oxygen tanks, men would dive into the deep blue sea with merely a rope tied around their waists and a tortoiseshell mask in search of these ivory spheres. Although pearl fishing is not practised in Mannar anymore, there is a museum which you can visit and learn more about this craft.
Along with the many historical sites in the area, Mannar is also heavily associated with the Sanskrit epic Ramayana. It tells the story of Rama, a prince who travels across India with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman. One day, Sita is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana of Lanka and what ensues is a battle of good vs evil. Sri Lanka is an important backdrop for the battle and there are many sites within the country that are linked to the Ramayana. One such site found in Mannar is the Adam’s Bridge.
Also known as Rama’s Bridge, this isn’t a proper bridge per se, but instead, a series of sunken limestone rocks which connect Mannar island to the south-east coast of Tamil Nadu. It is believed that this bridge was built by Rama’s army to help rescue Sita. Today, the bridge is an important cultural site as well as a nesting spot for migratory birds.
Imagine gliding along the bright blue waters of Mannar, with the sun beating down on you, the breeze whipping through your hair, and then a gust of wind blows just right and you’re up above the water flying high! Kitesurfing, in general, is exhilarating, however, kitesurfing in Mannar is truly exceptional. Often overshadowed by another west coast town, Kalpitiya which is often regarded as the kitesurfing hub of Sri Lanka, Mannar is far more exclusive and private. Only just gaining recognition as a kitesurfing destination, this is an adrenaline junkie’s dream; with many great spots for kiting and a handful of kitesurfing schools like Vayu Kiteschool, you are sure to have an amazing time. The legendary Adam’s Bridge is a very popular kiting spot, so Mannar is probably the only place where you can kitesurf in a place of great historical significance!
From its own subspecies of the Asian elephant to 125 species of dragonflies- 52 of which are endemic- Sri Lanka is certainly rich in biodiversity. Only a short drive away from Mannar is Wilpattu National Park, the country’s largest and one of its oldest national parks. The park is certainly a must-visit when you are in the area. Not only will you be able to spot some of the park’s famous inhabitants like leopards or sloth bears, but going on a safari drive here is a lovely experience.
Wilpattu National Park
The Mangrove Forests
Mangrove forests are otherworldly. These massive forests which seemingly float on water are one of the most fantastic features of Sri Lanka. The best way to describe a mangrove forest is to say that it is reminiscent of a rainforest that has been submerged in water. From a distance, all you will see are islands of large thick verdant bushes, but as you delve in further you will see that they are dense forests made of mangled roots and trunks and a thick growth of foliage that rises from the brackish water.
Approximately a 45-minute drive from Mannar is the hamlet of Vidataltivu which is home to a large mangrove forest. You can go on a lagoon safari here and discover this magnificent coastal ecosystem.
Mannar has weathered many storms and is constantly changing, however, one thing that has remained the same is how amazing a destination it is. From history to nature and even adventure sports, this town has it all and is only made better by the fact that you can visit it year-round. It’s time to come discover Mannar!