Mannar is a pretty big island off the island of Sri Lanka. No one really goes there and it’s been assumed that it sucks but it doesn’t suck. It is, in fact, awesome. The water is still and clear, the sunsets miraculous and the scenery fantabulous. Also, the place is largely undiscovered and you’ll encounter no one from the Lonely Planet or anything so gauche. That said, Mannar is quite hard to get to, has limited places to stay and – in this season – is hot as the boiling sun. Personally, I love it. It and Jaffna are my new favorite places. Perhaps that’s the novelty.
There are two roads to Jaffna. Normally you go from Colombo to Kurunegala, Kurungela to Anuradhapura, Anuradhapura to Medavachchiya, Maddy to Mannar. This sucks, but the road at least exists. You can also go through Puttalam, but the Puttalam to Anuradhapura road does not exist. A new route is the offensive road thru Wilpattu National Park. This road is actual fine (albeit morally dubious), but the road on either side does not exist. It is not entirely pleasant. We took the latter route and arrived in about 7.5 hours, including one hour for an opulent seafood lunch in Chilaw.
It is best to have a 4WD, but I went in a hatchback. There are buses thru A-Pura, and you can take a train from Colombo to the A. You can drive from Mannar to Anuradhapura in about 2-3 hours, if you’re insane.
If you stop at any street shop in Sri Lanka you can usually get decent food. As you enter Mannar (before the bus stand) the Top Cream House is on your left. We just had drinks, but it looks like they provide a decent seafood rice and curry.
Places To Stay
We heard that you can stay at the Star Guest House in not fanta rooms for Rs 900-2000 (023 222 2177). We drove ahead to Anuradhapura and stayed there. Not the greatest idea.
Stuff To Do
Mannar is more to discover than to sightsee. When you enter town there are three roads basically. If you go right you find a giant baobab tree and an interesting church. If you go straight you get to Talaimannar, the end of Sri Lanka. I don’t know the third. I recommend Talaimannar heartily. It’s about 37km away and the closest point to India. If you turn off at the police station you get to an isolated beach where you can see the next islands in Adam’s Bridge. You can wade out for meters into perfectly still, beautiful water. It makes for a stunning sunset. There are navy and army chaps around, they’ll ask who you are but they’re cool. The points closest to Adam’s Bridge are under military control so you’d need a hook up.
This is interesting if you like swimming, discovering, or the Ramayana. Besides that however, there isn’t too much to do. That said, Mannar is the end of the known world for most Sri Lankans and I was personally very excited to be there.