Written by

Mannar Island, formerly named “Manar Island” is located in the northwestern part of Sri Lanka and is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Due to its offbeat and secluded location, not many tourists prioritize it in their itinerary. However, if you are one of those travellers who loves exploring places that tell a story and have a historical significance, Mannar Island, aka the “Pearl of Sri Lanka,” is a place you have to add to your travel plans on your next vacation. This island, forming the easternmost part of Adam’s Bridge, a legendary chain of limestone shoals, offers a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s history.

Where Is Mannar Island Located?

Location of Mannar Island

Image Credit:Indi Samarajivafor Wikimedia Commons
Mannar Island is specifically located in the Mannar district of Sri Lanka, on the eastern end of Adam’s Bridge. It is located on the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka as well. This island is connected to the mainland of Sri Lanka by a 3 km-long causeway and bridge, making it accessible by road. Not just that, the strategic positioning of this island on Palk Strait has further made it a historically significant spot for trade and cultural exchanges across Sri Lanka.
Must read: Batticaloa Fort

Must Read: Batticaloa Fort

Essential Facts About Mannar Island

 An aerial view of Mannar Island

Image Credit: Rehman Abubakr for Wikimedia Commons
Knowing some of the essential facts about Mannar Island will ease your way to plan your trip.
Address: Mannar district, Sri Lanka.
Mannar Island Timings: Open all day.
Mannar Island entry fees: No entry fee is required.

Top Places To Visit

One of the highlights of visiting Mannar Island is the wide range of sightseeing spots that are littered across the island. You can explore these places in a day or two and even enjoy the local Sri Lankan cuisine while you are there. Following are a few of the popular Mannar Island activities to consider:

1. Talaimannar Lighthouse

 Talaimannar Lighthouse

Image Credit: Adam Jonesfor Wikimedia Commons
One of the highlights of Mannar Island lies in the Talaimannar lighthouse. Dating back to 1915, the lighthouse is 19 m tall and stands tall as a navigation aid for the maritime industry on the island. It is located near the Talaimannar Pier, which played a historical role in trade between India and Sri Lanka. However, following the 1964 cyclone, the pier’s destruction further cut its connection to India. At present, the lighthouse stands tall, along with the Adam’s Bridge, as a connection to India. Even half of Adam’s Bridge is now submerged underwater in the direction of the popular Pamban Island in India.
Address: Talaimannar pier, Light House St, Mannar, Sri Lanka
Timings: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Suggested Read: St Francis Xavier’s Church In Nuwara Eliya

2. Mannar Bird Sanctuary

Mannar Bird Sanctuary in Mannar Island

Image Credit: Swarnav999 for Wikimedia Commons
If you are a bird enthusiast and love bird watching, head to Mannar Bird Sanctuary. Spread across 4800 hectares, this sanctuary is home to varying migratory bird species. Recognised as a wildlife sanctuary in 2008, the highlight of this place lies in its diverse ecosystems – mangroves, lagoons, salt marshes, wetlands, etc.) The majority of the waterbird population native to Sri Lanka is found in this sanctuary, which makes it of utmost importance. During the migratory season, as few as 20,000 migratory birds flock there.
Address: WWJC+MHW, Mannar, Sri Lanka
Timings: 24 Hours

3. Giant’s Tank

 Giant’s Tank in Mannar Island

Image Credit: temporalata for Wikimedia Commons
For tourists that have heard about the tale of “Yoga Wewa”, Giant’s Tank Sanctuary is a popular wildlife sanctuary spread across 10,700 hectares. It is located around 20 km from Mannar Island Sri Lanka and was established in 1954. Several tales are associated with the construction of this tank by King Dhatusena in the 5th century. Some other tales also depict that it was constructed by King Parakramabahu I and dates back to the 12th century. Other legends depict that the Naga people built the tank as a tribute to the island.
Address: Mannar District, Northern Province, Sri Lanka
Timings: 24 Hours

Suggested Read: Kalpitiya Dutch Fort

4. Arippu Dutch Fort

 Arippu Dutch Fort

Image Credit: Anton Croos for Wikimedia Commons
Another popular site worth exploring on Mannar Island is the Arippu Dutch Fort. It is a square-shaped bastion fort originally built by the Portuguese in the mid-17th century and was initially named Allirani Fort. The fort was initially constructed by the Alli Raani, who reigned in the area. The fortress was constructed initially where the Arippu Fort now stands. Initially, the fort was constructed to accommodate the leading officers under the colonial reign, making it one of the most popular administrative locations.
Address: QWVH+2V, Mutharipputhurai, Sri Lanka
Timings: 24 Hours

5. Keeri Beach

 Keeri Beach in Mannar Island

Image Credit: Indi Samarajiva for Wikimedia Commons
Sri Lanka is known for its wide range of beaches and its coastal stretch. If you are in Mannar Island, visiting Keeri Beach from there is a must. This popular beach town is where tourists can enjoy, have fun, and even relax and unwind. Getting to immerse yourself in the stunning golden shores draws the tourists’ attention. Also, this is one of the most popular tropical beaches and is a popular secluded and pristine beach. Beyond the seashores, the beach is also surrounded by lush green palm trees.
Address: 7 km West of Mannar town
Timings: 24 Hours

Suggested Read: Trincomalee Beach

6. Shrine Of Our Lady Of Madhu

Shrines of Our Lady of Madhu

Image Credit: lakpuratravels for Wikimedia Commons
Another one of the holiest Catholic shrines in Sri Lanka is this one worth exploring. The history of this church dates back to 400+ years. It is located in the Mannar district, it is a popular place of worship for the Tamil and Sinhalese Catholic population. The construction of this church dates back to the time of the Dutch invasion of Sri Lanka. During that time, due to the persecution of the catholic church, people had to flee from their hometown of Manthai. Similarly, around 700 Catholics migrated from Jaffna, meeting together to establish this shrine.
Address: V633+W5V, Puliyadi Irakkamam, Madhu Rd, Madu, Sri Lanka
Timings: 6:00 AM To 7:00 PM

7. Adam’s Bridge

 Stunning view of Adam’s Bridge in Mannar Is

Image Credit: Charith Gunarathna for Wikimedia Commons
Probably the last direct geographical ties left between India and Sri Lanka come with the Adam’s Bridge. This accounts for a chain of limestone shoals that connect Mannar Island to the southern part of Pamban Island in India. Beyond its existence, several theories are associated with this shoal’s existence and its ties between the two countries. One of the major theories surrounding this bridge is that the landmass was created over some time. Another theory depicts that the landmass existed previously and somehow disappeared underwater. Multiple religious connections have been established with the bridge as well.
Address: Between India and Sri Lanka
Timings: 24 Hours

Suggested Read: Parrot Rock

8. Thiruketheeswaram Temple

Koneswaram Temple is a must-visit

Image Credit: Alexey Komarovfor Wikimedia Commons
Last but not least is the Thiruketheeswaram Temple, which is one of the oldest temples in Sri Lanka. It is a slight walk from the island since it’s located in Mannar town. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the five ancient Isvarams of Lord Shiva on the island, which include Koneswaram, Munneswaram, Naguleswaram, and Tondeswaram. Its significance is not only religious but also historical, tracing its roots back to ancient times and featuring prominently in the region’s cultural landscape.
Address: XX56+4WQ, Navathkuli – Karativu – Mannar Hwy, Thiruketheeswaram, Sri Lanka
Timings: 5:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Best Time To Visit The Island

witness a sunset in Mannar Island

Image Credit: Chinthana Prabhashitha Rajapakshafor Wikimedia Commons

The months from January to September and then December are considered peak seasons or ideal visiting times. During these months, the weather is slightly sunny and warm with minimal to no possibility of rainfall. This ensures that you wouldn’t have to worry about getting drenched while exploring the island or even getting stuck on the way to the island due to floods or similar complications. The weather during the peak season on Mannar Island ranges from 25°C to 35°C and paired with the coastal breeze, you won’t have to worry about being uncomfortable during your outdoor quests.

Suggested Read: Holy Trinity Church In Nuwara Eliya

How To Reach The Island?

Nearest airport is the Colombo International Airport

Image Credit: calflier001 for Wikimedia Commons
Despite being an island, accessibility is never an issue for tourists. You aim to reach Mannar district to then make your way to the island. Mannar is well connected via flights, trains, and road-based transportation like public buses and cars too. If you are traveling via road from a nearby city like Colombo, the route via the A9 highway to Vavuniya, followed by the A14 to Mannar, is the most commonly used. For scenic views of Sri Lanka’s remote and rural locations, you can board a train from Colombo to Mannar. The travel time for this is roughly 8-9 hours.

Further Read: Kolapathana Waterfalls

Mannar Island in Sri Lanka is one of those offbeat locations in the country that lets you witness natural beauty, rich history, and cultural diversity. What stands out about this island is its strategic location, coupled with a variety of temples, ruins, churches, and forts. Each of these places tells a story of the bygone era and the huge impact that colonial rule had on the country. On your next trip to Sri Lanka, plan your trip to Mannar Island to experience its unspoiled charm and historical significance.

For our editorial codes of conduct and copyright disclaimer, please click here.

Cover Image Credit: Rehman Abubakr for Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions About Mannar Island

How do I get to Mannar Island from Colombo?

You can reach Mannar Island from Colombo by road, rail, or a combination of air travel and road. The journey by road takes about 6-7 hours, while the train journey takes approximately 8-9 hours.

What is the best time to visit Mannar Island?

Mannar Island's best time to visit is between January and September. Avoid visiting during the monsoon season.

Are there any accommodations on Mannar Island?

While you might not find any accommodations on the island, there are a few budget hotels and homestays in Mannar town.

What activities can I do on Mannar Island?

On Mannar Island, you can engage in bird watching, explore historical sites, and beach activities, visit fishing villages, and wildlife spotting.

Can I see dolphins near Mannar Island?

Although rarely, you might get to spot a few dolphins off the coast of Mannar Island. There are no guarantees to it though.

People Also Read:

Category: Islands, Places To Visit, Sri Lanka

Best Places To Visit In India By Month

Best Places To Visit Outside India By Month