For most visitors, Mannar is still an off-the-beaten-track destination. But from pre-history to medieval times, it is Mannar, or Mathota, which had attracted visitors and invaders to this Island. It is recorded that in 7 century BC Achaemenid emperors shown interests for Mannar for its pearls. Even Hugh Cleghorn, a Scottish born British politician, who was appointed as the colonial secretary of Ceylon in 1798, found himself in pearl business as it was lucrative than any other. Ruins of colonial forts and houses which housed those colonialists are still visible in and around Mannar.
Today, however, it is the seasonal migratory birds and natural wind that attract visitors to Mannar. For birders, Siberian flamingos are the highlight from September to May. For kite surfers Talaimannar is a paradise from June till the end of August and from January till the end of February with its strongest, steady and reliable wind.
In the year 410 AD, a Chinese Buddhist monk, Fa Hsien, had followed the route of Buddhism to Sri Lanka and had recorded this pearl industry in Mathota. Marco Polo was in Sri Lanka in 1254 AD and has written about Mathota. In fact, Ibn Battuta had landed in Mannar in 1344 AD.
Adam's Bridge, which once literally connected Sri Lanka with India, is a mythical man made monument in pre-history. Indian chronicle mentions this same bridge as Rama's bridge.
The sea in between this two countries is unique with its own eco systems. The river water from India and Sri Lanka make this shallow sea a unique home for Du Gongs and particular sea weeds. This vast area will soon be a divers' paradise.
On the top of them, Malwathu Oya, the second longest river in Sri Lanka, meets the sea in Mannar. Its headwaters are found in Ritigala and in Dambulla. At some places, along this river beds, there are some ancient ruins. A Sri Lankan chronicle cites that this river is what Prince Vijaya and his entourage used to travel inland. Mostly dry this river suggests otherwise. Though, this river brings certain mystery to Mannar and its surroundings.