Mannar Island

Firmly off the beaten track, hardly any tourists venture this far north. The journey is memorable in itself, as the ferry crosses marshland, sand bars and shallow blue-green waters, escorted by flocks of flamingos. Mannar is a dry island with palm trees, ruins of colonial forts & fishing boats offshore.Wild donkeys roam free, adding to its end of the world wilderness charm.

The island has great mythological significance for Hindus, believed to be one of the stepping stones over which Rama and Hanuman’s monkey army marched to rescue Sita in the epic Ramayana. A quick glance at the area on maps or satellite images makes it is easy to see why the story is almost believable, as India’s Danushkodi and Sri Lanka’s Mannar Island seem to be separated by a very short stretch of water, with several small islands forming the stepping stones.

In 1914, the Thalaimannar pier, at the west end of Mannar island, began its life as the landing point for the ferry services linking India and Sri Lanka. From Thalaimannar, a railway line ran down south into mainland Sri Lanka, providing an economical means of transport for people and goods between the two nations. However, the services were terminated due to the escalating civil war in Sri Lanka. Now only dilapidated remains of this link remains, as unfortunately there are no plans to resurrect the services.

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Simple: Clean and simple, no frills. Often in areas of natural beauty or near wildlife reserves. (£)