It is located on Mannar Island overlooking the Gulf of Mannar. It is home to the historic Ketheeswaram temple.
Mannar is known for its baobab trees and for its fort, built by the Portuguese in 1560 and taken by the Dutch in 1658 and rebuilt; its ramparts and bastions are intact, though the interior is largely destroyed.
Visually, the modern town is dominated by its Hindu temples, mosques and churches. The Catholic Church has a diocese headquartered in the town.
By rail the town is connected to the rest of Sri Lanka by the Mannar Line.
- Noted in Edwin William Streeter, Pearls and Pearling Life 1886:24.
- Edward Aves, Sri Lanka (Footprint Travel Guides, 2003: ISBN 1-903471-78-8), p. 337.