A patch of paradise in the Indian Ocean – just off the tip of India – Sri Lanka is a land of steamy jungles, cascading waterfalls and elephants galore.
Within a relatively compact area, Sri Lanka boasts an impressive eight UNESCO world heritage sites, 15 national parks housing an abundance of wildlife and over 1,000 metres of golden, un-crowded beaches.
Not only that, Sri Lanka boasts a history dating back to the Stone Age – evident in the magnificent drawings in caves along the coast. Batadomba-lena in Kuruwita (c. 29,000-9,500 BC) and Beli-lena in Kitugala (c. 28,000-1,500 BC) are notable examples.
The original soul of Buddhism still flourishes in Sri Lanka and remains the primary religion ever since its introduction in 250 BC and the former royal capital – Kandy – is home to the Dalada Maligawa or Sacred Temple of the Tooth, which houses the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha.
In contrast, visit the 17th century colonial Dutch fort in Galle, which is reportedly the best preserved in Asia.
From wreck-diving in Wadduwa to river-kayaking down the Kalu Ganga, you certainly won’t struggle to think of ways to spend your day. The varied Sri Lankan landscape, dotted with interesting archaeological sites, makes ideal trekking conditions and it is a great way to see the country. Cool of in one of the numerous waterfalls scattered across the pearl-shaped Island; considering its compact size, the sheer number of waterfalls is astounding.
If soaking up the sunshine is more your thing, there are plenty of exotic palm-fringed beaches to choose from. Batticoloa, Hambantota and Hikkaduwa are some of the major resorts.
One of Sri Lanka’s major festivals is the Buddhist Elephant Festival – a colourful torch-lit procession of robed elephants, dancers and drummers. The 10-day festival, located in Kandy, celebrates Buddhism and the sacred tooth, which gets paraded through the streets in a casket.
Sri Lanka Essential Information:
Capital: Colombo (commercial), Sri Jayawardenepura (administrative)
Major cities: Colombo, Anuradhapura and Galle
Major resorts: Batticoloa, Hambantota and Hikkaduwa
Time Zone: GMT +6
Language: Sinhala, Tamil, English. To learn the basics of Sinhala visit www.speaksinhala.com
Currency: Sri Lanka uses the Sri Lankan rupee (LKR). For up-to-date exchange rates see: www.xe.com/ucc.
International dialling code: +94
British Embassy: visit the website for information