Sri Lanka known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, is home to some of the finest natural beauty on earth. In addition, this tropical island nation has a rich history dating back to the down of time. It is a place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoilt.
Few places in the world can offer the traveller such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, enchanting cultural heritage, archaeological sites, and unique experiences within such a compact location. Within a mere area of 65,610 kilometres lie eight (8) UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 1330 kilometres of coastline, 26 national parks showcasing an abundance of wildlife, nearly 500,000 acres of lush tea covered mountain slopes, 250 acres of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls, 25,000 water bodies, and a history and culture that extends back to over 2,500 years.
Sri Lanka is blessed with beaches, characterized by golden sand and shade-giving coconut palms. On the west are Negombo, Mount Lavinia, Bentota, and, in the south, are Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, voted one of the 10 best beaches in the world by the Discovery Channel. On the east coast are Nilaweli, Passekudah, Kalkudah and Arugam Bay, listed as one of the top 10 surfing spots in the world. Climate wise Sri Lanka has a convenient year-round warm climate. It experiences two monsoons that occur in opposite halves of the island at different times.
Sri Lanka is one of the smallest, but biologically diverse countries in Asia. The Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a biodiversity hotspot in Sri Lanka, has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Influenced by Buddhist respect for all living beings, Sri Lanka has a well-entrenched conservation ethic. National Parks in Sri Lanka offer the chance to see some of Sri Lanka’s mammals, elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambur, spotted deer, barking-deer, porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, giant squirrel and monkeys such as macaque, purple-faced leaf monkey and grey langur. Yala National Park is believed to have the world’s highest concentration of leopards. Udawalawe National Park is famous for its elephants, but Minneriya National Park boasts the awesome dry season “Gathering”, in which herds of hundreds of elephants congregate to socialise, meet old friends, create families, and to eat the lush grass and drink the region’s remaining water.
Sri Lanka’s major ethnic group, the Sinhalese, mainly came from India 2500 years ago. The minority Tamils migrated later. Its dominant religion, Buddhism, came from India as did Hinduism. The Indian influence pervaded such diverse fields as art, architecture, literature, music, medicine, and astronomy. Despite Sri Lanka’s obvious affiliations with India, the island nation has developed a unique identity over the centuries that has ultimately set it apart from its giant neighbour. Cultural traits brought from India necessarily experienced independent evolution in Sri Lanka, owing in part to the island’s physical separation from the subcontinent and the variety of other influences that came from far across the seas.
There are plenty of historic Religious sites in Sri Lanka. They range from the magnificent ruined cities, temples and shrines in the Cultural Triangle, including the globally venerated Temple of the Tooth in Kandy to the remains of Portuguese, Dutch and British forts (especially the Galle fort).
Anuradapura, which is an UNESCO world heritage site, is the location of the Sri Maha Bodhi Bo-tree, grown from a sapling of the original tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. It is the world’s oldest documented living tree. Polonnaruwa which is also an UNESCO world heritage site contains one of the world’s largest stone books, Gal Potha. The most intriguing and popular World Heritage Site is Sigiriya, named as “the eighth wonder of the world”, a stupendous rock on which a patricidal king build a magnificent palace. The rock face was covered with sensual frescoes of celestial maidens, described as the world’s largest outdoor picture gallery. A few frescoes remain, and there is a remarkable water garden complex, an excellent reflection of Sri Lanka’s hydraulic sophistication.
With the biodiversity and varying eco-systems, Sri Lanka is a prime eco-tourism destination, which fascinates both the eye and the soul.
Sri Lanka has evolved as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society. The people of Sri Lanka are known for their warm and welcoming smile. Travellers who would love to visit Sri Lanka will find that Sri Lankans are particularly charming and hospitable.
We, Sri Lankans believe that you will add this splendid paradise to your ‘travel wish list” as a must-see destination.
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