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The name Sri Lanka means “Resplendent Island”, and nothing could be more appropriate for this lush tropical paradise. Sri Lanka’s vast forests are home to elephants, leopards, bears, monkeys and crocodiles, as well as a diversity of birdlife.
Sri Lanka has a rich cultural heritage starting with the Sinhala Kingdom, which reigned from the 6th century BC right up until 19th century when the British took over. The Sinhalese kings left behind grand royal complexes, such as the towering fortress of Lion Rock, and the royal palaces in Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. In the 3rd century BC, Buddhism was introduced to the island. It was quickly embraced by the royal families, who made it the official state religion. Today, Sri Lanka has the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any Buddhist nation. Holy sites such as the Dambulla Cave temples have been in continuous use for over 2,000 years, and can still be visited today.
Sri Lanka’s culture has been influenced by the many traders and settlers who’ve trodden her shores. The Island was once an important stopping point on the Maritime Silk Road, which introduced new crafts and ideas from South Asia and the pacific. European colonialists have also left their mark on Sri Lanka’s identity, with Portuguese, Dutch and British influences visible in elements of traditional Sri Lankan culture. This is particularly distinct in towns like Nuwara Eliya, dubbed “little England” because of its Edwardian houses and well-kempt English lawns. The British also introduced tea to Sri Lanka, now one of the island's major exports.
Today, Sri Lanka mixes modern elements with traditional culture, and is known for its regional diversity. The country is internationally associated with cricket, a vibrant cuisine, Buddhism and exports in tea, spices and gemstones.
- When to Travel: November to August
- Population: 22 million
- Area: 65,610 km2
- Capital City: Colombo (population of approximately 5.6 million)
- Languages Spoken: Sinhala, Tamil and English
- Time Difference: GMT + 5 1/2 hour
- Flying time from the UK: approximately 11 hours
- Key Destinations: Cultural Triangle, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Yala National Park, Galle, Bentota