"Sri Lanka: a land like no other," is the slogan of the Tourist Authority of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is an island nation off the southern tip of India, with an area of 65,525 sq km. It is said that the land has been inhabited for more than 500,000 years. However, the recorded history goes back 2500 years, with the mention of Buddhist monks and the emergence of the Sinhalese with the arrival of the Vijaya, a thousand years later. Sri Lanka had trading ties with other countries, and merchants came to trade for muslin, tortoise shells, ivory, rice and precious stones. Sri Lanka became a socialist democratic republic in 1972, and has a population of over 20 million, the majority of the population being Sinhalese. Sri Jayewardenepura is the capital of Sri Lanka.
Sinhala is the language spoken, which is of Indo-Aryan origin. Travelers will tell you that Sri Lankans are warm and friendly people. Today, Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of black tea and other exports include betel nut, baby corn, betel leaf, okra, cantaloupe, cardamom, cashew nut, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, coconut, fresh fruits, cut flowers, rice, rubber and tobacco.
Visiting Sri Lanka
The region is low-lying and flat, with mountainous peaks in the south-central part. Nine peaks are over 2000 m high, and Pidurutalagala is the highest at 2,524 m. There are over 100 waterfalls, and the highest is Bambarakanda. Hundreds of years ago the entire island was covered by forests, and abundant in tropical monsoon flora and fauna. The current forest cover is less than 30%. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka is an eco-travelers delight. Sri Lanka does not have well-defined seasons as it is close to the equator end there is no winter. Temperatures are approximately 30C.
It is possible to enter Sri Lanka without a tourist visa for passport holders of 78 countries, who may obtain a permit to stay for 30 days on arrival. Sri Lanka is rather expensive when compared to other South Asian countries. Sri Lankan rupee is the local currency. Budget travelers can find rooms ranging from 500 to 1000 rupees, while international hotels may cost over 10,000 rupees. The local food is inexpensive with meals available for as little as 100 rupees. Public transport is cheap, and cars and taxis are readily available. However, trains are the most enjoyable way to travel and discover the island. T-shirts, trousers or loose-fitting clothes are ideal for the hot and humid Sri Lankan weather.
The top tourist destinations in Sri Lanka include the ancient cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya; Yala National Park, Hortons Plains and Worlds End, Kandy, Adams Peak, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Galle, Jaffna and the southern beaches. The remains of ancient cities have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and are rich in temples, monasteries, paintings, sculptures and colonial architecture. If you're a foodie, Sri Lankan cuisine will not disappoint you. The local cuisine has inspirations from Arabs, Malays, Indians, Portuguese, Dutch and British. It is hard to forget the flavour of kotthu rotti, prawn vada or thambili which does not taste the same anywhere else.