Marco Polo called it:"The finest land of its size in the world"
Sri Lanka is a small, teardrop shaped island in the Indian Ocean situated off the south eastern tip of India. Sometimes described as 'The Pearl of the Indian Ocean' or 'The Island that hangs like a pendant from the ear of India'. In past times Sri Lanka was given the name 'Serendib'-a title of old Persian / Arabic origin, meaning 'Land of fortunate discovery'.
A tropical island rich in natural beauty with miles of palm fringed sandy beaches, cascading waterfalls, lush tea plantations, cool and misty hill country, thick jungles, and ancient mystical cities with intricate, beautiful temples. A country steeped in culture and traditions - celebrating many vibrant and colourful festivals with enchanting music, dance, and processions. The climate boasts balmy sunshine and often stifling heat which is quenched by monsoon rains and tropical thunderstorms.
Sri Lanka is also a botanical dream with an abundance of exotic flowers, fruit, vegetables, and herb gardens which yield ayurvedic potions. Cottage industries produce unusual and artistic arts & crafts. This relatively small island paradise is also teeming with wild animals and birds including some rare and endangered species. There is huge wildlife parks open to visitors; these were once used for the cruel recreation of hunting and killing wild animals during the colonial era. They are now conservation areas.
Population of Sri Lanka is 19 million occupying an area of land nearly 25,000 square miles. Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city. Literacy levels are 91%-the highest in South Asia. Monetary unit-Sri Lankan Rupee. Two national languages - Sinhala and Tamil. English is widely spoken throughout Sri Lanka.
There are four main ethnic groups - the predominant Buddhist Sinhalese (74%) Hindu Tamils of Indian origin (18%) Muslims (7%) Burghers (1%) - descendants of Dutch and Portuguese colonists.
Ceylon was under European control for some 450 years and gained independence from British dominion in 1948, becoming a Republic in 1972 with Sri Lanka ("Resplendent Land") as its official
Religions - Buddhism (70%) Hinduism (16%) Christianity (6%) Islam (8%)
Industries - rubber, spices, coconuts, tea, cement, petroleum refining, tobacco, textiles, gems, and
Sri Lanka has a Democratic Government with an Executive President.
Since the country became a Republic in 1972, there has been serious conflict between the Tamil minority occupying the northern / eastern province and the Sinhalese majority. More than 60,000 people have lost their lives in the cycle of violence. In recent months the war has come to an end.
Sri Lanka was devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami which killed more than 30,000 people, countless animals, and wiped out many coastal communities-mainly in the eastern and southern regions, which remain scarred to this day.