Like a gem hanging off the Indian subcontinent, this brilliant country holds far more than its size would have you believe, enough to have you coming back to it again and again. Breathtaking sands, lush green hills, teeming wildlife, mighty waterfalls, endless heritage and pilgrimage sites.it's no wonder that Marco Polo described Sri Lanka as "the finest island of its size in the world." In ancient times the Arabs referred to this island as Serendib, the origin of the word 'serendipity'. The name Sri Lanka means 'resplendent land' and the island nation truly lives up to the epithet.
A multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, Sri Lanka's largest ethnic group is the Sinhalese who practice Buddhism, while the Tamils adhere to Hinduism. The people are incredibly warm and friendly and you feel welcome from the moment you arrive, and are drawn easily into their quiet unassuming manner, their culture - so tranquil even in their dance, music and arts, and quite contrarily, their fiery and irresistible food. There are a number of religious places that are extremely popular with tourists - not just places of worship but repositories of a rich heritage. The architecture, art and painting here is influenced by Buddhism to a great degree, though the colonial elements of an era gone by are still prevalent to create a quaint and interesting combination. There are Dutch forts and churches as well as British clubs and courthouses.
The pristine beaches of Sri Lanka are an obvious draw, but the hills that are home to thriving tree plantations and the ancient cities are equally alluring. The capital, Colombo, is a large and lively city and serves as the main port of Sri Lanka. It's an interesting mix of the old and the new, both a commercial hub and a stronghold of the charms of the past. The temples, churches, forts and museums of Colombo keep you busy for a couple of days as do the exciting places to eat, the famous hotels, the quaint shops and craft emporiums.
There are seven World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, which include ancient cities, temples and the Sinharaja rainforests. Kandy, with the 16th Century Temple of the Tooth; Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka's first capital city; Galle, Negombo and Pollonaruwa; Adam's Peak, just out of Colombo; Sigiriya Fort, the list of cities and sights is too long to narrate.
And then of course, there's enough sun and surf here for an ideal beach holiday. Bentota and Hikkaduwa are two of the famous spots, but luxurious beach resorts are located all over the country and are perfect destinations for rest and relaxation.
For adventure seekers the island is an answer to their prayers! The adventure sports facilities here are topnotch, from windsurfing, diving and snorkeling to rafting, canoeing and trekking, there are thrills galore! The 103 rivers and streams in Sri Lanka create some spectacular waterfalls. Sri Lanka is equally renowned for its wildlife with many national parks and sanctuaries to lure the wildlife enthusiast. Elephants, Leopards, Sloth Bears, Wild Boars, and Porcupines inhabit the forests. The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is a unique site that draws hordes of tourists. It was established as a care centre for Elephants who had lost their mothers or herds and it caters to the biggest group of captive elephants in the world. It's a great opportunity for tourists with their cameras to get close and personal with the herd when the Elephants visit the river twice a day to bathe.
Traditional arts and crafts like woodcarving, weaving, pottery and metalwork are highly developed and the country is famous for its gems. In a nation that is as multi-ethnic as Sri Lanka it is not surprising that there many Buddhist, Hindu and Christian festivals that are celebrated with great fervour and excitement.
If you're visiting the Indian sub-continent, make sure Sri Lanka is on your itinerary.