Due to its tear-drop shape and its natural beauty, Sri Lanka is called the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. But this beautiful island on the Indian Ocean has been known by many names. Its antiquated name is Sinhala. In India it is known as Lanka and ancient Greek voyagers called the country “Taprobane” and Ceilão was the name the Portuguese gave this county in 1505. The latter was the origin of its old name, Ceylon. Arabs called this small island “Serendib.” It was called the Dominion of Ceylon in 1948 when it gained independence from the British. Today the island nation is officially called the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a major tea and coffee producer and is also one of the important producers of native cinnamon, rubber, coconuts and gemstones. The natural beauty of the island nation befits its moniker. It’s a nation known for its smiling people, its high biodiversity, diverse landscapes and tropical forests.
The country’s documented history covers 3,000 years, which includes the country’s role in the ancient Silk Road because of its deep harbours and geographic location. This beautiful country in South Asia is slowly making its mark as a prime tourist destination in the region. It has received more than one million visitors in 2012 and the prospect is rosy that 2013 tourist arrivals will surpass that figure in 2013. It had already showed an increase of 12.5% by July this year over the figure for the same number of months last year.
Aside from the scenic places in Sri Lanka, its beaches, museums and monuments, part of the country’s attraction lies in its biodiversity, with several species of flora and fauna in the country being endemic. It is also home to Asian anteaters, porcupines, wild boars, loris, sloth bears, leopards, purple-faced langur (Old World monkey) and elephants. Likewise, there are valuable tree species.
Things to do in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an emerging destination. If you really think about it, this small island nation has most of the things that make tourists want to visit and come back again and again. If you want to surf and you are just a beginner, Sri Lanka definitely suits you. Go to Hikkaduwa which is located on the southwest coast of the country. The waves are not too large and the sandy breaks will cushion your fall. The conditions are just perfect for beginners. Expert surfers should not be disheartened though as Sri Lanka has beaches on the west coast where the waves will give you a good challenge.
For tea lovers, Ceylon Tea is a familiar name, because it is one of the best teas in the world and is considered as the world’s cleanest tea. And this is one of the major export products of Sri Lanka, whose previous name was Ceylon. What better way to enjoy some freshly brewed tea than at a tea plantation? You can choose between Nuwara Eliya and Ella or visit both and enjoy the colonial towns surrounding the plantations. The sight of the rolling hills green and lush with tea plants is already something to look forward to. You can stay in an old plantation home and have some baked goodies while sipping hot, fragrant tea.
Whatever your faith is, you should not miss going up Adam’s Peak, a sacred hill in the country. The 2,243-meter high hill is the site of many pilgrimages. There is a large depression there in the shape of a left foot, which for the Christians and Muslims, is the impression of Adam’s foot when he first descended to earth. For the Hindus, this is the foot of Śiva, whereas the Buddhists believe that this is an imprint of the left foot of Buddha. The climb up the mountain is not that arduous because of the clearly defined paths and sturdy walkways, but it will give you a good workout. It is a journey that is spiritually enriching. The hill looks beautiful at night as well, with the snaking path up the hill glowing with light.
If you want to have a slow, nostalgic journey, try riding a Sri Lankan train. It passes through the countryside so you are treated to breathtaking mountain sceneries and verdant tea plantations. You will also delight in the smiling faces of the friendly train passengers as you slowly chug along.
You can afford to be lazy while in Sri Lanka. And what can be better than spending a day on the beach? Sri Lanka is getting known for its beautiful beaches that are still not too crowded with tourists. Check out Kosgoda, Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa. There are still others if you want to be in a secluded beach. You might want to rent a motorbike or a bicycle and explore the area as there are still other things to discover other than the wonderful beaches, which are fast becoming the biggest come on for international visitors to Sri Lanka.
What to see
For animal lovers, you can see some of Sri Lanka’s wildlife such as monitor lizards, peacocks, crocodiles, monkeys, jackals and elephants. You might even be lucky and see a leopard while you are on a jeep safari. The beautiful landscape is your bonus. The place to be for such a wildlife adventure is Yala National Park.
Do you want to see turtles while in Sri Lanka? One of the best places to see turtles is at The Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery. Visit the hatchery at sunset and watch the staff release the hatchlings into the ocean. It is a remarkable experience you should not miss while in the country.
One of the most important places to see in Sri Lanka is the ancient city of Sigiriya, which is situated on the slope and on top of a mountain. It is one of the most recognized places in Sri Lanka, used in posters, in coffee table books and as guide book covers. It is an impressive archeological site. A palace was built on top of a massive rock column by King Kashpaya around 477 AD. The side of the rock was decorated with colorful and beautiful frescoes, mostly of female subjects. There used to be a mirror wall on it as well. The castle grounds has different types of gardens, including water gardens, boulder gardens, fountain gardens, terraced and pavilion gardens. The former entrance to the winding staircase that led up to the palace was through the mouth of a gigantic lion head. The head is missing but one of its massive paws is still visible today. When you reach the top, you not only get to view the palace complex, you will also marvel at the fantastic scenery that’s spread out before you.
This is just a preview of what you can see and do in Sri Lanka and part of the reasons why this small island nation in the Indian Ocean is fast becoming a fierce competitor for tourist dollars.
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