Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is in Southern Asia. It is an island country in the Indian Ocean, south of India.

Population: 21,675,648 people
Area: 65,610 km2
Highest point: 2,524 m
Coastline: 1,340 km
Life expectancy: 76.15 years
GDP per capita: $6,200
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About Sri Lanka

History

Sri Lanka has more than 2,500 years of continuous written history by means of the Mahawansha, and was also mentioned in several ancient Indian texts. One of the most famous is the Ramayana, in which the island, which was referred to as Lanka, was the island fortress of the king Ravana, who captured the wife of Rama an incarnation of the Hindu God, Vishnu. Legend has it that Hanuman the monkey flew over to Lanka and destroyed the capital by setting it on fire, while Rama and his remaining troops later crossed over from the mainland by building a land bridge across the sea.

There is however a school of thought, though largely unsupported, that Sita the wife of Rama, eloped with Ravana while Rama was away. It is argued by those who support this view that, this is why Rama subjected Sita to undergo an "agni pariksha" (test of fire) to prove her purity. Nevertheless, this theory is widely criticized by believers of Valmiki's version of the episode.

The Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century BC, probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced starting from the mid-3rd century BC, and a great civilization developed in cities like Anuradhapura (kingdom from c. 200BCE to c. 1000CE) and Polonnaruwa (c. 1070 to 1200). Other later notable kingdoms are the Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Gampola, Kandy and Jaffna Kingdoms.

Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1796, and became a crown colony in 1802. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972.

Climate

Since Sri Lanka is a tropical country, you can expect the rain anytime of the year in most parts. However, the two major rainy seasons are the North-East monsoon (October to January) and the South-West monsoon (May to July).

Being an island, the climate of Sri Lanka changes dramatically from one part of the country to another. For example at Nuwara Eliya, in the hills of Central Sri Lanka, has a temperature around -5 to 20°C throughout the year, whereas Hambanthota, located in the dry zone, has a temperature consistently around 30-35°C.

Activities

There is nothing that you "can't do" in Sri Lanka and there are a variety of things that you can do depending on your preference.

Surfing - from November to April you can surf on the western and southern coast. Best place for the beginners is Weligama on the southern coast. You can rent a board for LKR1,500 per day or LKR400 per hour. Lessons cost LKR2,500 per hour, but bargain.

Kitesurfing - from April to September you can kitesurf eastern coast. Best place for the beginners is Kalpitiya (Sethawadi and Kappaladi lagoons), where you can find kite schools and the best conditions in Asia.

Food

Sri Lanka and South Indian food share a lot in common, and many local restaurants will describe their menus as Sri Lankan & South Indian. There are a number of regional variations though, the different types of hopper, devilled prawns/cuttlefish/chicken/etc. and the common fiery addition to any curry, pol sambol made of grated coconut, red chilli powder and lime juice. Sri Lankan food is generally spicy. But you can always ask for less spicy options when you are ordering your food. Note that Sri Lankans eat with their right hands - this isn't a major problem, because everywhere will be able to provide cutlery if you can't eat otherwise. But try the Sri Lankan way (tips of fingers only!), it's harder than it looks but strangely liberating.

The food is very cheap generally, with a cheap meal costing about a dollar. The most expensive, tourist-orientated places seldom charge more than ten dollars. The staple food of Sri Lankans is rice and curry - a massive mound of rice surrounded by various curries and delicacies. If you want to eat a cheap lunch you can follow the Sri Lankan crowds and duck into any of a million small cafes, confusingly called 'Hotels'. These normally sell a rice and curry packet, as well as 'short eats', a collection of spicy rolls. This is ideal for backpackers and those who want to get past the touristy hotels selling burnt chicken and chips - you're charged by how much you eat, and unless you're absolutely ravenous it probably won't cost over a dollar.

If you are taking road trips outside Colombo, there are endless options for places to stop on the road for lunch. Rest houses and hotels along major roads throughout Sri Lanka have good restaurants, and will offer both Sri Lankan and Western menus. If you are less adventurous, you can easily get good sandwiches and soups at these restaurants. These places have excellent rice and curry plates, and you will be served many different types of curries over an extremely generous portion of rice. These meals are extremely delicious and will leave you full and happy at the end of the meal. Eating will definitely be a memorable experience in Sri Lanka.

Kottu (Kothu) Roti (a medley of chopped roti, vegetables and your choice of meat) is a must-have for anyone - tourist or otherwise - in Sri Lanka. It is uniquely Sri Lankan and tastes best when made fresh by street vendors. However, several kottu roti restaurants have been closed down due to their use of stale and old roti, which made some patrons sick. Use caution, and even better, talk with the locals to figure out where the best kottu roti restaurants are.

Other food that you should try are String Hoppers , Hoppers, Pittu and Kiribath.

There are many upscale restaurants to choose from in the city of Colombo. There are several fine dining restaurants at the 5 star hotels which offer both Local and International cuisine. These establishments are found largely in western Colombo (along Galle Road), though more are located around Colombo and other major cities.

Fast-food outlets such as KFC, Pizza Hut etc. can be found in major cities.

Drinks

In Sri Lanka water from the tap is not considered to be safe to drink in the country. However if you are using bottled water (1.5 litre for 60-70 LKR in March 2012) please make sure SLS (Sri Lanka Standard Institute) label is present. Also in some parts of the country you'll find hard water due to the high presence of lime in the soil. Fresh milk, due to the climate, spoils easily, and so is often very expensive. Powdered milk, however, is safe and is often substituted.

Thambili the juice from king coconut, is very refreshing. It's sold at the side of streets throughout the island, you know it's clean as the coconut is cut open in front of you and it's cheaper than bottled drinks at about R30/- each. Soft drinks are available almost everywhere, normally in dusty-looking glass bottles. The local producer, Elephant, make a range of interesting drinks - try the ginger beer and cream soda. "Coca Cola" and "Pepsi" also available in large and small sizes (plastic bottles) including several local soft drink brands - all available at rapidly multiplying supermarkets all across the country and grocery shops.

The most common local beer is Lion Lager (140 LKR in "wine shops" or 200-300 LKR in restaurants in March 2012). For something a bit different try Lion Stout. It is characterized by its tar-like oiliness of body and chocolate finish. Other brews include Three Coins, which is brewed by the Mt Lavinia hotel chain, allegedly to a Belgian recipe.

The traditional spirit is Arrack, which costs about 4 USD for a bottle, and is often drunk with club soda. The quality can vary depending on how much you want to pay. However, widely recommended brand would be "Old Reserve" and worth paying 7.5 USD for it.

Shopping

Currency

The currency is the Sri Lankan rupee: LKR. There are coins for 25 and 50 cents (bronze), 1 rupee (old version is big and silver, new version is small and gold,) 2 rupees (silver,) and 5 rupees (gold,) as well as banknotes ranging from LKR10-5000. Coins that are more than a few years old are typically in quite bad condition.

Things to buy

Handicrafts of Sri Lanka. For reed, cane, cotton, paper, leather, wood, clay, metal, and gemstones have been transformed and re-expressed in an array of batiks, toys, curios and jewelery, all exquisite hand made treasures.

Credit cards and ATMs, banking services

ATMs are located in many places (especially at bank branches) in the cities and suburbs, less so in the countryside. Be careful of using credit cards, as fraud is on the rise in Sri Lanka. You can withdraw from debit cards too (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa Electron etc.) where the logos are displayed. Mostly your card will be replaced by your bank once you go back to your country. Not every ATM accepts international cards, try Commercial Bank they accept international cards. NOTE ! You can't send money by Western Union or Money Gram from Sri Lanka abroad. One can only receive money via international money transfer while in Sri Lanka.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Sri Lanka on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Sri Lanka

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Colombo is the largest city and the financial and commercial capital of Sri Lanka. It is also the capital of Western Province, one of nine provinces in Sri Lanka.

Interesting places:

  • National Art Gallery
  • Dutch Hospital
  • Colombo World Trade Center
  • Beira Lake
  • Bank of Ceylon Tower
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Negombo is a quiet town in the western coastal area of Sri Lanka, with a tourist strip to the north on Jetwing Beach. Its key attraction is proximity to the international airport. Formerly the haunt of budget travellers, rising hotel rates and luxury resorts (Jetwing) mean it now attracts an elderly European ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Negombo Beach
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Nuwara Eliya is a city in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. Its temperate climate gives the city a very different feel from other parts of the country and, along with the colonial architecture, has earned it the name 'Little England'.

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Kandy is located at the center of Sri Lanka and is generally recognized as the island nation's cultural capital. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Interesting places:

  • Sri Dalada Maligawa
  • Royal Botanical Garden
  • Asgiriya Stadium
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Unawatuna is a small beach resort village in southern Sri Lanka.

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Galle is in Sri Lanka.

Interesting places:

  • Unawatuna Beach
  • Galle Fortress
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Anuradhapura is a city in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

Interesting places:

  • Ruwanwelisaya
  • Sri Maha Bodhi
  • Jetavanaramaya
  • Thuparamaya
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Interesting places:

  • Mount Lavinia Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Tangalle Lighthouse
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Bentota is a city in Southern Sri Lanka.

Interesting places:

  • Bentota Beach
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Beruwela is a beach resort in Western Sri Lanka.

Interesting places:

  • Beruwela Harbour
  • Kande Vihare Temple
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Sigiriya is a city in the Central district of Sri Lanka.

Interesting places:

  • Sigiriya Archaeological Site
  • Sigiriya Museum
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Unawatuna is a small beach resort village in southern Sri Lanka.

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Midigama is a city in Weligama.

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Dambulla is a city in Central province of Sri Lanka.

Interesting places:

  • Dambulla Cave Temple
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Interesting places:

  • Uda Walawe National Park
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Nilaveli is a village 14 km north of Trincomalee in northeastern Sri Lanka.

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Interesting places:

  • Kalatura Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Yala National Park
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Trincomalee is a city in northeastern Sri Lanka. Trincomalee has a very nice beaches even during the summer. The city saw a lot of fighting during the war but has recently been moving beyond that is is quickly growing into a premier tourist location because of its wonderful beaches in Nilaveli and Uppiveli.

Interesting places:

  • Fort Frederick
  • Koneswaram Temple
  • Trincomalee Harbour
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Polonnaruwa is a city in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

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Interesting places:

  • Wewurukannala Vihara Temple
  • Dickwella Beach
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Interesting places:

  • Horton Plains National Park
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Bandarawela is a city in Sri Lanka.

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Matale is a city in the Central Province of Sri Lanka about 150km away from Colombo, the capital.

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Polonnaruwa is a city in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.

Interesting places:

  • Polonnaruwa Wihara
  • Gal Viharaya
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Sri Lanka

Please be aware that to get into many of the tourist sites in Sri Lanka, you, as a foreigner will be charged up to ten times more than locals.

Some popular sights in Sri Lanka are:

  • Sri Dhalada Maligawa and Peradeniya Gardens in Kandy.
  • The ancient temples in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa which are very beautiful.
  • Beautiful villages which look like England in Nuwara Eliya. There are many tea estates and Hakgala gardens too.
  • The beaches of Unawatuna, Galle and northern areas.
  • Whales in Mirissa and Kalpitiya.
  • Wildlife in Yala National Park & Wilpattu for the best wildlife Safari experience. Go to Udawalawe to see elephants and Kumana (Yala East) for birdwatching.
  • The unexplored Sri Lanka in Jaffna and the islands in the Northern Province (Delft).
  • See Negombo's beaches, all sandy and blue.

With a recorded history of more than 2,500 years, Sri Lanka has a rich cultural and natural heritage and its World Heritage Sites are among the absolute highlights in the country. With eight recognized entries, Sri Lanka currently has the second greatest number of listed World Heritage Sites in South Asia (only India, with 30, has more) The most recent addition however are the vast Central Highlands, which were inscribed in 2010. Other than these, Sri Lanka has identified two prospective World Heritage Sites: Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara and Seruwila to Sri Pada (Sacred Foot Print Shrine), an ancient pilgrim route along the Mahaweli river in Sri Lanka.

Sri Dalada Maligawa - Kandy

National Art Gallery - Colombo

Sigiriya Archaeological Site - Sigiriya

Ruwanwelisaya - Anuradhapura

Bentota Beach - Bentota

Dambulla Cave Temple - Dambulla

Negombo Beach - Negombo

Unawatuna Beach - Galle

Polonnaruwa Wihara - Polonnaruwa

Mount Lavinia Beach - Dehiwala - Mount Lavinia

Kalatura Beach - Kalutara

Horton Plains National Park - Ambewella

Beruwela Harbour - Beruwela

Wewurukannala Vihara Temple - Dickwella

Arugam Bay Beach - Arugam

Yala National Park - Yala

Sinharaja Forest Reserve - Ratnapura

Uda Walawe National Park - Kataragama

Panduwasnuwara - Kurunegala

Dutch Hospital - Colombo

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

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