The Beautiful little Island of Sri Lanka

The beautiful little Island of Sri Lanka, 432 Kilometres long and 224 Kilometres wide just North of the equator was called Ceylon. It has a variety of attractions to offer although it is a small Island.  Visitors will find five distinct types of resorts from which to select, all of them within easy reach of each other due to the compactness of the Island.

The population of 21 million forms a majority of Sinhalese Buddhists, followed by Tamil Hindus, Moors and Malays who are Muslims and a small community of remaining Burghers who are Christians while most have migrated to Australia. Colombo, the cosmopolitan capital city is a strange and fascinating blend of the ancient and modern.

The recorded history of 2500 years had an unbroken succession of monarchs till the year 1815 when the Island was ceded to the British introducing a plantation economy based on Tea, Rubber, Coconut and Spices while agriculture and fishing being the main occupation of the people. After the rule of the Portuguese from the year 1505, followed by the Dutch period, 1658 to 1796, the British took over and developed the Country’s infrastructure and laid the foundation for the legal commercial educational system. The Island of Sri Lanka became independent on the 04th of February 1948 and adopted a West Minister Style Parliamentary Democracy.

Colombo serves as the base from which to explore the island’s 65,610 square Kilometres, be it the lovely beaches, the ancient cities in the Cultural Triangle or the wildlife sanctuaries, the salubrious hill country with beautiful unspoilt natural wilderness and breathtaking sceneries one could see and walking through remote villages is ideal for trekking.

Geography and Climate

SRI LANKA lies at the cross roads of the Shipping and air routes between East and West, 880 Kilometres North of the equator.   The pear-shaped island, situated off the southern tip of India is separated from the Indian mainland by the Palk Strait which is a mere 29 Kilometres across at its narrowed point.

With a landmass of 65,610 Square Kilometres, Sri Lanka is about the size of Holland and Belgium combined.

The Country has a varied scenery and a warm tropical climate with two seasons.  In Colombo, the Island’s business and commercial centre, the temperature ranges from 23 to 35 degrees centigrade.

A drive of Three hours takes one to Kandy, the ancient hill capital where the temperature is much cooler.  In Nuwara Eliya amidst tea plantations and mountains which reach up to 2700 Metres, the temperature can drop to 10 degrees centigrade.  Rainfall ranges from an annual average of 130 cm (50”) in the eastern dry Zone, to 350 cm (137”) in the west.

Population

Sri Lanka has a population of 20 million, with 72.2 % classified as rural. Population growth is 1.0 % one of the lowest for a developing country.

74 % of the Population are Sinhalese, 12.6 % are Sri Lankan Tamils. 5.5 % are Indian Tamils, 7.1 % are Moors, others are Sri Lankan Malays and a very small number of remaining Burghers who are descendants of the Portuguese and the Dutch, most of whom have recently migrated to Australia.

Religion

Buddhism is the religion of the majority of the Sinhalese while most Tamils are Hindus. Islam and Christianity are the other major religions in the country.

Language

Sinhala and Tamil are official Languages.  English which is the link language is used in business and commerce, widely spoken and understood in practically all parts of the country. The literacy rate at 89 percent is the highest in South Asia.

Government

Sri Lanka is a unitary republic.  Sovereignty is vested in the people and is exercised through a parliament of elected representatives and through a referendum on issues of national importance.  The Executive President and the 225 members of Parliament are elected by the people.  The Island’s democratic tradition has a long history and universal adult suffrage has been enjoyed since 1931.  The independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights are guaranteed by the constitution.

An Overview

Traditionally an agrarian country, Sri Lanka today is a complex multi-faceted economy.   The liberalisation policies adopted since 1977 have committed the Sri Lankan Government to an open market economy.  During this period, a programme of economic diversification had been implemented with emphasis placed on industrial development.

The Government’s current industrial strategy is to transform the primarily domestic market oriented industry to an export oriented one, invite foreign investment, mobilize local capital, make local industries competitive in the world market and work towards manpower and technology development.

The Banking system comprises of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, 26 Commercial Banks (18 Foreign and 8 domestic) 4 Merchant Banks and 12 Regional Rural Development Banks.   The Central Bank of Sri Lanka implements national monetary policy to secure financial stability and economic growth.

Travelers Essential

Visas

There are new visa formalities which came into effect from 1st January 2012. For information Click here.

What to wear

Light cotton dresses of the drip dry wash-and-wear variety and light weight suits are the most comfortable year round attire.  A wide brimmed beach hat and sun glasses are recommended as well as comfortable shoes and sandals.  Medium weight slacks and pullovers will be necessary in the hill country where the temperature can go down as low as 16 degrees centigrade.

Visitors should be decently clad when visiting any place of worship (beach wear is NOT suitable for temples and shrines).  All visitors to Buddhist and Hindu temples are expected to remove their shoes when entering and have their head uncovered. Remove hats and other head gear.

The laws of Sri Lanka strictly prohibits topless sunbathing and strict penalties are levied.  So please confirm to the Sri Lankan way of life and do not do something which is alien to this Island.

What to Bring

If you are going to spend all your time on the beach, then obviously you can travel very light.  Clothes (including popular brand names) can be readily bought in Colombo, and if you are in Hikkaduwa, there is plenty of western-style beach wear on sale (and plenty of tailors who'll run up something for you).  Remember, if you visit a temple or any other holy site, you should cover your legs and shoulders.  Never turn up at a temple in your shorts or beach clothes.  A sarong is an acceptable substitute for a long skirt or pair of trousers.

It's not really necessary to bring a sleeping bag or sleeping sheet unless you think you'll be camping or really roughing it.  Guesthouses and hotels always provide sheets, pillowslips - and blankets where necessary.