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Sri Lanka

1. General Information

Country's Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Capital City: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (Administrative) Colombo (Commercial) (pop 20.97 million)
Government: Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
Head of State: President Maithripala Sirisena
Area: 65,525km
Population: 20,277,597
People: 74.9 Sinhalese, 11.1% Sri Lanka Tamil, 9.3% Moor, 4.1% Indian Tamil, 0.5% other
Language: Sinhalese, Tamil, English
Religion: 70.2% Buddhism, 12.6% Hinduism, 9.7% Islam, 7.4% Christianity
Weather: Two monsoon seasons
Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)

2. Geography

Sri Lanka lies on the Indian Plate, a major tectonic plate that was formerly part of the Indo-Australian Plate. It is in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal, between latitudes 5° and 10°N, and longitudes 79° and 82°E. Sri Lanka is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait. According to Hindu mythology, a land bridge existed between the Indian mainland and Sri Lanka. It now amounts to only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level.[159] Legends claim that it was passable on foot up to 1480 AD, until cyclones deepened the channel. Portions are still as shallow as 1 metre (3 ft), hindering navigation.

3. Foods and Drinks

Staple meal is rice and curry. Curries are spicy. Abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in Sri Lanka. The breakfast dishes are particularly tempting. Sri Lanka grows the finest tea in the world and we drink it almost round the clock.   The island also grows excellent coffee. Arrack, a distinctive Sri Lanka   alcoholic beverage is distilled from coconut toddy. Leading hotels have daily   `oriental’ buffets.Staple meal is rice and curry. Curries are spicy. Abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in Sri Lanka. The breakfast dishes are particularly tempting. Sri   Lanka grows the finest tea in the world and we drink it almost round the clock.   The island also grows excellent coffee. Arrack, a distinctive Sri Lanka   alcoholic beverage is distilled from coconut toddy. Leading hotels have daily   `oriental’ buffets.

Sri Lankan Beverages are mainly herbal drinks. Fresh Drinks made from papaya, avocado, lime is also consumed a lot during very hot days. Sago soup is also drunk to cool down one’s body temperature. Tea and coffee is also used as common day to day refreshment and is always served in households when guests arrive. Young coconuts are also very famous among people.

4. Shopping

Shopping in Sri Lanka can take many forms haggling with a handicraft-seller while sunbathing on the beach choosing fruit from the traditional village store, 'the kade' while side-stepping sacks of rice or checking out the bargain-priced latest international fashions (Sri Lanka is a major garment exporter)  while enjoying the ambiance of a luxurious shopping centre in Colombo.Shopping in Sri Lanka can take many forms haggling with a handicraft-seller while sunbathing on the beach choosing fruit from the traditional village store, 'the kade' while side-stepping sacks of rice or checking out the bargain-priced latest international fashions (Sri Lanka is a major garment exporter)  while enjoying the ambiance of a luxurious shopping centre in Colombo.

And there’s much in between. Visit a handicraft shop and familiarize yourself with traditional designs such as makara (a mythical animal, lion, swan, elephant and lotus which are most evident in brass work (boxes, trays, lanterns, vases) and silverware (ornately carved and filigree jewellery, tea-sets) that make excellent souvenirs. In addition, ritual masks, lacquer ware, batik and handloom textiles, lace, and wood carvings are popular.

Last but certainly not least, Sri Lanka has the widest variety of precious stones among the world’s gem producing countries - blue sapphires, star sapphires, rubies, cat’s eye, garnets, moonstones, aquamarines and topazes being just a dazzling handful. What’s more, Sri Lanka naturally has a tradition in jewellery-making, so you can bring your gems to life.

5. Dos and Don’ts

Dos

  • Remove you shoes before entering Buddhist Temples.
  • When taking photos do not post in front of or beside a Buddha Statues.
  • When visiting holy places please conform to the requirements as regards dress in order not to show disrespect.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Leave your valuable things such as cash, airline tickets, passports with the hotels safety deposit facility.
  • Ask permission from before taking a photograph.
  • Buy only bottled water and make sure the bottle is sealed.
  • Make sure there is a safe to put your property as passport, cash when you book a hotel room.
  • Always keep all of your receipts.

Don’ts

  • Don’t go near political gatherings.  
  • Don’t point with your feet to someone.
  • Try and take photographs of military installations or anything to do with the military.
  • Don’t be paranoid about your safety.
  • Never wear your bag on your back, always keep it in front of you zipped or locked properly.
  • Don’t rush people. They do not prefer it.
  • No hugging, touching & kissing in Public Area.

6. Language

Sinhala and Tamil are official languages   in Sri Lanka. Sinhala, a language of Indo-Aryan origin is the language of the   majority. English is widely spoken and understood.

7. Festivals and Events

Every year on or about April 13   Sinhala and Tamil people celebrate Sinhala and Tamil New Year Festival, and Muslims celebrate Ramadan. Esala Perahera (A-suh-luh peh-ruh-ha-ruh) is the grand festival of Esala held in Sri Lanka. It is very grand with elegant costumes. Happening in July or August in Kandy, it has become a unique symbol of Sri Lanka. It is a Buddhist festival consisting of dances and richly decorated elephants. There are fire-dances, whip-dances, Kandian dances and various other cultural dances. The elephants are usually adorned with lavish garments. The festival ends with the traditional 'diya-kepeema'. The elephant is paraded around the city bearing the tooth of Buddha.Tet (Late January or early February).

  • Duruthu Poya – Buddha’s First Visit (In January)
  • Thai Pongal – A Festival of Gratitude to Surya (In January)
  • Maha Shivarathri – Festival of Shiva (In February)
  • Medin Poya - Medin Poya (In March)
  • Good Friday – Joining the world to remember (In April)
  • Sinhala and Tamil New Year (In April)
  • Bak Poya in Sri Lanka (In April)
  • Vesak Poya – The festival of Lights (In May)
  • Poson Poya Festival – (In June)
  • Ramadan – Festival of breaking the fast (In June)
  • Esala Poya & Kandy Esala Perahera - (In July)
  • Nikini Poya – The First Dhamma Sangayana - (In August)
  • Hajj Festival or Eid-ul-Adha - (In September)
  • Binara Poya in Sri Lanka – (In September)
  • Deepavali Festival of Lights – (In October)
  • Vap Poya | The Month of Robes - (In October)
  • Il Poya – A peaceful holiday – ( In November )
  • Christmas in Sri Lanka – (In December)
  • Unduvap Poya Day – (In December)

8. Popular Destinations

Adam’s Peak

It is believed that Lord Buddha during his third visit to Sri Lanka placed his   footprint on the summit of this sacred mountain. So, the name Sri Pada the sacred footprint. This mountain is also known as Samantakuta, Sumanakuta,   Samanalakanda, Samanela, Samangira, Medumhelaya etc. The Christians call the   mountain Adam’s Peak, derived from the Portuguese Pico de Adam (Peak of Adam).   It is 7,360 feet in height and is the forth highest mountain in the country and   has several approaches, the main ones being through the Hatton town and   Ratnapura District. Annually, during December April, devotees climb the mountain   to pay obeisance.

Bentota

Bentota is 62km from Colombo and begins on the southern side of the Bentota   River, which is also the border between the Western and Southern Provinces. In   Sinhala, it is Bentara, and the river is the Ben Ganga. If you drive down to   Bentota for the day, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief as you cross over the river   by the road bridge. Why? Because the suburbs seem to slip away and the heavy   concentration of houses and traffic along the Galle Road from Colombo thins out.   At last you know you are beside the seaside.Bentota is 62km from Colombo and begins on the southern side of the Bentota   River, which is also the border between the Western and Southern Provinces. In   Sinhala, it is Bentara, and the river is the Ben Ganga. If you drive down to   Bentota for the day, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief as you cross over the river   by the road bridge. Why? Because the suburbs seem to slip away and the heavy   concentration of houses and traffic along the Galle Road from Colombo thins out.   At last you know you are beside the seaside.Bentota is halfway between   Colombo and Galle. The mouth of the river, which forms a long lagoon, is used   for jet-skiing and banana-raft riding.

Colombo

Colombo, the Commercial Capital of Sri Lanka with a population of a little over   04 million, boasts perfect co-ordination and co-existence of past and present,   with the remarkable remnants of Dutch and English rule of the 18th & 19th   combined with the present luxurious comforts. Speedy sports cars and latest   automobiles have occupied the streets once ruled by human driven-rickshaws and   tram cars. High-rise buildings stand side by side the monumental houses   reflecting the bygone era. All religions mingle in unity with Buddhist Temples,   Churches, Hindu Kovils and Mosques being built in close vicinity to each   other. Nearly every visitor to Sri Lanka begins or ends his tour to Sri Lanka   from Colombo, as the Bandaranaike International Airport is situated just 40   Kilometres away from Colombo and the harbour at the very heart of Colombo. The   bustling port of Colombo is ranked no. 01 in South Asia and no. 26 in the World.   The city premises may appear to be ridiculously small for its overflowing   population of 04 million, yet there are 15 divisions within the city limits,   named as Colombo 01, Colombo 02 etc. Many restaurants serve Local and   International food and beverages. Shopping malls offer a range of fashionable   clothing and street bazaars are found widely spread within the Colombo city   limits.

Dambulla

Located north of Kandy and considered by most to be the center point of   SriLanka, dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass 500 ft and a   World Heritage City, declared by UNESCO.It was here that King Valagambahu took   refuge in the 1st century B.C. The view from the top of this rock is   breathtaking 350 ft. above are a series of five caves which was later turned   into a magnificent rock temple by the King Valagambahu.In the first cave is   recumbent image of the Buddha 47 ft, long , cut out from the rock. There are   images of deities associated with Buddhism. The frescoes on the walls and   ceiling could be dated to the 15th – 18th centuries. In the second cave, the   finest and the largest of all are not less than 150 life size statues of gods.   There are numerous images of the Buddha as well. The ceiling too is covered with   frescoes which depict great events in the life of the Buddha, and landmarks in   the history of the Sinhala People.

Galle

Located near the southern end of the country, Galle enjoys a nice coast line.   And it’s a district that enjoys a great variance of scenarios, from beaches to   marsh lands to dry planes to hills.Located near the southern end of the country, Galle enjoys a nice coast line.   And it’s a district that enjoys a great variance of scenarios, from beaches to   marsh lands to dry planes to hills.To add to the natural beauty, Galle has a great history too. The history goes   in to King Solomon’s time. It is believed that Galle is the ancient seaport   “Tarshish”, from which king Solomon drew the ivory and other valuables. It’s   been the most prominent seaport before the western rule of the country.   Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays and Indians were doing business through   Galle port. The ‘modern’ history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first   Portuguese ship was drawn by a storm and the captain Lourenzo de Almeida came   near Galle. But he did not land. Later they occupied many Sri Lankan Coastal   towns, and by 1597, built a small fortification in Galle.

Hikkaduwa

The first area to be developed for tourism; this is still one of the most   popular of the beach resorts. Hikkaduwa is famous for its coral and sub topical   fish .The reef, which runs parallel to the shore and is only a few meters below   the water, can be investigated with snorkel and flippers, or in a glass   –bottomed boat. There are several wrecks in the area which offer interesting   dives .Scuba equipment and the services of licensed instructors are on hire from   PADI centers. A little further down the coast, there is a good surf for board   or body –surfing. There is generally a community of international surfers in   and around Hikkaduwa .

Jaffna

Jaffna is special for several reasons, one being that it was denied – or was it   spared? – Tourism for two decades. In fact more aid workers than tourists travel   to Jaffna nowadays. But after three years of ceasefire, and with the undeniable   fact that the north is a magnetic destination, this situation should change. In   anticipation, we asked our travel correspondent to pack her bag.Jaffna is special for several reasons, one being that it was denied – or was it   spared? – Tourism for two decades. In fact more aid workers than tourists travel   to Jaffna nowadays. But after three years of ceasefire, and with the undeniable   fact that the north is a magnetic destination, this situation should change. In   anticipation, we asked our travel correspondent to pack her bag.

Jaffna is many things, so many in fact that it cannot be done justice to in a   short travel article. From its rich history to colourful cultural traditions to   unique landscape to delicious mangoes and other Jaffna specialities – there is   too much to discuss. The images in my mind of Jaffna are its tall, straight   palmyrah palm trees; women riding bicycles equally straight and tall; and the   beaming unconditional smiles that readily come to people’s faces, especially if   you smile first.

Kandy

Located in the foothills of the central highlands around the banks of a   picturesque lake, steeped in history, and possessing a salubrious climate, Kandy   is Sri Lanka’s renowned second city. In many ways, however, Kandy is more   important than the true capital, for although Colombo may be the hub of commerce   and communication, it is Kandy that has always been the centre of Sri Lanka’s   rich culture and the symbol of the nation’s complex identity. Kandy is known to   most Sri Lankans as Maha Nuwara, The Great City. And great it is. The sacred   Tooth Relic of the Buddha is housed here in its own temple, and is paraded   around the city in one of Asia’s most celebrated festivals, the Kandy Perahera,   held during July-August. The monasteries of Sri Lanka’s two leading Buddhist   sects have long been established in the city. Traditions of Sinhalese music and   dance, such as Kandyan dancing, are kept alive in Kandy, as are many arts and   crafts. Little wonder, then, that Kandy was designated by UNESCO as a World   Heritage Site in 1988.

Negombo

Negombo is the major beach resort on the coast north of Colombo. Here, in an old   world atmosphere of 17th Century churches and forts; dozens and dozens of   hotels, guest houses restaurants and bars have sprung up along the beach. Beside   luxury hotels are small, very simple guest’s houses. What is left from the former   fishing village, you can explore at the Negombo lagoon with its many outrigger   canoes.Negombo is the major beach resort on the coast north of Colombo. Here, in an old   world atmosphere of 17th Century churches and forts; dozens and dozens of   hotels, guest houses restaurants and bars have sprung up along the beach. Beside   luxury hotels are small, very simple guest’s houses. What is left from the former   fishing village, you can explore at the Negombo lagoon with its many outrigger   canoes.

Negombo is situated 40 km north of Colombo, close to the   international airport. Long, palm-fringed, wide, sandy beaches are inviting for   long walks and especially for sea bathing. With its many shops, restaurant and   bars the centre of Negombo offers to the visitor many distractions. It is   worthwhile to go on a boat trip to the lagoon or one of the old canals dating   back to the Dutch colonisation.

Sigiriya

Sigiriya, in fact, should have been classed as   one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, long ago, there is however, a proposal   now to name it as the Eight Wonder of the world. Perhaps, it’s better late than   never. Sri Lanka’s ancient architectural tradition is well portrayed at   Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with   its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water   gardens, the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying   levels and of axial and radial planning. Sophisticated city planning was at the   heart of Sigiriya, this royal citadel of ancient fame from the days of Sri   Lanka’s memorable past.Sigiriya, in fact, should have been classed as   one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, long ago, there is however, a proposal   now to name it as the Eight Wonder of the world. Perhaps, it’s better late than   never. Sri Lanka’s ancient architectural tradition is well portrayed at   Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with   its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water   gardens, the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying   levels and of axial and radial planning. Sophisticated city planning was at the   heart of Sigiriya, this royal citadel of ancient fame from the days of Sri   Lanka’s memorable past.

The Complex consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the   surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares)   and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts. The plan   of the city is based on a precise square module. The layout extends outwards   from co-ordinates at the centre of the palace complex at the summit, with the   eastern and western axis directly aligned to it. The water garden moats and   ramparts are based on an ‘echo plan’ duplicating the layout and design on either   side. This city still displays its skeletal layout and its significant   features. 3 km from east to west and 1 km from north to south it displays the   grandeur and complexity of urban-planning in the 5th century in Sri Lanka.

Ella

Ella, situated at 1,050 metres, is famous for the view from its mountain gap,   its towering rock, and mysterious cave. Although Sri Lanka has many scenic   delights, there are few places to equal Ella. The view from the front garden of   the rest house is particularly awe-inspiring. The terrain falls away   precipitously down a ravine and then over miles of jungle to the shimmering   expanse of the sea in the far distance, a scene enhanced by the looming Ella   Rock on the right and a jungly ridge on the left.Ella, situated at 1,050 metres, is famous for the view from its mountain gap,   its towering rock, and mysterious cave. Although Sri Lanka has many scenic   delights, there are few places to equal Ella. The view from the front garden of   the rest house is particularly awe-inspiring. The terrain falls away   precipitously down a ravine and then over miles of jungle to the shimmering   expanse of the sea in the far distance, a scene enhanced by the looming Ella   Rock on the right and a jungly ridge on the left.

Ella Rock is remarkable for the cave popularly known as the Cave of Ravana,   because legend has it that it was here that Ravana, the demon villain of the   Ramayana, hid his captive, the beautiful Sita. Properly known as Rattaran   Guhava, it was in this cave that the Sri Lankan paleontologist, Dr Paul Deraniyagala, discovered ten skeletons of the cannibalistic Balangoda Man, Homo   sapiens balangodensis. A visit to the cave requires a rope or rope ladder for   entry as the floor is below the mouth.  The cave has not been explored beyond   the lake that fills it only a short way from the entrance.

Yala

Ruhunu (Yala West) National Park or Yala as it is popularly known – is Sri   Lanka’s most visited national park. It is situated 305 kilometres southeast of   Colombo, 10 kilometres from Tissamaharama. Apart from being renowned for the   variety of its wildlife, it has several distinctive physical features, such as   extensive scrub jungle, patches of open country, and many tanks and lagoons. In   addition, the park has a fine coastline on its eastern boundary with impressive   dunes up to 25 metres high, broad sandy beaches and offshore coral reefs. Yala   also features a number of scattered rock outcrops, some with caves.

Weather and Climate

In the lowlands the climate is typically   tropical with an average temperature of 27OC in Colombo. In the higher elevations it can be quite cool with temperatures   going down to 16OC at an altitude of nearly 2,000 metres. Bright, sunny warm   days are the rule and are common even during the height of the monsoon -   climatically Sri Lanka has no off season. The south west monsoon brings rain   mainly from May to July to the western, southern and central regions of the   island, while the north-east monsoon rains occur in the northern and eastern   regions in December and January.

9. Currency

One Sri Lankan rupee is made up of 100 cents. Currency notes are in the   denominations of Rs.10, Rs.20, Rs.50, Rs.100, Rs.200, Rs.500 and Rs. 1000. Coins   are in the following denominations: 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25   cents, 50 cents, one rupee, two rupees, five rupees and ten rupees.

 

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