SRI LANKA - Wonder of Asia

After years of being seemingly overlooked by travellers heading elsewhere, Sri Lanka is now becoming a popular destination of choice and it’s not hard to see why. Sri Lanka is a small but diverse country with plenty of charm; from pristine beaches and incredible wildlife to famous tea and ancient ruins. Even better, distances are short, which make it easier to discover lots in a shorter space of time than, for instance, its neighbouring country, India.

Sri Lanka is known as both the ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’ and the ‘teardrop of India’ due to its shape. Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest tea exporters. Because the country has lots of waterfalls, most of Sri Lanka’s electricity is powered by hydro-powered energy. The spice cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka and was discovered by the Egyptians. 92% of people living in the country are literate which means that they boast the highest literacy rate in the whole of South Asia. Sri Lanka’s national flag is said to be one of the oldest flags in the world.

History: Indo-Aryan emigration from India in the 5th century B.C. came to form the largest ethnic group on Sri Lanka today, the Sinhalese. Tamils, the second-largest ethnic group on the island, were originally from the Tamil region of India and emigrated between the 3rd century B.C. and A.D. 1200. Until colonial powers controlled Ceylon (the country's name until 1972), Sinhalese and Tamil rulers fought for dominance over the island. The Tamils, primarily Hindus, claimed the northern section of the island and the Sinhalese, who are predominantly Buddhist, controlled the south. In 1505 the Portuguese took possession of Ceylon until the Dutch India Company usurped control (1658–1796). The British took over in 1796, and Ceylon became an English Crown colony in 1802. The British developed coffee, tea, and rubber plantations. On Feb. 4, 1948, after pressure from Ceylonese nationalist leaders (which briefly unified the Tamil and Sinhalese), Ceylon became a self-governing dominion of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Geography: Geographical coordinates – 7 N & 81 E
Lying a few degrees north of the Equator, Sri Lanka is slightly smaller than Ireland and a little larger than the US state of West Virginia. Lying a few degrees north of the Equator, Sri Lanka is slightly smaller than Ireland and a little larger than the US state of West Virginia. The main island of Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, is an island in the Indian Ocean belongs to Sri Lanka, located in Southern Asia, southeast of India, in a strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes. It has a total area of 65,610 km², with 64,740 km² of land and 870 km² of water. Its coastline is 1,340 km long.

Adam's Bridge, a land connection to the Indian mainland, is now mostly submerged with only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level. According to temple records, this natural causeway was formerly complete, but was breached by a violent storm (probably a cyclone) in 1480. The formation is also known as Rama's Bridge, as according to Hindu mythology, it was constructed during the rule of Lord Rama.

Weather: Sri Lanka's climate can be described as tropical, and quite hot. Its position between 5 and 10 north latitude endows the country with year-round warm weather, moderated by ocean winds and considerable moisture. The mean temperature ranges from a low of 16 °C (60.8 °F) in Nuwara Eliya in the Central Highlands (where frost may occur for several days in the winter) to a high of 32 °C (89.6 °F) in Trincomalee on the northeast coast (where temperatures may reach 38 °C or 100.4 °F). The average yearly temperature for the country as a whole ranges from 28 to 30 °C (82.4 to 86.0 °F). Day and night temperatures may vary by 4 to 7 °C (7.2 to 12.6 °F). January is the coolest month, especially in the highlands, where overnight temperatures may fall to 5 °C (41 °F). May, the hottest period, precedes the summer monsoon rains.

The rainfall pattern is influenced by the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal and is marked by four seasons. The first is from mid-May to October, when winds originate in the southwest, bringing moisture from the Indian Ocean. When these winds encounter the slopes of the Central Highlands, they unload heavy rains on the mountain slopes and the southwestern sector of the island. Some of the windward slopes receive up to 2,500 mm (98.4 in) of rain per month, but the leeward slopes in the east and northeast receive little rain. The second season occurs in October and November, the intermonsoonal months. During this season, periodic squalls occur and sometimes tropical cyclones bring overcast skies and rains to the southwest, northeast, and eastern parts of the island. During the third season, December to March, monsoon winds come from the northeast, bringing moisture from the Bay of Bengal. The northeastern slopes of the mountains may be inundated with up to 1,250 mm (49.2 in) of rain during these months. Another intermonsoonal period occurs from March until mid-May, with light, variable winds and evening thundershowers.

Capital: Colombo

Population: 22 million as per 2012 count. The country has a population growth rate of 0.913%

Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee. Exchange rate against US$ is 132.32 Sri Lankan Rupees

Language: Largely Sinhalese with some Tamil

Time zone: GMT + 5.30 hours

Visa: Requires entry visa for most nationalities. Visa application can be submitted on line.