Lying off the southern tip of India, the tropical island of Sri Lanka has charmed travellers for hundreds of years because of its stunning beaches, diverse landscapes and historical monuments. In the emerald-green waters of the Indian Ocean, the island country of Sri Lanka was first populated by the Sinhalese peoples from northern India.
As the European influences spread throughout southern Asia in the 16th century, it was eventually occupied by the Portuguese, and later, the Dutch in the 17th century. It eventually became a British colony in 1802. Long known as Ceylon, and as a popular port-of-call, it declared independence in 1948, subsequently changing its name to Sri Lanka in 1972.
For decades that followed, internal strife and tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists finally erupted into a civil war in 1983 where tens of thousands have died. After more than 25 years of violence, the conflict appeared to be at an end in May 2009 when government forces seized the last area controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels though social and governmental conflicts continue to fester.
Tragically, Sri Lanka, frequently referred to as the “Teardrop of India,” was itself devastated by the powerful earthquake-triggered tsunami on December 26, 2004.
Today this tropical island is again on the radar screens of worldwide travelers, as Sri Lanka, though struggling, is quickly rebuilding its infrastructure and making a strong comeback, especially in tourism.
Climate: Summer monsoons (May – October) and the winter monsoon (December – March) cover the south and southwestern parts of the island with rain, while conditions are drier central and north.
Based on its tropical latitude, Sri Lanka is hot and humid throughout the year, with daily high temperatures averaging near 84º F. From (December – February) overall conditions moderate, with average highs in the low 70’s.
• Full name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
• Population: 20.4 million (UN, 2010)
• Capital: Colombo (commercial), Sri Jayawardenepura (administrative)
• Major languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English
• Major religions: Buddhism (70%), Hinduism, Islam, Christianity
• Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 79 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: Sri Lankan rupee
• Main exports: Clothing and textiles, tea, gems, rubber, coconuts
• International dialling code: +94
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