Highlights of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most important sources of precious stones, and its gems have long been famous – indeed one of the island’s early names was Ratnadipa, 'Island of Gems'. Ratnapura district is the island’s richest source. Gem mining is still a low-tech, labour-intensive affair and the mining and sorting is traditionally carried out by the Sinhalese, though gem cutters and dealers tend to be Muslim. The most valuable precious stones found in Sri Lanka are corundums, a mineral family which includes sapphires and rubies. Sapphires range in colour from blue to as clear as a diamond.
Sri Lanka has many birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians which you can not find anywhere in the world. It's also renowned as one of the best places to watch elephants and leopards. In August and September, one can see the highest concentration of elephants during ‘The Gathering’ a seasonal event in Minneriya National Park. In Yala National Park leopards are as high as one per square kilometer. During January-April blue whales can be seen off the shores of the south coast. Sinharaja, the tropical rainforest of the country is the place to glue one’s eyes on to the world’s largest mixed species of birds flocking together.
The world's oldest and most holistic medical system has been practiced for centuries in Sri Lanka. Its roots reach back deep into Indian history – descriptions of a basic kind of Ayurvedic medical theory are found as far back as the second millennium BC. Today it is an experience that is increasingly sought after by tourists. Fortunately, Sri Lanka is a specific destination for Ayurvedic treatment, available in numerous, stylish spas, many of which offer a range of diverse holistic treatments. Retreats are also very popular, programmes consist of a range of herbal treatments and massages in combination with cleansing and revitalisation techniques including yoga, meditation, diet and abstention from alcohol.
During early historical times Sri Lanka known as Taprobane, was world renowned for its quality spices. During ancient times the Greeks, Romans and the Arabic maintained their links with Sri Lanka through the spice trade. Visit a spice garden, where smells of cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, nutmeg and turmeric overwhelm the senses and gain insight into an age old industry of spice production.
Sri Lanka is a paradise of unlimited sun, sea, sand and surf all year around. The Indian Ocean is clear, blue and a warm 27 degrees. Sri Lanka is blessed with a 1340 km coastline around the country. Each beach has its own distinctive character and highlights and all are within easy reach of the capital. It's no doubt that you will be spoilt for choice in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is a multi-religious and multi-cultural country with a population of nearly 21 million people living together in harmony. Nearly three quarters of the population is Sinhalese the major ethnic community. The other main ethnic group today is Tamils. Then there are Muslims, the Malays and Chinese along with the Dutch Burghers living in this country.
Some of the finest teas in the world are produced in the hill country where you can witness a green carpet of thousands of hectares of beautiful tea estates. Visit a tea factory during a trip in the tea region and watch how tea is picked, dried, crushed, fermented, and fired using machinery that has remained largely unchanged since Victorian times.
Sri Lanka has astonishing eight world heritage sites within its small land territory. Six of them are cultural sites which are testament to a great civilization with over 2000 years of recorded history and the seventh and eighth are natural sites which boast some of the highest biodiversity found outside the Amason basin. Experiencing Sri Lanka's heritage sites takes you on a spiritual journey that will uplift and amaze, inspire and refresh.
Sri Lanka's civilization endows the island with a legacy of impressive festivals relating to the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions. Sri Lanka probably has more festival days than anywhere else in the world. The current Sri Lanka calendar lists 29 public holidays for the year, more than any other country and only exceeded by some parts of Australia.
One of the unquestionable highlights of touring Sri Lanka is a journey by rail. The network is extensive and links many of the country’s must-see destinations. The railway contains some of the most magnificent scenic rail routes in the world, winding its way through mountain paths, forests, misty peaks and precipices, as well as tea estates, remote villages and spectacular waterfalls, there is arguably no better or more relaxing way to experience this incredible country.