Top events in Sri Lanka

May
14

Poya holidays take place in Sri Lanka every full moon, but the most important of them is Vesak Poya in May. It’s a chance for Buddhists to...

July
01

For five days between July and August, the lively beach town of Hikkaduwa is given over to this popular festival. Expect international DJs, Sri...

July
01

The remote town of Kataragama is one of the most venerated religious sites in Sri Lanka, and its annual festival is a true feast for the senses....

Ruins on top of Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka
Pin This
Open Media Gallery

Ruins on top of Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

© 123rf.com / Valery Shanin

Sri Lanka Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

65,610 sq km (25,332 sq miles).

Population

21.7 million (2013).

Population density

330.4 per sq km.

Capital

Colombo.

Government

Republic. Gained independence from the UK in 1948.

Head of state

President Mahinda Rajapaksa since 2005.

Head of government

Prime Minister D M Jayaratne since 2010.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz. Round and square three-pin plugs are used.

Southern India meets Buddhist Asia; Sri Lanka is a land of ancient ruins and religious relics, palm-fringed beaches and colourful reefs, balmy rainforests and local legends.

With memories of civil war receding, and a new government intent on healing the scars of the past, this sun-kissed island nation looks set to regain its position as the holiday capital of the Indian Ocean.

Life in Sri Lanka is dictated by the sea. Monsoon winds create the seasons, rainbow-coloured fishing boats deliver the bounty of the Indian Ocean to the nation’s tables and tropical surf washes endlessly against the island’s golden beaches. For many, this is the perfect introduction to the Indian Subcontinent.

While Hinduism holds sway in nearby India, Buddhism dominates Sri Lanka. Ancient temples and enigmatic dagobas (stupas) enshrine relics of Buddha, shaded by saplings taken from the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. At times, Sri Lanka’s Hindu, Christian and Buddhist minorities have struggled in the face of Buddhist domination, but it has shaped this island nation for millennia.

Across Sri Lanka, the ruins of ancient cities emerge from the jungle, while the remnants of Indian, Portuguese, Dutch and British settlements add to the delightful mishmash of historic architecture. Perhaps the most evocative monuments are Sri Lanka’s ancient monasteries, which are still major centres for pilgrimage and devotion, particularly during the island’s epic festivals.

In the Hill Country, the centre of the British occupation, colonial-era trains still wind their way through tea plantations and cascading paddy fields, but this highly populated little island is far from frozen in time: the coastline is peppered with modern resorts, beach bars, bronzed surfers and boutiques full of designer swimwear.

Elsewhere the forests of Yala, Udawalawe and other national parks teem with monkeys, leopards and wild elephants, while sea turtles, dolphins and blue whales can be spotted around the coast. Not bad for an island similar in size to South Carolina.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 05 May 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriate and foreign travellers.

The military conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, commonly known as ‘the Tamil Tigers’) ended in May 2009. In 2011 the State of Emergency and the Emergency Regulations were lifted, but there remains a heightened level of security in some parts of the country. In April 2014, the Sri Lankan military shot dead three alleged LTTE operatives in Nedunkerni (Vavuniya).

You should be vigilant. Avoid military areas and High Security Zones. Always carry formal photographic identification with you. Stop and show your ID when asked to do so. The Sri Lankan Prevention of Terrorism Act permits prolonged detention without charge or trial. If you are detained, you should ask the authorities to contact the British High Commission.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Newsletter