Lanka's official name is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri
(formerly Ceylon) is an independent Island-nation. It is one
of the largest islands in the India Ocean and lies approximately 20
miles to the South East of the Southern-most tip of India. The
narrow Palk Strait divides Sri Lanka form India. 25,332 square
miles in extent it is approximately the same size as West Virginia
in the USA.
history of Sri Lanka goes back to the pre-historic times with a
recorded history of over 2000 years. Recent excavations show
that even during the Neolithic Age in Sri Lanka, there were
food-gatherers and rice cultivators. Very little is known of
this period and documented history began with the arrival of the
settlers from North India. They introduced the use of
agriculture through a rudimentary system of irrigation. They
also introduced the art of government. Of the ancient
settlements, Anuradhapura grew into a powerful kingdom under the
rule of Pandukabhaya. According to traditional history, he is
accepted as the founder of Anuradhapura.
region of King Devanampiya Tissa, a descendant of Pandukabhaya,
Buddhism was introduced in 247 B.C. by Arahat Mahinda, the son of
Emperor Asoka of India. This is an important event in Sri
Lankan history as it made the country predominantly Buddhist
influencing its way of life and culture.
In the mid
2nd century B.C. a large part of North Sri Lanka came under the rule
of an invader from South India. From the beginning of the
Christian era and up to the end of the 4th century A.D. Sri Lanka
was governed by an unbroken dynasty called Lambakarna, which paid
great attention to the development of irrigation. A great king
of this dynasty was King Mahasen (3rd century A.D.) who started the
construction of large 'tanks' (reservoirs) which in turn fed smaller
reservoirs. Another great 'tank' builder was Dhatusena, who
was put to death by his son Kasyapa, who made Sigiriya a royal city
with his fortress capital on the summit of the rock.
result of invasions from South India the Kingdom of Anuradhapura
fell by the end of the 10th century A.D. Vijayabahu I - repulsed the
invaders and established his capital at Polonnaruwa in the 11th
century A.D. Other great kings of Polonnaruwa were Parakrama
Bahu the Great and Nissanka Malla, both of whom adorned the city
with numerous buildings of architectural beauty.
continued intermittently and the capital was moved constantly until
the Portugese arrived in 1505, when the chief city was esetablished
in Kotte, in the western lowlands. The Portugese came to trade
in spices, but stayed to rule until 1658 in the coastal regions, as
did the Dutch thereafter. Dutch rule lasted from 1658 to 1796,
in which year they were displaced by the British. During this
period the highland kingdom, with its capital Kandy, retained its
independence despite repeated assaults by foreign powers who ruled
the rest of the country. In 1815 the Kingdom of Kandy was
ceded to the British who thus established their rule over the whole
island. Modern communications, western medical services,
education in English, as well as the plantation industry (first
coffee, then tea, rubber and coconut) developed during British
rule. By a process of peaceful constitutional evolution, Sri
Lanka won back her independence in 1948 and is now a sovereign
republic, with membership in the United Nations Organization (in
1955), the Commonwealth and various other international and regional
Heritage Sites: Culminating from the rich, diverse, cultural and
historical heritage, UNESCO has designated seven sites as UNESCO
World Heritage Sites. They include the ancient cities of
Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Dambulla Rock Temple, the Galle
Fort and the Citadel Kingdom of Sigiriya.
Lanka Travel Guide
Distance from Colombo: 35 km
A characteristic fishing town north of Colombo, it is a mere 6
km from the international airport. Set amid lush groves of
coconut palms, it breathes the spirit of the sea. Negombo is a
gourmet's paradise with seafood in plenty. Old world fishing
craft, like the outrigger canoe and the catamaran, bring seer,
skipjack, herring and mullet, pomfret and amber jack, while lobster
and prawn are caught in the lagoon.
Distance from Colombo: 12 km
South of Colombo, Mount Lavinia is an immediate city suburb, and
the beach was one of the better known, even in colonial times.
It lies alongside a wind-swept headland jutting into the waters of
the Indian Ocean. The Governor's House, built in 1805 by Sir
Thomas Maitland, now forms part of the Mount Lavinia Hotel.
Distance from Colombo: 55 km
South of Colombo, Berula marks the beginning of a 130 km-stretch
of beaches, where resort development has made immense strides in
recent years. Good bathing in the bay all year round.
Distance from Colombo: 64 km
South of Colombo, the Bentota Resort Complex is a romantic
rendezvous of river and sea with several resort hotels.
Distance from Colombo: 99 km
South of Colombo, Hikkaduwa is the place for underwater
delights. It is the site of the famed coral gardens - hire a
glass-bottomed boat, or goggles and flippers.
Distance from Colombo: 116 km
South of Colombo, Galle is the most important southern
town. It has an old-world charm. Believed to be the
"Tarshish of the Bible", its natural harbor was a famous
fort in days gone by. Galle is famous for its Dutch fort, lace
making, ebony carving and gem polishing.
Lanka Travel Guide
Situated 309 km south of Colombo, Yala is approximately 1,259 km in
extent and is located in the south eastern corner of the
island. Its northern boundaries border the Lahugala Elephant
Sanctuary and it has the added bonus of a scenic ocean frontage.
terrain is varied - flat plains alternating with rocky
outcrops. The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense
jungle. Water holes, small lakes, lagoons and streams provide
water for the animals and birds. The specialty here is the
large number of elephants.
Situated 170 km southeast of Colombo, the Uda Walawe National Park
is approximately 30,821 hectares in extent. This park - which
lies within the Ratnapura and Monaragala Districts - acts as the
catchment to the Uda Walawe Reservoir and is located in the Dry
Zone. It comprises grasslands, thorn scrubs, and many valuable
species of trees.
Horton Plains National Park is the only nations park situation in
the hill country. It falls within the Nuwara Eliya district
-200 km away from Colombo. The panoramic beauty of the hill
country is witnessed within the park. Endemic slender loris
and endemic purple monkeys are among the animal species that can be
Bundala National Park is the latest addition to Sri Lanka's national
parks and is situated 260 km from Colombo. All species of
waterbirds reside in the country and migrant birds inhabit this
Situated at Inginiyagala, the Gal Oya National Park is 314 km from
Colombo. It is most renowned for its elephant population.
Situated approximately 200 km away from Colombo, the Wasgamuwa
National Park lies within the Polonnaruwa and Matale
Districts. It has the Mahaweli and Amban Rivers at its eastern
and western borders. A tropical, evergreen forest predominates
sanctuaries at Kumana, 312 km from Colombo, Wirawila 261 km, Bundala
259 km, and Kalametiya 224 km, are all lagoon locations in Sri
Lanka's extreme south eastern coast. The coastal sanctuaries
are exotically picturesque with combinations of lagoon, swamp,
river, jungle, lake and plain. Large flocks can be found here
of both resident and migrant aquatic birds.
11 km from the Fort, the zoo has a fine collection of animals,
birds, reptiles and fish from all over the world. The aquarium
is the only one of its kind in Asia and displays over 500 varieties
of aquatic life. Also walk through Aviary, Reptilium, and
Lanka Travel Guide
Colombo is a fascinating city, not only for its comfortable blend of
East and West, but also for its cozy mixture of the past and
present. It is the commercial capital of the country, and is
only 34 kilometers from the international airport.
Buddhist temples, Hindu temples, churches, the old parliament
building, the zoo, museums, and art galleries.
Distance from Colombo: 116 km
Sri Lanka's hill capital is, perhaps, its most beautiful
town. It is 488 meters above sea level, and next to Colombo,
is Sri Lanka's most visited place. The focal point of the town
is the golden-roofed Dalada Mailgawa, where the sacred tooth relic
of the Buddha is enshrined. The highlight of the year is the
Esala Perahera, when a replica of the relic casket is taken in
procession, accompanied by exotically costumed dancers, drummers and
some 100 elephants during ten glittering nights in
July/August. There are numerous shrines and temples in and
around Kandy, where you will see rare paintings, frescoes, and stone
the Peradeniya Gardens, with its amazing variety of trees, plants
and flowers. Kandy is an exciting place for shopping, with
souvenirs in wood, copper, silver, brass, ebony, and bronze.
Ceramics, lacquer work, handlooms, batiks, jewellery and rush and
reed-ware can also be purchased.
Distance from Colombo: 180 km
Set in the heart of tea-country, this beautiful town is where
the British succeeded in created an English countryside, with homes
in styles from Georgian to Queen Anne. Well-kept lawns with
hedges, and Anglican church, and the famous golf course and
beautiful parks give the place an air of nostalgia. Situated
1,890 meters above sea level, the air is cool and fresh - a serene
retreat from the hustle and bustle of Colombo.
Nuwara Eliya is Horton Plains, Sri Lanka's highest and most isolated
plateau. Nature lovers will revel in this wide, patna-grass
covered plain, the haunt of many wild, yet harmless, animals and the
home of many species of birds. Bridle paths will takey ou to
the precipice known as World's End - a sheer drop of 1,050
meters. Acres and acres of tea with its lush green foliage
extend miles across the hills, and no visit to the hill country is
complete without a visit to a tea estate, and the chance to purchase
some of the worlds finest flavored tea.
Distance from Colombo: 101 km
Sri Lanka's "City of Gems" and the center of its
gemming industry. Gems include sapphire, ruby, cat's eye,
alexandrite, topaz, amethyst, aquamarine, tourmaline, garnet and
zircon. Visits to gem mines can be arranged thorugh travel
agents. Gem collections can be seen at the National Museum,
Ratnapura, and a number of private museums.
Distance from Colombo: 206 km
Sri Lanka's first capital is situated in the dry zone. It
is one of Sri Lanka's premier ancient cities.
The sacred Bo Tree, many temples, Brazen Palace, Samadhi Buddha,
Kuttam Pokuna, and Mihintale (12 km from Anuradhapura) - a rock
dotted with sphrines and dweelings - a grand stairway of 1,840 steps
made of granite slabs, leads to a summit with a splendid view of the
Distance from Colombo: 216 km
The island's medieval capital rose to fame after Anuradhapura's
decline. The largest of its many man-made reservoirs, the
Parakrama Samudra is larger than the Colombo harbor.
Ruins of the king's council chamber, the Royal Citadel, the Kumara
Pokuna, the Royal Pavilion, the Vatadage Relic House (which is
lavished with moonstones, guardstones, and a sculptured railing),
Kiri Vehera, and Gal Vihare.
Distance from Colombo: 169 km
This rock fortress was a royal citadel for more than 18
years. In a sheltered pocket, approached by a spiral stairway,
are the famous frescoes. The summit of the rock, with a area
of nearly one hectare, was the site of the old palace - the outer
wall of which was built on the very brink of the precipice.
The UNESCO-sponsored Central Cultural Fund has restored Sigiriya's
5th century Water Gardens to its former glory.
DIstance from Colombo: 148 km
Like Sigiriya, Damulla is a vast isolated rock mass, which
houses a rock temple (formerly caves). Some of its frescoes
are over 2,000 years old - and there is a colossal figure of the
recumbent Buddha carved out of the rock, some 14 meters long.
Situated in Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 7. It is the
first public museum to be established in Sri Lanka (1877).
Best known for its collection of antiques and objects displaying the
cultural heritage of Sri Lanka, including national treasures of
artifacts from all parts of the island. A section of the first
floor houses the Puppetry and Children's Museum. It also
houses a library with a collection of about 500,000 books, and more
than 4,000 ancient palm leaf manuscripts. (Tel. 694767-8)
Museum of Natural History
Situated in the same premises as the Cultural Museum, it is also
accessible from Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7.
Displays the Natural Heritage of Sri Lanka. Fauna are
displayed in dioramas, and there are sections on applied botany,
geology and fossils and the natural environment.
Discovery Room one finds the mounted skeleton of an elephant and a
scale model in relief showing the topography of a part of Sri
Lanka. (Tel: 694767-8)
Situated at Kimara Weediya, Pettah, Colombo 11, the old "Dutch
House" in Prince Street, Pettah, which houses this museum was
built in the latter part of the 17th century. It was the
residence of Count August Carl Van Ranzow. Today, the sides of
the street are filled with boutique and stores of traders.
This building embodies the unique architectural features of a
colonial Dutch townhouse. The museum, while displaying the
Dutch legacy with artifacts - viz. furniture, ceramics, coins, arms,
etc. - portrays facets of contemporary life and culture. (Tel:
Lanka Travel Guide
Situated behind the Temple of the Tooth, in a building of historical
and architectural interest. Its collections are all of the
Kandyan period in the 17th-18th Century. (Tel: 08 223867)
The National Museum, Ratnapura, is housed in the famous Ehelapola
Walauwa, on the Colombo Road in Ratnapura. The museum displays
the prehistory of Sri Lanka. Ratnapura being famous for gems,
the process of gem-mining is displayed through a model. Some
of the artifacts displayed here reflect the unique arts and culture
of the Sabaragamuwa Province. (Tel: 045 22451)
The Fold Museum is in the sacred city close to the Archaeological
Museum. It houses a collection of artifacts which illustrate
the rural life of the North Central Province. (Tel: 025 22589)
Within the Fort of Galle, in a Dutch Colonial building in Church
Street, is the Cultural Museum adjoining the New Oriental
Hotel. Its artifacts reflect the culture of the Southern
Province. (Tel: 09 32051)
National Maritime Museum, Galle
Located within the Galle Fort in a colonial Dutch warehouse with
imposing pillars, this museum displays the fauna and flora of the
sea and the environment. Artifacts consist of preserved
material and scale models of whales and fish. (Tel: 09 42261)
The Art Gallery at Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, COlombo 7,
caters to conservative tastes in paintings. (Tel: 693965)
Wendt Art Gallery
The Lionel Wendt Art Gallery at Guildford Crescent, Colombo 7,
displays contemporary paintings. (Tel: 659794)
Kalagaraya, the permanent art gallery of the Alliance Francaise de
Colombo, is located at 54, Ward Place, Colombo 7, and displays a
representative collection of contemporary art.
The Sapumal Foundation Gallery at 32/4, Barnes Place, Colombo 7,
displays and sells Sri Lankan paintings from 1920 onwards. (Tel:
Lanka Travel Guide
The sheer variety of topography, ecology and cultural diversity that
is found in Sri Lanka sets the island apart from many other travel
destinations in the world. Indeed, the country can boast of
every conceivable landscape other than snow-capped habitats.
From golden beaches caressed by the Indian Ocean, the island's
multitudinous layers slope upwards for form plains, paddy fields and
dense forests. Streams cascade into waterfalls and rapids to
become sedate rivers before they flow into the open expanses of the
country with one of the highest population densities in the world,
Sri Lanka is also remarkable in that 13 percent of its land area is
designated for wildlife and nature conservation. In the annals
of time, the world's first recorded wildlife sanctuary was declared
in 3BC at Mihintale. UNESCO has declared seven World Heritage
Sites in Sri Lanka, one of which - the Dutch fortification at Galle
- is a living World Heritage Site.
known species of butterflies, 435 recorded birds, 92 species of
mammals, 107 species of fish, 54 species of amphibia, 74 species of
tetrapod reptiles and 81 species of snakes, Sri Lanka is set apart
as one of the most biodiverse eco-travel destinations in the world.
Sri Lanka has something to offer everyone. On the adventure
side of eco-tourism, it has the potential to become one of the great
adventure destinations in the world. A rocky, mountainous core
rises in three peneplains, or steps, from the center of the
island. Sheer rock faces abound in an island dissected with
ridges and moutain ranges. No less than 103 rivers cascade
down to the ocean, allowing plenty of scope for canoeing and
whitewater rafting. Anything from easy, grade one stretches,
to hair-raising grade six rapids, to make even a seasoned rafter's
heart pump fast, is available. Sri Lanka's potential for
scuba diving is probably understated. In addition to the
well=known reefs, several others lie unexplored, off the routine
probably in trekking that Sri Lanka has the potential to stake a
claim as a premier soft-adventure destination. Being a
relatively compact island, it is not too difficult to design a
trekking circuit that will run from the cool highlands to the humid,
lowland rain-forests, or the parched dry-lowlands dotted with
ancient lakes and the remains of great ancient
civilizations. A trek can start at altitudes where
temperatures drop below freezing, and end only a few days later, in
an almost desert-like environment. The mountainous core and
two seasonal monsoons work to produce markedly different climatic
zones in a relatively small area. Trekkers can experience
montane forests, alpine grasslands, tea estates, paddy fields and
scrub jungles, all in the space of a week.
forested areas, migratory tree warblers, thrushes and cuckoos can be
found. Reservoirs in the dry zone attract numerous types of
ducks, whilst large water birds - including storks, herons and
egrets - can be easily spotted in areas such as Bundala, Kalametiya
and Wirawila in the extreme south-eastern coast. The eastern
lagoons in the island, particularly Bundala, are especially famous
for migrating flocks of flamingos.
Of the 92 species of mammals in Sri Lanka, 14 of which are endemic,
pride of place goes to the majestic elephant. Although rapid
destruction of its habitat has affected the elephant population,
sizeable numbers can be seen in Gal Oya, Udawalawe National Park and
the Kaudulla Minneriya Forest Complex. The Elephant Orphanage,
situated at Pinnawela, was the world's first sanctuary for lost and
human encroachment, the island's biggest cat - the leopard-
continues to prowl the remaining small forest areas. Many
species of deer - the Sambar, the Hog Deer and the Mouse Deer - as
well as the Sloth Bear, can be found in the Parks. Other
mammals such as the Wild Boar, Porcupine and Monkey - especially the
Grey Mangu - are common throughout the island. In the
north-western seagrass beds, the protected Dugong can still be
spotted. The Bear Monkey, a sub-species of the endemic
Purple-faced Leaf Monkey is confined to the montage region,
whilst the others are found across the humid areas of the
country. The highest endemic number of mammals in Sri Lanka
are amongst the shrews, and the largest group of mammals -
consisting of 36 species - are bats.
To the naturalist, Sri Lanka offers a tantalizing array of
interesting and unique butterfly forms. Of the 242 known
species, 42 are endemic to the island. Butterflies are found
in the lower foothill regions 9up to 910 meters) and a few (six
species) can be glimpsed at about 1,210 meters. Most species
are closely associated with medicinal plants which are used by the
butterfly larvae as sources of food. A spectacular scene is
the seasonal migration during March and April when tradition has it
that they fly towards "Samanala Kande" (Butterfly Peak),
the local name for the mountain more commonly known as "Sri
Pada" or "Adam's Peak".
With cascading waterfalls and as many as 103 rivers, all major
groups of vertebrates can be found in Sri Lanka. Of these, the
highest endemic species are found in the amphibian and reptile
group. Most of the 107 species of fish are marsh and river
dwelling, the 39 endemic species - the Carplet group - being
restricted to the perennial streams of the wet zone. The
British introduced trout into the clear, cold streams of Horton
Plains. Of the 54 species of amphibia, 33 are endemic to the
island. According to ongoing research, the largest number of
endemic amphibian fauna in the world may soon be found in Sri
Lanka. One endemic genus, the Nannophyrus, with three species,
is common on the wet zone living on rock ledges, covered by a
continuous trickle of water, and sharing the same habitat with
Ayurveda is nature's way of caring and curing. The preparation
of ayurvedic medication is usually a long process with ingredients
being ground in a pestle for a prescribed period of time.
Juices and extracts of plants are simmered until they reduce to a
fraction of their original volume. Besides decoctions, wines,
pills and powders for internal use, ayurveda also uses poultices,
pastes, ointments and oils for external application. The
methods of ayurvedic treatment vary from steam baths to massages,
and recommended codes for healthy living which include dietary and
socio-cultural practices. Ayurveda is a cure for a lifetime
and a way of life. Generations of Sri Lankans continue to use
these age-old remedies, living to a ripe old age in excellent
physical and mental condition. Together with its meditative
aspects, ayurveda is a gentle and relaxed treatment for both mind
and body resulting in tranquility, zest and energy.
It is almost 125 years since the Royal Colombo Golf Club was
inaugurated. The stone was laid and a course was built on the
Galle Face esplanade. The Royal Colombo is the second oldest
Royal Golf Club outside the British Isles, with the Royal Calcutta
Golf Club established 175 years ago identified as the oldest.
During this period of time, every imaginable game was played on
Galle Face and the playing area was so impossibly crowded, that golf
was getting choked due to unlawful encroachment.
the Colonial Secretary, a rabid golfer himself, moved in and brought
immense relief to all golfers when, in consultation with Governor
Sir Joseph West Ridgeway, he offered the Alfred Model Farm - named
after the son of Queen Victoria - to the Golf Club. In
December 1896, the course was opened by Governor Ridgeway and since
then the Royal Colombo Golf Club course has been named Ridgeways,
and today, after much restructuring, the course is an absolute
beauty comparable with the best in the region.
Victoria Golf Club at Digana can also match any course in the
region, and when the Pelawatte Course is ready, Sri Lanka will have
four courses to accommodate the present increasing demand for
Eliya Golf Club has been redeveloped with tremendous changes to the
fairways and greens. The landscaping is splendid, and the
accommodation and restaurant have been jazzed up, assuring golfers
of a pleasant and friendly service.
showpiece remains the Royal Colombo Golf Club, which has been
redesigned by architects of world repute, Donald Steel and Martin
Ebert. The course is absolutely beautiful and the Club House
is studded with comfortable and roomy foyers, a spacious Coffee Shop
and much privacy in a fine Dining Room named Ridgeways.
Every since Sri Lanka became World Champions, in 1996, cricket has
been more than just a game for Sri Lankans. While the game
itself is played on every available strip of land, the exploits of
the national team are followed by virtually the entire
population. Sri Lanka crick's superstars, such as Sanath
Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan, are heroes to almost every
schoolboy in the country.
now big business in Sri Lanka, with the bet teams in the world
touring the country on a regular basis. And, with these teams
come their bands of traveling supporters. Sri Lanka Tourism
has been restructuring itself to cater to this new sports-tourist,
with new facilities being developed in the vicinity of the nation's
international sports stadiums - in Colombo, Kandy, Galle, and most
recently, in Dambulla.
Flag (Sinha Kodiya) of Sri Lanka
The National Flag of Sri Lanka
Lanka Travel Guide
The original Lion Flag has existed since ancient times, and is said
by some, to be the oldest flag or banner in the world, over 2500
years old. Legend has it that it was brought to Sri Lanka by
Prince Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhala race and used subsequently
by Sri Lanka's monarch including the warrior King Dutugemunu in the
2nd century, and the King of Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte; until it was
finally lowered in the Hill Capital of Kandy in March 1815, when the
last king Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe was captured and Sri Lanka came
under British rule.
gained independence in 1948 within the British Commonwealth; and
once again the ancient Lion Flag was hoisted alongside the Union
Jack as a symbol of the transfer of power from Britain to Ceylon
The original royal Sinhala banner of a golden lion bearing a sword
in its right paw, on a crimson background, now stands for a Sinhala
majority. Representing the minorities are two vertical stripes
of equal size in the ratio of 1:7 of the entire flag. These
stripes also symbolize national unity. The whole flag is
enclosed by a yellow border except the hoist. The saffron
stripe represents the Tamils and the green stripe represents the
Muslims. The border around the flag represents other minor
stylized Bo leaves is a heraldic motif denoting Sri Lanka as a
Buddhist country, with a love of peace and respect for
religion. Today, the four leaves represent the four important
religions of Sri Lanka - Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and
Christianity. The crimson background indicates perserverance
and self-sacrifice. The lion as King of the Beasts and Lord of
the Jungle indicates power, prestige and forthrightness. The
raised tail stands for fearless determination in ensuring that right
is might. The sword depicts Justice.
flag of Sri Lanka today is a blend of old and new. The lion
symbol occupies a pride of place in all national affairs. It
is derived from the ancient name of the Island - Sinhale; and has
greater significance in that the "Lion" King Sinha (Prince
Vijaya's father) was the father of the Sinhala race. Cultural
artifacts such as the sacred and ornamental sculptures;
architecture; the gold coinage of the era of Parakramabahu the
Great; literature of the Sri Jayewardenaura Kotte, all stress the
importance of the lion.
sacred in its antiquity, is the nation's inspiration to strive
incessantly for all that is good and noble.
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Lanka Travel Guide
provided by the Sri Lanka Embassy.