Dubbed 'The Pearl of the Indian Ocean' for its natural beauty, Sri Lanka's most famous expatriate resident, author Sir Authur C. Clarke, once remarked that the island nation was the best place in the world from which to view the universe.
The country has one of the longest documented histories in the world spanning three millennium. Whether it is the ruins of ancient capitals, unique culture and arts, or peaceful highland retreats that attract you to the country, Sri Lanka is a gem of a journey waiting to be made.
Laying in the path of the major sea routes criss crossing the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka was an ancient trading post frequented by merchant ships from exotic lands.Despite influences from its Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial past, the country has managed to retain much of its unique sense of self.
The quality of cinnamon and Ceylon tea, called after the country's British crown colonial name, are both recognised by connoisseurs worldwide as being the highest grade available.Both plants are still widely cultivated on the island, with some sprawling estates opening up their gates to the public for visitors to learn about the history and experience the traditions behind the island's most well known crops.
Sri Lanka boasts numerous Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques, Hindu temples, and Catholic churches spread throughout the island.
A country steeped in faith, Buddhists here observe Poya Days, fasting days which fall on the full moon of every month. On this day, most shops and businesses are closed, and the sale of meat and alcohol is forbidden. The focal point of Buddhism on the island is Sri Dalada Maligawa - Temple of the Tooth - located in the central province of Kandy, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the spiritual heart of the country.
The royal palace complex which houses the temple also features many other attractions including the National Museum of Kandy. For visitors seeking a deeper understanding of the religion, monasteries and meditation centres around the country offer courses in meditation and classes in Buddhism.
The teardrop-shaped island is home to cornucopian biodiversity protected in over 20 national parks, with a third of the country covered in forests or designated as reserves.
Herds of elephant, deer, and peacock call Yala National Park, the country's largest, their home. In the north east, Wilpattu National Park preserves the wetland habitats of many water birds such as storks, pelicans, spoonbills and ibis.
For animal lovers, wildlife safaris in Sri Lanka offer an up close and personal experience to observe the eighty-some mammals that roam the reserves, including solitary leopards, potbellied langur monkeys, and tame sloth bears.
The country's two marine sanctuaries, Hikkaduwa National Park in the southern province and Pigeon Island, off the coast of Nilaveli in the eastern province, are popular dive sites for Cousteau-ians, with colourful coral reef fringes and regular sightings of dugongs, sea turtles, and blacktip reef sharks.
If walking or driving just isn't good enough, a ride in a hot air balloon is a different way to see Sri Lanka, floating past verdant rolling hills, towering waterfalls, and frothy river rapids, with the magical Indian Ocean sparkling in the distance.
A holiday in Sri Lanka allows visitors to explore the country's varied attractions, from colonial heritage cities to archeological sites and natural magnificence. Holidaying in a Ceylonian villa lets travellers experience a culture that is thousands of years old during the day, and return in the evenings to a luxury residence with all the comforts of the modern world to recharge for another day of enchanting adventures ahead.
Flights from many European and Asian countries land at Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayaka, 22 kilometres north of Colombo. A seaplane service offers a bird's eye view of the island while transporting its guests to a handful of popular destinations such as Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, and Galle, most of the time landing on picturesque lakes.
The best way to see the country's breathtaking landscapes is on its railway tracks. The 300km route from Colombo to Badulla is one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, passing paddy fields, valleys, tunnels, rivers, and verdant tea country. Book the special first-class observatory carriage in advance to take in the best views through full windows.
Sri Lanka is one of the world's largest exporters of tea. Visit the tea factory in Dambatenne plantation, Sir Thomas Lipton's favourite home in Sri Lanka, and enjoy the panoramic vistas from 6,450 ft above sea level from "Lipton's Seat".
Galle, the capital of the southern province, is a place of historical significance. The UNESCO World Monument Site of the 17th century Dutch Fort boasts three bastions named after celestial objects. Close by is Unawatuna, a beautiful beach famed for its underwater biodiversity, perfect for snorkelling and diving.
Climb Adam's Peak in central Sri Lanka with the sacred footprint near the summit. Start at night to reach the top by dawn, and witness a strange natural phenomena of a perfectly triangular shadow on the surrounding plains. During pilgrimage season, all-night stalls and teashops offer rest stops and the illuminated steps up the mountain make for easier climbing.
Wander through a maze of narrow cobbled alleys lined with street stalls in Pettah Market, Colombo. The bustling bazaar is crammed with an amazing range of goods, from spices to gold and colonial antiquities to and clothes. A former Dutch governor's home is now a converted museum, and Sea Street on the northeast corner is a fascinating neighbourhood with gold merchants' work shops and and colourful temples.