Sri Lanka is blessed with outstanding natural beauty; from the shores of its gorgeous beaches, through its exotic forests, and up to its mountained highlands. The small island nation showcases a wide range of animals and a richly diverse cultural history, set in a warm tropical climate, and presented to visitors by its friendly local people.
No wonder then that it has been a much fought over gem in its 3000 years of history, with the first western influences being in the form of the Portugese from their arrival in 1506 and through the 16th century, then supplanted by the Dutch who completed displacing the Portugese in 1656.
Sri Lanka was under British rule from 1796 – 1948, during which time it was known as Ceylon. Its current name of Sri Lanka was adopted in 1972.
Although, in decades past, the nation was a popular tourist destination, its popularity suffered during an unpleasant and unfortunate extended civil war between its Tamil minority (mainly in the north of the country) and the larger Sinhalese majority (most everywhere else). This dispute – at times violent and bloody – dragged on and escalated to open warfare in 1983, and continued for the next 26 years, with as many as 100,000 deaths during this time.
The final rebel defeat in May 2009 has now resulted in a peace that has held for four years, causing Sri Lanka to now proudly claim it is the only country in the world to have confronted and conquered domestic terrorism.
During this civil war, tourism understandably suffered, and the 2004 Asian tsunami damaged many of the beachfront resorts. But with peace and stability secured, the country started to redevelop its tourism infrastructure, and after some initial period of careful observation, most outside sources now confirm the safety of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination.
As a result of decades of being essentially unavailable, its return as a feature on most people’s lists of places to visit is seeing its popularity massively increasing with each subsequent season.
Today finds Sri Lanka as an independent island nation just off the south-east coast of India. It measures approximately 250 miles from top to bottom, and up to about 120 miles from side to side. It is slightly larger in size than West Virginia, and has a population of 21.7 million, 74% of whom are Sinhalese, 8.5% either Indian or Sri Lankan Tamil, 7% are Sri Lankan Moors, and then lesser amounts of other nationalities. The country has two official languages – Sinhalese and Tamil, plus English is widespread especially in business and is formalized as a ‘link language’ in the country’s constitution.
The country’s people enjoy a largely easy-going lifestyle, with an economy that is once more positively growing (7.8% in 2010, 8.3% in 2011 and 6% in 2012) as it recovers from its troubled past. Unemployment is relatively low at about 4.5%.