Backpacking Information on Sri Lanka


Population: 19.4 million (UN, 2005)

Capital: Colombo (commercial), Sri Jayawardenepura (administrative)

Area: 65,610 sq km (25,332 sq miles)

Major languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English

Major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity

Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: Sri Lankan rupee

The teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka is oddly labelled by the Chinese as the "land without sorrow". The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a small nation is one of the most desired countries for travel in the South Asia region. And while the fright of the civil war or the 2004 tsunami is not good publicity for the tourism industry, Serendib, as Persians called it and whence English takes "serendipity" from, is severely calm and serene in more ways than one, inland and on the seas.

After the disastrous and destructive Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 where 31,229 deaths were reported and around a million left homeless, Sri Lanka's sweet and slow recovery accolades it as the "small miracle." Europeans in the early days of world exploration thought they had discovered the "Garden of Eden", but what has become of this Pearl of the Indian Ocean is the crown jewel of the spice trade. On the inside, the once-called Ceylon is peaceful and care-free, but around it, wars were waged by great empires in a quest to covet the rich island.


Sri Lanka is a 65,610 km2 territory of mainly flat and rolling plains while mountainous in the central part to the south. Quite low that the island wonder has a highest altitude, the Pidurutalagala of 2,524 metres above the Indian Ocean, its lowest point, and as such, located at 7 00 N, 81 00 E and south of India, the country basks in a warm tropical monsoon climate moderated by ocean winds and moisture. The three corresponding seasons are southwest monsoons from June to October, wet northeast monsoon from December through March, and hot season from April to May. January has the coldest of days in the year, while April is extremely unbearable as the Sri Lankan sun glares like no other. There is no ideal time to be in Sri Lanka. It is all about where you are when you're there. If one finds the urban jungle too hot for the liking and the air too dim and thin for breathing, heed the call of the countryside for better climate and air.


In all ways, these factors work for the good of local and vacation life, for the people in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankans, are a peaceful and simple unit of people, unit in the sense of being a nation amidst ethnic and religious disparity. Sri Lanka is constituted by a majority of Sinhalese, from Ceylonese of almost three-quarters of the population, followed by Sri Lankan Moors, Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil consecutively, and other immigrants.

The constitution of Sri Lanka attests to freedom of religion, but, in the main, the republic is a Buddhist country with almost 70% of the population following, mainly Sinhalese, but with a great proportion of Hindus (mostly Tamils), Muslims, and Christians. The language of the state is SINHALA used for the most part by all of the Sinhalese population and more, that is 75% of the Sri Lanka, although TAMIL is also a national language. ENGLISH is the de facto language for government and business affairs, and is spoken competently by a sizable 10% of Sri Lanka.


Nowhere else can a traveller see good ethnic and religious proportion than in the capital itself, Colombo basically because it's got anything and everything. Although Colombo is the biggest and the busiest place one can go to in their island adventure, there are other relaxing options like a lazy trek to the ancient cities, a cool surf in the heat of the sun, a scuba dive, a snorkel, or a serene waterfront show of the sunset, all at once if preferred, where it is truly peaceful and free to explore. It is the ideal place to start and end a traveller's Sri Lankan journey.

But should the equatorial sun, add the smothering diesel fogged air of Colombo slowly deteriorate your travel zest, delve into the world-class attractions countryside like rice valleys, mountain springs, forever falls, tea terraces, virgin rain forests, golden coastlines, the Elephant Rock, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress (Lion's Rock), lost cities, stone temples, forest monasteries, and, really, the list goes on. These are but revelations to what the "small island, big trip" this enigmatic place is.

Then again, no travel can be perfection without a taste of the Sri Lankan cuisine. In these parts of the world, food is so good everything stops as if nothing bad can happen. Sri Lankan cuisine- and people think Indian cuisine. The food here is like the motherland itself in variety and heat. In truth, Sri Lankan food has an identity of its own, exceptionally magnificent visually and all otherwise, bar none. Rice, the staple, is the blank canvas to the art of colours and flavours effervescent on your typical Sri Lankan plate. Although spices used here are similar to south Indian cuisine, spices are used in whole and are turned to paste, instead of ground spices, that gives it that distinctive velvety marriage of spices to the food.