In the emerald-green waters of the Indian Ocean, the island country of Sri Lanka was first populated by the Sinhalese peoples from northern India.
As the European influences spread throughout southern Asia in the 16th century, it was eventually occupied by the Portuguese, and later, the Dutch in the 17th century.
Then, in 1796, it was ceded to Britain by the Netherlands, becoming a crown colony in 1802.
Long known as Ceylon, and as a popular port-of-call, it declared independence in 1948, subsequently changing its name to Sri Lanka in 1972.
For decades that followed, internal strife seemed indigenous to Sri Lanka, as tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists finally erupted into a civil war in 1983.
Tens of thousands died in that ethnic conflict, and although now on the proverbial back-burner, social and governmental conflicts continue to fester.
Then tragically, Sri Lanka, frequently referred to as the “Teardrop of India,” was itself devastated by the powerful earthquake-triggered tsunami (or tidal wave) on December 26, 2004.
Today this tropical island is again on the radar screens of worldwide travelers, as Sri Lanka, though struggling, is quickly rebuilding its infrastructure and making a strong comeback, especially in tourism.
And happily, for the most part, island-wide peaceful coexistence seems to be catching on.
Name Sri Lanka (long form) Democratic Socialist Rep. of Sri Lanka
Capital City Colombo (710,000) metro (2.5 mil)
Currency Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR)
Languages Sinhala (official), Tamil, others
National Day February 4
Religions Buddhist (70%), Muslim, Hindu, others
Latitude/Longitude (Capital City)
06� 55′ N, 79� 52′ E
Relative Location Sri Lanka is in both the eastern and northern hemispheres. It’s positioned on the far southern edge of the Indian subcontinent in south-central Asia. It’s bordered by the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Gulf of Mannar. Note: There is no land connection between India and Sri Lanka.
Coastline 832 miles (1,340 km)
(land) 25,332 sq miles (65,610 sq km)
(water) 336 sq miles (870 sq km)
(TOTAL) 25,332 sq miles (65,610 sq km)
Landforms Most of Sri Lanka is ringed by (almost endless) sandy beaches, and small, irregular lagoons. The coastal areas merge into a flat coastal plain, one that gently rises into the foothills of a mountainous region, central and south.
Intermixed throughout those mountains are numerous deep valleys and gorges. About 40% of the landmass is heavily forested.
Pidurutalagala, the country’s highest point, as well as Adam’s Peak (the country’s famous religious site) both rise in the mountains directly east of Colombo.
Numerous short and narrow rivers rise in the central highland; the most significant include the Kala, Kalu, Kirindi and Yan rivers.
Highest Point Pidurutalagala – 8,261 ft. (2,518 m)
Lowest Point Indian Ocean – (0 ft.) (0 m)
Land Divisions 8 provinces, including: Central, North Central, North Eastern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva and Western.