Since antiquity, Sri Lanka has long captivated the hearts and minds of visitors to its shores. Marco Polo declared it the finest island in the world and during its turbulent history it has been known by many names; Serendib, Ceylon, The Resplendent Isle and the Pearl of the Orient. But its most poignant epithet must surely be that of the Teardrop of India. For years it has sat in the shadow of its giant neighbour, but, warmed by the equatorial sun and watered by the monsoon rains, this fertile land has an identity all of its own.
A cultural melting pot of Indian, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences, Sri Lanka is a real treat for the senses. Sandwiched between lush mountain greenery and palm-fringed sands, its ancient cities share the landscape with charming colonial architecture, quiet beaches and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. From the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura, to the Buddhist caves and tea plantations of the central highlands, the country is a treasure trove of natural and cultural highlights.
Home to no fewer than six UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the sacred city of Kandy and the ancient fortress of Sigiriya, its national parks are home to wild elephants, sloth bears and over 400 different species of birds. Little wonder then that this idyllic paradise gave birth to the word, serendipity.
Watch out for Poya days - full moon days are a public holiday so most shops and businesses will be closed and the sale of meat and alcohol is forbidden.