• Lying a few degrees north of the Equator, Sri Lanka is slightly smaller than Ireland and a little larger than the US state of West Virginia.
• Sri Lanka achieved independence from Britain in 1948, and did away with its colonial name, Ceylon, in 1972. The country has had a functioning democracy since independence, and in 1960 elected the world’s first female prime minister.
• Sri Lanka’s population of 21 million is a mosaic of different ethnic and religious groups, the two largest being the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese (73 percent), and the predominantly Hindu Tamils (17 percent); there are also considerable numbers of Christians and Muslims. Sinhala, Tamil and English are all officially recognized languages.
• Sri Lankans enjoy a healthy life expectancy of 75 years and a literacy rate of 91 percent, though they have also set some less enviable records in recent years, including achieving the world’s highest suicide rate and the highest death rate from snakebite.
• The country’s main export is clothing, followed by tea; rubber, coconuts and precious gems are also important. Revenues from tourism are vital to the national economy, while remittances from the hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans working overseas (mainly in the Gulf) are also significant.
Everything you need to know before you set off.
Travel offers; book through Rough Guides
Planning your trip to Sri Lanka
Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.
Sri Lanka features
The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.
Sri Lanka: 10 tips for first-time visitors
Sri Lanka’s heady mix of British colonial heritage, beautiful landscapes and incredibly friendly locals make it a beguiling destination. But the tropical isle…
The truth about elephant tourism in Asia
Elephants are born free, but are everywhere in chains – and it’s tourism which is increasingly to blame. Riding an elephant used to be on every visitor’s …
Why Sri Lanka should be the next place you take your kids
Sri Lanka is blessed with all the essential ingredients for the family trip of a lifetime. Comparatively compact, with a colourful cultural identity, incredible…