• 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.
Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners
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.
10 Sri Lankan foods you need to try
The tear-shaped Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka is a true culinary treat. Through years of colonisation and trade, many cultures have influenced its cuisine, c…
16 evocative pictures of Sri Lanka
After a couple of weeks travelling across Sri Lanka, photographer Nori Jemil shares why this Indian Ocean island is a perfect subject. Here are 16 of her favour…
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…