Sri Lanka – The Wonder of Asia
A tiny country with a huge history.
Following from an official invitation from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to represent Australian travel media at their special conference; Tourism: A Catalyst for Development, Peace and Reconciliation in Passikudah, Sri Lanka, I made my first trip to a country once known as Ceylon.
About 2,600 years of recorded history dates this civilisation. One such is the Ramayana, where the island was called Lanka and was a fortress for King Ravana.
Buddhism was introduced in the 3rd century BC, to become the dominant religion.
Around the 6th century BC the Sinhalese arrived from Northern India and a substantial civilisation evolved. They established various kingdoms and continued to prosper until the 16th century.
Then the Europeans, looking for exotic spices started a series of invasions. The Portuguese in the 16th century, the Dutch took over in the 17th century. Then followed the British in 1796 when most of the island became a British colony in 1902, who then took over the whole island in 1815. In 1948, then known as Ceylon they became independent and changed their name to Sri Lanka in 1972.
The tragic civil war of 26 years ended in 2009 and now peace and harmony are there for international visitors and the locals to enjoy.
Sri Lanka – A land of many colours, attractions and opportunities for travellers:
Natural scenic beauty from golden beaches with crystal waters, to mist covered valleys covered in ethical tea plantations.
Heritage – Sigiriya, the Eighth Wonder on the World, a fifth century AD fortress and a water garden displays some of the most futuristic elements of landscaping and some of the oldest murals recorded in the country.
Wildlife - Ignoring its small size Sri Lanka boasts of one of the highest rates of biological endemism in the world whether in plants or animals and is included among the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world. Of the ninety-one species of mammals found in Sri Lanka Asian elephants, sloth bear, leopards, sambar and wild buffaloes engages the majority of the attention of wildlife enthusiast.
Despite the mighty elephants and rare amphibians found in the country, birds are the glory of the Sri Lanka’s wildlife. Boasting nearly 433 bird species of which 233 are resident, Sri Lanka holds 20 endemic species while another 80 species have developed distinct Sri Lankan races, compared to their cousins in Indian mainland.
Accommodation – As tourism is one of the mainstays of the economy, a full gambit of accommodation is on offer, from top level resorts and hotels to modest budget opportunities including home stays.
Cuisine – With such a wonderful and varied cultural background, added to by an abundance of wonderful fresh produce, you will find some of the most delicious food I have sampled anywhere in the world.
The People – Sri Lanka is a melting pot of cultural variety, predominantly, as one would expect from an Indian heritage, blended with the various visitors and invaders from over the centuries. A beautiful and friendly nation of multi-national people, who are delighted to be of assistance to travellers. In particular to Australians, all you have to do is mention cricket and you will find a passionate local expert, who enjoys the chance to have their team taking on the Aussies. Since my visit they have beaten us in the Test series, but we won the One Dayers,
For a more complete picture, please go to the official web site:
Words and images: Michael Osborne
The author was a guest of the UNWTO and Sri Lanka Tourism.
Header: Traditional Dancing in Kandy.