Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an independent island in the Indian Ocean, to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal.
Together with India, Nepal, and the Maldives, Sri Lanka is considered to be part of South Asia. India is the closest country to Sri Lanka with the shortest distance between the borders of India and Sri Lanka being about 18 miles long, which is almost the distance that can be covered in a rowboat.
Quick Facts about Sri Lanka
|Name of the country||The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (since 1948)||Abbreviation||Sri Lanka|
|Capital||Colombo (commercial), Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (administrative)||Continent||Southern Asia|
|Population||21.67 million (2018). Source: the World Bank||Area||65,610 sq. km. (25,332 sq. miles)|
|Major language||Sinhala, Tamil, English||Major religions||Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity|
|Major cities||Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Anuradhapura, Jaffna, Sigiriya, Ella||Currency||Sri Lankan rupee (approx. 1 USD = 181 LKR, February 2020)|
|President||Gotabaya Rajapaksa||Famous figures||Mahinda Rajapaksa (the sixth president of Sri Lanka); Michael Ondaatje (novelist)|
|Time Zone||GMT+5:30||International call code||+94|
Thailand -insights, no stress and amazing team
My husband and my Thailand trip was fantastic, stress-free and educational thanks to the amazing team coordinated by Albee at Asia Highlights. The whole team was incredibly accessible, responsive, sensitive to our needs and lovely to work with. End-to-end, the trip was truly remarkable and the knowledgeable and dynamic tour guides and drivers made it especially memorable!More
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Sharon the advisor that helped me was so thorough & informative and explained the details of the tour including questions about visas and what is included vs what is not included in the tour packages. I would recommend them to explain tour packages that would fit the schedule of your pending travels.More
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Alana Mitchell, Sep 2023
Family Trip to Thailand-Cambodia
All of our guides were very nice and knowledgeable, but we have a special mention to our guide in Cambodia, Chan, he was very kind with us and it was very amusing. He went the extra mile for us. We really enjoyed our holidays!More
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Asia Highlights and Sharon
Asia Highlights, specifically Sharon, has been wonderfully helpful as we get ready for a 2024 excursion to Thailand. We are beyond excited, and much of that has to do with the personalized attention that we have experienced with Sharon. She has been extremely responsive, obliging, and focused as she helped us design a tailor made itinerary. All of our questions have been addressed, our needs have been met, and the path has now been set for a very exciting trip.... thanks to Sharon.More
Marcy Hoenig, Sep 2023
I was planning a trip to Thailand to…
I was planning a trip to Thailand to especially see the Lantern Festival this year for our birthdays!! It’s been on our bucket list, but we were completely lost on how to go about planning for our trip. We’ve never really booked tours before but Alisa was extremely helpful, knowledgeable, flexible and efficient in providing all the information we needed to make our decision on the best tours and tickets to purchase. Thank you so much!!More
https://www.trustpilot.com/reviews/64d9a5a4657e4b39f768a21e, Aug 2023
I would definitely recommend Asia…
All of our guides were wonderful (Mr. Bank - Bangkok and Ms. Kai in Phuket & Khao Sok plus antoher guide who assisted in Koh Samui). Sharon took care of tours, private drivers, flights and hotels within Thailand and our trip went off without a hitch. The hotels were great and the transportation always arrived on time and with a clean,More
Guinevere Provance, Aug 2023
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Stephen Hollis, Aug 2023
Alisa has has been great to work with
Alisa with Asia Highlights has has been great to work with. Very friendly and responsive.More
Ana Rausch, Aug 2023
Using Sharon right now to book our…
Using Sharon right now to book our upcoming trip to Thailand. She has booked everything that we asked for. Has answered all of my inquiries, which has been many! Looking forward to having a great girls trip in ThailandMore
Tracy, Aug 2023
Thailand, Singapore, Bali
In Thailand, Tanny and Nori(Suparp), were both incredible! They were both fun, funny, and full of knowledge and made sure we got the full experience. They went the extra mile and always made sure we had cold bottled water and towels to cleanse our hands. In Singapore, Nicole was an absolute gem. She was so kind and knowledgeable and guided us in the right direction to make our day as enjoyable as possible. She helped us choose a top notch local lunch and coffee spot in China Town and taught us so much about the country! In Bali, Emon was an absolute joy. He was very knowledgeable and kind and absolutely made sure we were feeling comfortable and was willing to be flexible with us. He was fun to converse with and made our time traveling between destinations so enjoyable! I cannot recommend Asia Highlights enough! Accommodations, travel arrangements and guided tours were all a breeze.More
Cassi Thunker, Jul 2023
Very supportive ! I have received eticket for Sky Lattern Festival very fastMore
Chi?n Nguy?n Ng?c, Jul 2023
My experience in Chang Mai with Asia Highlights
I greatly enjoyed my experience with Asia Highlights for a trip I booked to Thailand.All of my interests were catered too. My guide in Chang Mai Gemma was excellent.I truly felt the soul of Thailand culture and Buddhism.More
Richard, Jul 2023
A pleasure to plan with
Well, this has been a painless and pleasurable process to find such a wonderful company. I had specific dates and places to be and Sharon worked with me diligently to refine the schedule and costs to suit my travel needs and budget. She informed me of a special tour on the dates I am to be in Thailand and I added that to my previous plans.More
Chris Williams, Jul 2023
Large multi-generational holiday in Thailand
The holiday was wonderful. Our guides, Mr Monchai (Bangkok), and Ms Tipagorn (Tippy) (Chiang Mai) were exceptional. Travelling in a large multigenerational group with many children requires patience and our guides truly understood that. Mr Monchai and Ms Tippy shared their extensive knowledge of the many wonderful places we visited, and were flexible to take us to additional places along the way based on discussions. While everyday was busy, having them greet us with patience and a smile truly made this a memorable holiday. The hotels we stayed at were equally wonderful and went above and beyond to celebrate not only my parents 50th anniversary but also celebrate 2 milestone birthdays that occurred. We will cherish this holiday for many years to come. We hope to use Asia Highlights again.More
CL, Jul 2023
I never used a travel agent in my life
I never used a travel agent in my life, but Sharon for Asia Highlights did a phenomenal job helping planning and coordination a family vacation. The best part of working with Sharon was that she maintained an open line of communication and provided answers to my question well within 12-24 hours. Additionally, Sharon was flexible and customized our vacation to my families needs. Overall great experience.More
Antione Barry, Jul 2023
Great company to plan a trip to Southeast Asia!
Sharon Haung has been wonderful to work with! Very patient and accommodating. Responds immediately given time change and is prepared, prompt, and professional.More
Debi Hinerfeld, Jul 2023
We took a 15 days trip (10 days Vietnam and 5 days Thailand …
It was an amazing experience the guides and drivers were there awaiting for us at each airoport for a transfer to the hotels also on time for all the tours all the guides were so lovely , very experienced and spoke very good English , one of the days on tour in Thailand I lost my phone in a temple in Bangkok mr chai went out of his way in a middle of thousands of visitors and managed to find an bring it back to me I found that amazing , also while on a trip I contacted Jason li out tour organizer few time via whatup and he replied and helped on the spot I recommend asiahilights 150% The quality of the service hotels the guides the drivers outstanding From start to finish ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT ????More
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Wonderful Guides and Experience
Our large group arrived in Bangkok with Tanni as our guide. She was wonderful! An absolute joy to spend time with. She is knowledgeable, kind, and extremely funny. I don’t know what we would have done without her! After Bangkok, we traveled to Chang Mai, where Indy was our tour guide. She was a delight! She is kind, knowledgeable, and so patient. Our trip to Thailand was an adventure of a lifetime and these two women helped make it memorable. I would definitely use Asia Highlights for any future travel in Asia.More
Jessica Bennett, Jun 2023
Shape and Size of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island, which is easy to see on a map. That"s why it is also called the teardrop of the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka occupies 25,330 square miles, making it only slightly larger than the US state of West Virginia. But more than 21.6 million people live in Sri Lanka, which is 10 times the population of West Virginia.
Sri Lanka is a mere island but has a precious amalgam of culture, history, architecture, cuisine, and nature's bounty. That's why Sri Lanka has achieved "so much with so little" — abundant tourism resources including UNESCO World Heritage Sites (eight of them) are packed into such a small area.
Landscape of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has an irregular surface with low-lying coastal plains running inland from the northern and eastern shores. The central and southern areas slope into the hills and mountain ranges of the highlands. The highest peak is Pidurutalagala, which reaches an altitude of 2,524 meters (8,281 feet). The lowest point is at sea level.
Ecologically, the country is divided into a wet zone that stretches across the south, west, and central regions, and a dry zone that stretches from the north to the southeast.
If you travel either from the north to south or east to west of Sri Lanka, you will observe many different landscapes within a couple of days, passing through dense rain forest, stirring hills, boundless savannah, colonial towns, lush tea plantations, vast plains, and scenic beaches.
Sri Lanka has no shortage of beautiful awe-inspiring spots, wildlife, and historic and cultural attractions, each of which is more picture-perfect than the next. They range from soulful Buddhist monasteries and temples to exotic and impeccable spots that are rarely explored.
Main Cities in Sri Lanka
The country comprises nine provinces (from south to north): Southern (provincial capital Galle), Sabaragamuwa (Ratnapura), Western (Colombo), Uva (Badulla), Eastern (Trincomalee), Central (Kandy), North Western (Kurunegala), North Central (Anuradhapura), and Northern (Jaffna). The main cities are dotted in Western and Central provinces.
Kandy is a major city in Sri Lanka that's located in Central Province. It was the last capital of the ancient kings" era of Sri Lanka and called the sacred city of Lankadeepa. As it was conquered by the British around 1815, you can still see the living traditions of this era.
Kandy is home to famous attractions, such as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa), which is the most important Buddhist shrine in the world, housing one of the real teeth of the Buddha. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
Except for historical and cultural sites, it is also just a beautiful city with colorful vegetation, beautiful hills, clear lakes, and awe-inspiring waterfalls.
You may have heard that the city is renowned for the great Kandy Esala Perahera festival (held annually in July/August) but its vibrant cultural lifestyle and attractions more than justify a visit at any time of year.
Colombo is the financial and commercial capital of Sri Lanka and the place where most travelers will begin their Sri Lankan adventures.
In this charming city, you will find not only a comfortable blend of East and West but also a mixture of the past and present. Just walking or taking a tuk tuk around the streets of Colombo is a unique experience by itself that will offer you a taste of the hustle and bustle of city life.
Activities range from visiting colorful temples and laying on the beach to going shopping, drinking Ceylon tea, visiting the local markets, and falling in love with the pretty colonial buildings.
Colombo offers a rich selection of accommodation, from rustic beachfront cottages to lavish colonial mansions and stunning hotels.
It's also a paradise for foodies and shoppers with tons of delicious street food to eat, exquisite boutiques that feature international brands, and charming shops that offer colorful local art, textured fabrics, and fragrant flavored teas.
Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization. It was the third capital of the kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.
The historic city of Anuradhapura is one of eight World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Along with the ruins of Polonnaruwa, the rock citadel of Sigiriya, and the sacred city of Kandy, they comprise the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka.
This region shouldn't be skipped, especially if it's your first time in Sri Lanka. The culture and heritage have been preserved fairly impeccably and it is an amazing exhibit of the rich history of Sri Lanka.
4. Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya means "city of light". It is located at an altitude of 1,868 meters (6,129 feet), which is the highest point in Sri Lanka, and is regarded as the garden city of Asia. It features emerald green tea leaves, cascading waterfalls, and quaint colonial buildings that make you feel like you are in England. That's why Nuwara Eliya is sometimes called "Little England".
Nuwara Eliya is most famous for its breathtaking views of valleys, meadows, mountains, and greenery. There, you can visit the lovely Victoria Park and impressive St. Clair"s Falls, hike in Horton Plains National Park to see the World"s End, enjoy a relaxing walk or boat ride around Gregory Lake, and visit one of the tea plantations and factories to taste the best local tea and learn about the process of making tea.
Galle is the capital city of Southern Province in Sri Lanka. For hundreds of years, it was an important trading post and a busy maritime port where trade between the East and West thrived. Its rich history of invasions and occupations has left a cultural texture that's unique, colorful, and one of a kind.
The city consists of an old part and a new part — and both are worthy of exploration. Galle Fort in the old town is a living monument to its history and it is within its walls that travelers and locals alike are most enthralled.
Galle Fort was originally built by the Dutch in 1663. Although it looks old on the facade, it is still a working community with administrative offices, courts, cafés, companies, shops, restaurants, hotels, and so on. While tourism is slowly taking over as the city"s main business, everyday life in the fort makes the experience more authentic and interesting for travelers.
Visiting Sri Lanka
There are so many incredible things to do in Sri Lanka, making it well-suited to all kinds of travelers. For your first visit to Sri Lanka, 8 days is usually sufficient to explore its beauty and essential sites.
Most visitors to Sri Lanka start their journey by arriving in Colombo, then drive to the closest town from the airport – Negombo – and spend the night there. Negombo is a bustling beach town that boasts a long stretch of beautiful beach.
Next, you can venture back in time and explore the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka — Sigiriya (1 day), Polonnaruwa (1 day), and Kandy (2 days). After that, take a train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya — it's considered to be one of the most beautiful train trips in the world.
This train ride is about 4 hours long and takes you through stunning landscapes of lush green tea plantations and mountain views. Spend 1 or 2 nights in Nuwara Eliya to enjoy the beautiful green scenery and experience its tea culture.
Then head to Bentota. It offers a pristine beachside experience in southwestern Sri Lanka and most travelers prefer to spend at least 2 nights there to relax. You will also have the chance to visit a turtle hatchery where you can see different species of turtles and discover how the locals protect them.
Finally, treat yourself to the capital city, Colombo, for 2 days before flying back home.
See our guide on planning a first-time trip to Sri Lanka.
Getting to Sri Lanka
The most popular gateway city for Sri Lanka is Colombo, accessible by flight from eastern or southeastern Asian countries, such as China (Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Guangzhou), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Singapore, or Thailand (Bangkok).
There are regular nonstop flights with SriLankan Airlines to various places in India, including Delhi and Mumbai, the Maldives, and the Seychelles. There are no direct flights to Sri Lanka from the US, the UK, Canada, or Europe. The airfare varies with the season and you may find cheap flights in the shoulder months of May and November.
Tourist visas for Sri Lanka can be obtained via the online platform from the official government website (www.eta.gov.lk) or one of the Sri Lankan diplomatic missions. Citizens of the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Singapore may obtain a visa on arrival to Sri Lanka at any port of entry without charge. Read more about applying for a Sri Lanka visa.
See more information on How to Get to Sri Lanka.
Visit Sri Lanka with Asia Highlights
Want to explore the ancient ruins and beautiful culture of Sri Lanka? At Asia Highlights we can plan your dream Sri Lanka trip complete with a tailor-made itinerary, private guide, and 24-hour customer service.
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
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- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
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