Sri Lanka || ශ්රී ලංකා
Island of Diversity
Facts & Figures
Capital: Sri Jayawardendepura (legally speaking), Colombo (in practice)
Currency: Sri-Lanka-Rupee (LKR)
Official languages: Sinhala and Tamil
Religions: Buddhists (about 70%), Hindus (about 13%), Muslims (about 10%), Christians (about 7%)
Area: 65.610 km²
Population: 22 Millions
Sri Lanka is located in the Indian Ocean, southeast of India, from which it is separated by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar. The coral islands that shape the so called Adams Bridge represent a loose link between Sri Lanka and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, can be divided into three different landscapes: the central highlands with its famous tea cultivation areas and up to 2.500 m high mountains, lowland plains made fertile centuries ago by artificial irrigation, and the coastal regions abundant in fisheries and palm beaches.
The central highland in the southern part of Sri Lanka is the heart of the country. In its core lies a 65 kilometer long plateau. The highest elevation of the country is the Pidurutalagala (2.524 m). Two mountain ranges divide the island, one of which extends 50 km to the east to the Namunakula (2.036 m), the other 50 km to the west and ending at the Sri Pada (2.243 m). To the west and the east, the center of the highlands borders two plateaus; to the north and south there are further mountains, separated from the center by deep by valleys. The 240-meter-high Bambarakanda Falls are the highest waterfalls in Sri Lanka.
However, most of the island consists of enormous tropical plains, 30 to 200 meters above sea level. The transition from the plains to the central highland is abrupt: the mountains look and act like a wall. The plain to the north and east is especially flat and is divided by narrow granite ridges that protrude from the highlands.
The island is surrounded by a coastal belt 30 meters above sea level. The coasts of Sri Lanka consist mostly of sandy beaches.
Sri Lanka’s climate is tropical with different precipitation rates. The country is characterized by a warm climate with mild sea breezes and high humidity. The average temperatures range from 16°C in Nuwara Eliya in the central highlands (where you could even find snow and frost in winter), to 32°C in Trincomalee on the northeast coast of the country. The average annual temperature for the entire country is between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius. The coldest month is January, and May is the warmest.
The southwest of Sri Lanka is rather humid with maximum precipitations during May and October.
Precipitations on the northeast and east coast is minimal, since the central highlands block and capture most of the rainfall. There, most of the precipitations occur when the monsoon hits, usually in November and December.
The precipitation pattern is influenced by the monsoon winds. From mid-May to October, southwest winds bring moisture from the Indian Ocean. When these winds hit the central highlands, violent rainstorms hit the mountains and the southwest of the country. The east and northeast of the island get little rain during this time. In the second season, from October to November, periodic gusts of wind and sometimes cyclones make for a rather gloomy weather in the island. In the third season, from December to March, the northeast monsoon brings moisture from the Gulf of Bengal to the north and northeast of the country. The last season, from March to mid-May, brings little rain.
When to travel
Due to the compartmentalized aspect of Sri Lanka’s climate, the best time to travel depends on each particular region of the island. This makes Sri Lanka a great travel destination all year round.
From March to about the end of September, it is best to travel east, north and the cultural triangle. From December to the end of April, the south and west coasts, as well as the highlands, are a better choice. There are only two months then, which aren’t as good for visiting the country: October and November.
Attention: Of course, the weather does not always adhere to these rules and can then be quite different than expected!
What to do in Sri Lanka?
Even though the island itself is not too big, there is a great variety of activities to enjoy, ranging from water sports to cycling and hiking trips, from wild-nature safaris to cultural tours focusing on the history and religion of the country, from wellness and Ayurveda holidays to full-on beach time vacations and culinary tours. The island has also much to offer for families. Even small children will be delighted here.
Citizens of the EU and Switzerland need a visa, which is to be electronically applied for. Normally you get a reply within 5 days of your application. The visa is valid for a maximum of 30 days, within a period of 90 days. The time doesn’t need to be continuous: multiple entrances are allowed. Here is the link to the application page: Link to the ETA
Food and drinks in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is particularly known for its spicy cuisine. Chili is one of its main ingredients, always included in all rice and curry dishes. For non-vegetarians, dishes with chicken and fish are especially popular. In addition, there is a high number of exotic fruits native to the island.
Eating with your hands is the custom. If you want to eat the local way, make sure to use the right hand: taking the food with the left hand is considered unclean.
Please, take care of the portions, and always serve only as much as you can eat: leaving something on the plate is rude.
Sri Lanka, of course, is also a tea country and so tea, after water, is the most important liquid “food”.
Please pay particular attention to religious regulations: dress appropriately when visiting temples, and behave respectfully. Shoulders and knees should be covered. It is absolutely frowned upon to turn your back to a Buddha statue to take a photograph (“selfie” or otherwise). Even Buddhist-inspired tattoos are no joke for the authorities in Sri Lanka: it is better to cover such skin motifs and symbols (you should be especially careful to keep them covered when entering the country).
No special vaccines are required to travel to Sri Lanka. However, vaccinating against hepatitis, diphtheria, polio, tetanus and typhus is recommended. Please inform yourself and ask at your local Institute of Tropical Medicine, Health Office or personal doctor before flying! In some regions where malaria and dengue are not uncommon you should, among other things, protect against mosquito bites. A personal travel medical kit, equipped with special medication for the tropical ailments, is essential and will make things much easier in case of illness. The heat shouldn’t be underestimated either. Frequently washing your hands and avoiding unpeeled, raw fruit and vegetables – even in salads – can prevent diarrheal diseases.
Due to the conflicts between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, which have been ongoing for several years, there are some minefields in the north of the country, and this region can only be visited with official permission.
Apart from this, Sri Lanka is a relatively safe country with comparatively minor crime. However, we advise women to be more cautious when traveling alone to Sri Lanka: as in other countries, there may also be sexual assaults in Sri Lanka.
– Smuggling and/or possession (!) of drugs is punished with the death penalty.
– Same-sex relationships are illegal. Public shows of affection should therefore be avoided.
– On the coasts of Sri Lanka there are sometimes dangerous sea currents. It is absolutely necessary to be aware of and comply with the signs and bans.