Last updated: 02:13 PM ET, Wed October 11 2017

Sri Lanka

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Tea plantations, cool highlands, more than 100 waterfalls, ancient cities and tropical beaches are the enticements of Sri Lanka, which is an island off the coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia.

The so-called “teardrop island” offers visitors such sights as free roaming elephants, water buffalo wallowing in rice paddies and multitudes of monkeys in the tree tops. The island, which has a key place in Buddhist and Hindu literature and lore, has many archeological sites, monuments and temples including those at Dambulla (with its Cave Temple), the rock fortress of Sigiriya, the one time medieval capital of Polonnaruwa and the temples of Kandy and Anuradhapuraas well as the fortress town of Galle and the national capital Colombo. Buddhism has a 2,300 year history in Sri Lanka and such cities as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa preserve ancient Buddhist capitals.

Wasgomuwa National Park, the wilderness area known as the Knuckles wilderness and Yala National Park are home to such wildlife as barking deer, wild boar, sloth bear, elephant and leopards. Wilpattu National Park is a birder’s heaven, featuring a plethora of such water birds as storks, pelicans, ibis, and spoonbills. The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage gives visitors a chance to get close and personal with the creatures.

The Old Dutch Fort at Galle is the landmark for many fine beach areas in Sri Lanka. Visits to tea plantations and tea factories not only show what goes in to producing Sri Lanka’s most iconic product, Ceylon Tea, but also evokes the bygone colonial experience. Columbo, the capital is a busy and sometimes frenetic city that most visitors pass through on their way into the island’s other intrigues. Spicy seafood dishes are a hall mark of Sri Lankan cuisine. Known for the spices it produces, Sri Lanka uses them liberally in the dishes it serves in its kitchens. Besides the South Indian origins of Sri Lankan cuisine, Portuguese, Dutch and British influences are also prevalent.

Tropical Sri Lanka has separate rainy seasons from October to January and from May to July. There’s no direct service from the U.S. to Sri Lanka, but SriLankan Airlines, the flag carrier connects Colombo to cities throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Getting around in Sri Lanka, unless you’re traveling by private car, is by train or bus.

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Continent Sri Lanka

Population 21,000,000

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