15 Incredible Facts About Sri Lanka That You Need To Know
Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries in Asia and is a must-visit for any travel lover. This country truly offers it all from breathtaking scenery to awesome wildlife safaris. Whether you want to lounge on the beach, search for elephants on a safari or go hiking; Sri Lanka has so much to offer. This incredible country should be on everyone’s bucket list and the best part? As well as being beautiful, this country is super cheap so it’s perfect for backpackers and travellers on a budget. Here are 15 facts about Sri Lanka that you need to know before planning your trip!
1. Sri Lanka has two nicknames – ‘pearl of the Indian ocean’ and ‘teardrop of India’
Sri Lanka has two nicknames; the ‘pearl of the Indian ocean’ and the ‘teardrop of India’. The country gets its first nickname due to its natural beauty, incredible biodiversity and the precious gemstones that are exported out of the country.
Its second nickname is due to the country’s location and its shape. Sri Lanka is almost shaped like a teardrop and is found off the southern coast of India, hence the name ‘teardrop of India’.
Throughout history, Sri Lanka has also had plenty of other nicknames. It was known as Taprobane in Greece and called Serendib by the Arab people. Later on, it was called Ceilão by the Portuguese, which translates into Ceylon.
2. A lot of Sri Lanka’s power is generated by Hydropower
In 2017, over 50% of Sri Lanka’s power was generated by renewable sources, and 20% of that energy came from Hydropower. This is down to the sheer amount of waterfalls and rivers located within Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has 15 large hydroelectric power stations across the country with each one playing its part in fueling the country. Victoria Dam plays a huge part in this as it fuels the largest hydroelectric power station in Sri Lanka.
3. Adam’s Peak is the most sacred mountain in the country
Adam’s Peak (otherwise known as Sri Pada) is an important pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka and is actually the most sacred mountain in the country. At an impressive 2243m, hiking up to the top of Adam’s Peak is no easy feat but 1000’s of pilgrims do just that every year (pre-pandemic of course).
This very special mountain is important to many different religions; each with its own reason and story of origin. Not only is Adam’s Peak thought to be the location of Buddha’s last footsteps on earth before he reached Nirvana, but it is also believed to be where Adam was exiled to the Garden of Eden. Many people believe Sri Lanka is Eden itself, and honestly, who could blame them?
There are lots of different routes you can take up to the top, but make sure you have a good level of fitness first. Hiking up there is not an easy task although there are plenty of rest stops along the way. Small temples are located on the route up, along with snack huts where you can grab something to eat and drink some of Sri Lanka’s delicious tea.
4. Sri Lanka has the highest literacy rate in all of South Asia
Sri Lanka has an incredibly high literacy rate, with over 92% of the population being literate. That means, the percentage of the population aged 15 and above can read and write a short, simple statement on their everyday life. Also, ‘literacy’ can encompass ‘numeracy’ which is the ability to make simple mathematical calculations. Since Sri Lanka’s literacy rate is over 92%, this puts the country at the top with the highest literacy rate in all of South Asia. The Sri Lankan government takes education very seriously and its literacy rate continues to grow amongst the younger population annually.
5. Sri Lanka’s wildlife is incredibly diverse
The country of Sri Lanka is known for its high biodiversity, and wildlife. There are so many great places to visit if you want to get close to nature and that draws many travellers in.
Sri Lanka is well known for its wild Asian elephants, and it’s estimated that around 7500 elephants can be found throughout the country. If you love wildlife, then heading out on a safari here is a must! Some of the best national parks to visit include Udawalawe National Park, Minneriya National Park, Wilpattu National Park and the famous Yala National Park. Yala is pretty special as it has the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world, and this gives you a pretty good chance of spotting one!
This beautiful country also has plenty of opportunities to snorkel with turtles and even sharks. Yes, you heard us correctly! If you head up to the east coast of Sri Lanka, you will find the pretty beach town of Trincomalee. Here you have the opportunity to go out on a boat trip and snorkel with reef sharks and turtles. It is a once in a lifetime experience, and one that you shouldn’t miss!
6. Sri Lanka’s national flag is one of the oldest flags in the world
The national flag of Sri Lanka is actually one of the oldest flags in the world. According to legend, Prince Vijaya who is the founder of Sri Lanka arrived in the country in the 5th century from Sinhapura in India. Sinhapura is also known as “lion city”, and since then, a lion flag was the chief flag of Sri Lanka.
A golden lion remained part of the national flag until the British colonised Sri Lanka in 1815. During this time the country became British Ceylon and the union flag replaced it until Sri Lanka gained its independence in 1948. After this, a golden lion holding a sword was then re-introduced to the national flag.
7. Volleyball is the national sport
Many people believe that the national sport of Sri Lanka is cricket, as it’s by far the most popular sport in Sri Lanka. However, volleyball has been the national sport since 1991.
The sport was originally introduced to Sri Lanka in 1916 by a gentleman named Voltor Cameck. Afterwards, volleyball became incredibly popular and in 1951 the Federation of Sri Lanka Volleyball was formed. The first national volleyball team was formed in 1955 and since then over 60 teams have been formed.
8. Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka is famous across the world
Ceylon tea is famous all across the globe and is considered to be the cleanest tea in the world. It is a popular type of black tea and can be served warm or as iced tea. The tea bushes in Sri Lanka grow at an altitude between 600 to 1200 metres, and the difference in altitude can affect the flavours of the tea due to direct sun, temperature and the type of soil.
Tea is actually Sri Lanka’s largest export, and the country is the fourth largest exporter of tea in the world. The year 2017 marked Sri Lanka’s 150th anniversary for exporting tea and there are plenty of incredible plantations for you to visit.
Nuwara Eliya is one of the best spots to visit as there are lots of tea plantations located around the area. Some of the most popular plantations here include Mackwoods tea centre (also known as Damro), the Oliphant Estate and Pedro tea estate. It’s best to do some research before you pick which one to visit because some offer tours, and others it’s simply a case of exploring the plantations by yourself. If you decide to do a tour, you will get to learn all about how the tea workers pick the tea leaves, how it’s processed in a factory and even get the chance to taste some for yourself!
9. There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country
Sri Lanka has 8 world heritage sites in total for you to visit. These are:
- The Sacred City of Kandy
- The Ancient City of Sigiriya
- The Sacred City of Anuradhapura
- The Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
- The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
- Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple
- Sinharaja Forest Reserve
- The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
Each of these UNESCO world heritage sites has something very special to offer, and you should definitely visit a few during your trip!
10. Sri Lanka is home to the world’s oldest human planted tree
Sri Lanka is home to the world’s oldest human planted tree – the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred fig tree that is found in the Mahamewna Gardens in Anuradhapura, and it has an impressive story behind it.
Around 2,600 years ago in India, Lord Gautama Buddha sat against a tree on the banks of the Neranjana River. It is at this moment, where Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment. The tree gained a venerated status after this, and a cutting was taken from this original tree and taken to Sri Lanka. The cutting was planted in 288 BC and is thought to be one of the closest living links to the Gautama Buddha.
Since being planted, the tree has been protected by kings and Buddhist monks over the years. To keep the tree from harm; golden fences, water canals and walls have been built around it. Throughout time, the tree has faced some pretty serious threats including storms, wild elephants and vandals. However, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi still stands strong to this day.
11. It was declared a malaria-free country in 2016 by WHO
Sri Lanka has previously had major problems with Malaria, and at one point was considered to be one of the most affected areas in the world. However, after the Sri Lankan government implemented a highly effective strategy to eradicate the disease, the country was officially declared a malaria-free country in 2016! The entire South-East Asia Region continues to have a decline in malaria cases. The World Health Organization has a goal to achieve zero malaria cases by 2030 in the region.
12. Sri Lanka is known for having some of the best whale watching in the world
If you are travelling to Sri Lanka between November and April, you have up to a 90% chance of seeing the world’s largest animal – the blue whale. Sightings are very common off the coast of Sri Lanka and it’s an experience not to be missed!
Mirissa is found on the south coast of Sri Lanka and is a great place for whale watching tours. There are lots of different tour companies to choose from, but it’s a good idea to read the reviews first. Some companies aren’t very ethical in their practices when it comes to whale watching, and that’s also something you want to steer clear of!
Aside from blue whales, there is plenty of other marine life found off the coast of Sri Lanka. Other whale species that can be found on these tours include sperm whales, fin whales, pilot whales and even killer whales if you are lucky! Dolphins, turtles and flying fish also make appearances quite frequently.
13. The civil war in Sri Lanka only ended in 2009
Sri Lanka’s civil war started on the 23rd of July in 1983 and went on for nearly three decades. The Tamil Tigers fought against the Sinhalese people for over 25 years until May 2009, when the government declared that they had seized the last Tamil Tiger stronghold.
It is estimated that up to 80,000 people were killed in the Sri Lankan civil war, and it affected many people’s lives. This civil war also had devastating effects on the tourism industry but luckily today the country is a popular holiday destination and is bouncing back!
14. Sri Lanka has been inhabited for at least 35,000 years
Sri Lanka has been inhabited for at least 35,000 years after archaeologists found the remains of the so-called Balangoda Man (Homo sapiens balangodensis).
Balangoda Man was an early human that lived during the Mesolithic era. These early homosapiens had a thick skull, heavy jaw and large teeth which is incredibly different to humans today. They were named after the archaeological sites near Balangoda as this is where their remains were first discovered.
15. Cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka
Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices in the world and is found in all sorts of food from curries to cakes. This spice was originally found in Sri Lanka and was actually discovered around 2000 BC by the Egyptians. The Egyptians used cinnamon in food of course, but they also used it as a perfume during the embalming process. Currently, 80-90% of the world’s cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka.
Cinnamon is thought to have medicinal properties, and it could actually help lead the fight against diabetes. Researchers at Aberdeen University’s Rowett Institute compared three different varieties of the spice and found that ‘Ceylon cinnamon’ was the most potent when it came to reducing blood sugar levels.
Sri Lanka is a beautiful country full of tropical beaches, incredible wildlife and lots of tasty food. We hope these facts about Sri Lanka have shown how unique this country is and why it’s a must for any traveller. If heading to Sri Lanka isn’t on your bucket list, then it needs to be! We’ve put together the ultimate Sri Lanka bucket list if you want to start planning your dream trip.
We can show you the best of this stunning country on our 12 day Sri Lanka tour so why not join us? We will take you out on safari, show you Sri Lanka’s idyllic beaches and immerse you in the incredible culture of this amazing destination.
Do you have any interesting facts about Sri Lanka? If you do, make sure to put them in the comment section so we can all have a read of them!
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Written By: Abbie Bevan