Sri Lanka is an island country located in South Asia, off the coast of India. Situated just inside the Bay of Bengal, the country shares maritime borders with India and the Maldives. Sri Lanka’s tropical climate is characterised by wet and dry seasons: abundant rainfall during the Yala monsoon season during May to September, followed by a dry season from December to March. The coastal regions of the island tend to be warmer year-round, with average temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius. Further inland, where the altitude is higher, temperatures average 16 to 20 degrees.
Sri Lanka is famous for its tea production—it’s the third-larged producer of tea in the entire world. It’s also well-known for the array of unusual teas it produces, such as the hand-rolled tea produced in Amba in central Sri Lanka. Only a few kilos of the tea are produced every year, due to the large amount of labour required to make it, and the craftsmanship that goes into picking and hand-rolling the leaves.
The spice cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, and is a staple aromatic in local cuisine. The country’s exports of cinnamon in the ancient world meant that the spice would come to be cultivated in many other countries.
Sri Lanka’s history begins in the 5th century BCE, when northern Indian migrants settled on the island, chief among them the Sinhalese clan. In the 3rd century Tamil migrants began to follow suit. Buddhism was brought to the island around 250 BC and was quickly adopted amongst the Sinhalese. The Tamils, on the other hand, were chiefly Muslim and Hindu.
Sri Lanka in ancient times was an advanced nation: with the world’s first dedicated hospital, in the 4th century CE, and ambitious architectural projects such as the rock fortress known as the Fortress in the Sky.
Beginning in 1505 European explorers began to arrive: first the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and later the British. The British East India Company came to control the entire coastal region of the island, renaming the island Ceylon, and beginning large-scale tea cultivation. Sinhalese and Tamil organisations rallied to demand reforms, and later, independence. Sri Lanka gained its independence in 1948.
The latter half of the 20th century was characterised by strained relations between the Sinhalese and Tamil ethnicities, which often led to violence and bloodshed. These problems have continued into the new millennium; despite this, Sri Lanka has become a somewhat more prosperous country, with a rapidly-improving economy.
At just 65,000 square kilometres Sri Lank is small in size, but it’s a massively diverse country in terms of its flora and fauna. The country is a biodiversity hotspot, and a high percentage of its mammals and plants are endemic, likely a result of its relative isolation.
Flowering acacia trees, and exotic hardwoods such as ebony, ironwood, mahogany, and teak all flourish on the island. Unique and rare species of rhododendron,
Native animals include the Sri Lankan elephant, the pangolin—which resembles a cross between an armadillo and an anteater—and the purple-faced langur, a very shy species of monkey that lives in Sri Lanka’s canopy forests.
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