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Sri Lanka: The Pearl of the Indian Ocean
Monday, 07 January 2008

Five centuries before Christ, Sri Lanka was a land throbbing with vitality and a well-ordered civilization. Cities, palaces, reservoirs, parks, temples, monasteries, monuments and works of art bore testament to the character, imagination, culture, philosophy and faith of the people of Sri Lanka, the Resplendent Land. Vestiges of this ancient civilization are abundantly extant today.

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Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (Sinhalese, Tamil: known as Ceylon before 1972) is an island nation in South Asia, located about 31 kilometers (19.3 mi) off the southern coast of India. Popularly referred to as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, it is home to around twenty million people.

Active Image Sri Lanka has been known by many names. The existence of the island has been known to the Indic, Chinese, Arabic, and Western civilizations for many millennia and the various names ascribed to the island over time reflect this.

The island was renamed Sri Lanka, meaning "resplendent land" in Sanskrit, in 1972, before which it was known by a variety of names: Serendib, Ceylon, Teardrop of India, Resplendent Isle, Island of Dharma, Pearl of the Orient. This colorful collection reveals its richness and beauty, and the intensity of the affection it evokes in its visitors.

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The island teems with bird life, and even the occasional elephant or leopard. To top it all off, the people are friendly, the food is delicious and costs are low. It seems like you’re in a miracle fairy tale! And what about miracles and mysteries - the island of Sri Lanka has been a favorite haunt of aliens, extra terrestrials, gods, devas, angels, sky dwellers, demons, deities whichever way you describe them.

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The chronicles, traditions, folklore, prehistoric cave drawings, archaeological evidence and ancient traveler's records testify that there have been strange beings living in this island from time immemorial. There were and there are Mountains, Hills, buildings and even plants with full of mysteries, power and wisdom which are beyond human understanding.

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But not only myths are worth of seeing on Sri Lanka. You can find there amazing tropical golden beaches. Even though many Sri Lankan visit the beach to take in the tropical sunset, during the daytime the beaches are deserted.

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Even in the evening crowds are rarities. Exotic fish and marine plants are found on the reef close to the south coast.

Swimming, diving and sunbathing are favorite activities of foreign visitors. The latter two activities have never caught on with Sri Lankans. Surf-boards are hard to come by in Sri Lanka. But many of the better resort hotels will be able to provide you with one.

A former hippie destination and still one of the most popular south coast locations Unawatuna is best known for its golden beaches, and the reef that runs very close to it. But it is also the home of the Buena Vista hills, which is supposedly a part of the Himalayas. The beaches at Unawatuna are a breeding ground for turtles, with many making the hard trek through the sands to lay their eggs.

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But the beaches are the least of the attractions in Sri Lanka.

Colombo is the exotic commercial capital. It has a great collection of 5-star hotels on the beach-front. The place is very relaxed but there are lots of clubs and casinos where the night never ends.

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Dimbulagala, or Gunners Quoin, stands out 545m (1787ft) above the surrounding scrub. There are hundreds of caves cut out of the rock in a Buddhist hermitage that has been occupied almost continuously since the 3rd century BC. The temple at the base is the first of 15 cave temples in the complex that can be explored on the way to the dagoba at the top.

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Active ImageAccording to tradition the magnificent 12m (30ft) standing Aukana Buddha was sculpted during the reign of Dhatusena in the 5th century - though some sources date it to the 12th or 13th century. Aukana means 'sun-eating', and dawn, when the first rays light up the huge statue's finely-carved features, is the best time to see it.There's a local story that the statue is so finely carved that a drop of water would fall from its nose, without any breeze, between the Buddha's feet.

Panduwasnuwara. The 12th century remains of the temporary capital of Parakramabahu I are nothing on the scale of Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa, but it's worth stopping in if you're heading past, even though the sprawling site, covering 20ha (50ac) hasn't been fully excavated.

There are many stories about who lived in this palace and why it was built, but however attractive they may be the fact is that no-one really knows why this place was built.

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Uda Walawe National Park. Of all Sri Lanka's national parks, this best rivals the savanna reserves of Africa, with its elephants, buffalo, sambar deer and leopards. There are 30 varieties of snake and a wealth of birdlife.

But nothing in Sri Lanka captures the imagination more than a 200 meter lump of granite that rises starkly above the flat central plains about three and a half hours' drive from Colombo.

Sigiriya has it all - a blood-stained history full of intrigue, astonishing frescos of bare-breasted maidens painted 15 centuries ago, a wall covered in graffiti that is more than 1,000 years old and, to top it all, Asia's oldest surviving landscape garden.


Visitors to the palace entered via a stone stairway that took them into the lion's mouth and through its throat - hence Sigiriya's alternative name, "Lion Rock". Only the lion's massive paws remain today, but they indicate how gigantic the rest of the carving must have been. A new stairway has been attached to the side of the rock to allow access to the summit, enabling visitors to stroll around the ruins of the palace and gasp at the panoramic views.

This tiny little island in the Indian Ocean has so many amazing sites! It’s a real miracle in our world. If you want to visit the wonderland – visit Sri Lanka – beautiful, mystical, friendly, shiny island!


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