Want to know more about Sri Lanka? Here are 25 Interesting facts about Sri Lanka that you probably didn’t know before reading this, including more general information about the country.
Sri Lanka is located in the Indian Ocean and a popular destination on many people’s bucket lists. And no wonder, there’s an abundance of beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka, ranging from paradise beaches and lush nature to ancient sites that are full of history.
Sri Lanka is famous for many things, including tea, gemstones, and spices as well as its biodiversity. It might be a relatively small island nation, but the culture is rich and the people are friendly and welcoming.
Interesting Facts about Sri Lanka
It’s a nation with many nicknames
Sri Lanka has been called many different names throughout history, the Greeks called it Taprobane, Arabs called it Serendib, and the Portuguese named it Ceilão, which later became Ceylon.
But it doesn’t end there, the country is also known “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” or “Teardrop of India” where the latter is a reference to the shape of the island.
Cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka
Cinnamon is widely used all over the world today, but not everyone who uses it knows that it has Sri Lankan origins. Even the Ancient Egyptians used to import cinnamon and it has been a highly prized spice for centuries.
Cinnamomum verum, also known as “true cinnamon” is native to Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.
Adam’s Peak is one of the most sacred places in the country
There are several holy sites in the location, but Adam’s Peak is one that stands out from the rest. According to Buddhist belief, Buddha himself is said to have left a hollow in the ground.
Muslims and Christians believe that Adam left the footprint, after being expelled from Eden. Even the Hindus have their own belief on Adam’s Peak, and they claim that the footprint belongs to Lord Shiva.
Some other sacred places include Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya, and Ruwanwali Seya temple.
The Sri Lankan coastline is 1,340 km (830 mi) long
The coastline of Sri Lanka has an approximate length of 1340 kilometers, featuring some of the most beautiful beaches in South Asia. Along the coasts, visitors can enjoy marvelous conditions for scuba diving and snorkeling as well as surfing.
There are lots of gemstones in Sri Lanka
Sapphire, Ruby, Alexandrite, Zircon, Amethyst, Topaz, and Moonstone are some of the gemstones that can be found in Sri Lanka. In total, there are over 75 varieties of precious and semi-precious gemstones, and it’s one of the countries that has the highest density of gems.
Ceylon tea is famous worldwide
Ceylon tea is the most famous tea from Sri Lanka. It’s a black tea that varies in taste depending on where it has been grown. It’s regarded as one of the finest teas in the world and it’s known for its high content of antioxidants.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Sri Lanka
The Portuguese arrived in 1505 to seek control of commerce in the area. After several internal conflicts, the island nation fell under the rule of the Portuguese Empire. The colonization lasted until 1658 when the Dutch seized control over Ceilão (modern-day Sri Lanka).
There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka
The Sri Lankan World Heritage Sites are a mix of man-made and natural sites. They are all impressive in their own ways and worth visiting if you’re interested in culture, history, and nature.
- Sacred City of Kandy
- Ancient City of Sigiriya
- Sacred City of Anuradhapura
- Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
- Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
- Dambulla Cave Temple
- Sinharaja Forest Reserve
- Central Highlands
Sri Lanka has a tropical monsoon climate
The Sri Lankan climate differs from region to region, although the whole country has a tropical monsoon climate. There are distinct wet and dry seasons, but when they occur is highly dependent on which region.
The reason for big shifts across the country is due to various altitudes, mountain ranges, highlands, and lowlands. This also means, that no matter the time of the year, it’s always a good time to visit somewhere in Sri Lanka.
The island has been inhabited for at least 35,000 years
Sri Lanka might even have been inhabited for more than 35 000 years, but this is the oldest remainings that archaeologists have found. The island was then inhabited by the so-called Balangoda Man (Homo sapiens balangodensis).
It’s a Malaria-free country since 2016
In 2016, WHO officially declared it to be a malaria-free country. For many years, Malaria-infected mosquitoes ravaged on the island. It was even considered as one of the most affected areas in the world.
However, thanks to a highly-effective strategy, the Sri Lankan government succeded to eradicate Malaria within its borders in just 20 years.
Some of the best whale watching in the world
Most of the whale watching is concentrated around Mirissa in the southern part of the island. The whale watching season in Sri Lanka typically runs from November to April / May.
It’s also one of the few countries, if not the only, where you can see elephants and blue whales on the same day. This is one of many fascinating facts about Sri Lanka, and why you should put it on your bucket list.
Sri Lanka has one of the least powerful passports
According to the latest Passport Index, which ranks the most powerful passports, the Sri Lankan passport only allows its citizens to visit 47 destinations without acquiring a visa before departure.
Around 2 million tourists visit Sri Lanka each year
In recent years, the tourism industry has been booming with over 2 million tourists visiting per year. Successful media campaigns have helped put the island nation on the wishlist of many international tourists.
Moreover, it has become a trendy destination thanks to social media influencers as well, who’ve shared some of the best that Sri Lanka has to offer its visitors. The tourism sector now accounts for 12,5% of the national GDP.
The first female prime minister in the world was Sri Lankan
Sri Lankans can also pride themselves on being the first country in the world with a female prime minister. In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike wrote history when her Freedom Party won the general elections.
There are many Sri Lankan fruits
Thanks to its tropical climate, various kinds of unique fruits are thriving here, including Thambli, also known as the King coconut. Some other Sri Lankan fruits include Veralu (Ceylon Olive), Red Bananas, Wood Apple, Cashew Apple, and Kekiri.
The country gained its independence in 1948
You’ve already learned that Ceylon was a Portuguese and Dutch colony during the colonial period. However, the last colonizers were the British, who ruled over Ceylon from 1815 to 1948.
After that, Ceylon became a republic and a sovereign state. In 1972, the country’s name was officially changed to its current name – Sri Lanka.
There are around 7500 wild elephants in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan elephants are typically the largest one of the three subspecies of the Asian elephant. Recent numbers indicate that there are some 7500 wild elephants remaining in the country.
They are living in Yala National Park, Udawalawe National Park, Lunugamvehera National Park, Wilpattu National Park, and Minneriya National Park.
As a tourist, it’s very important to support genuine elephant sanctuaries and projects that aim to conserve the Sri Lankan elephants. Never support activities that include riding or other forms of abuse of these majestic animals.
More reading: The ugly truth of Elephant riding
A 25-year civil war ended in 2009
The Sri Lankan civil war started on 23 July 1983. For over 25 years, the Tamil Tigers fought against the Sinhalese. In May 2009, the Sri Lankan Military officially declared that they had defeated the Tamil Tigers.
Up to 80 000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Sri Lankan civil war, which was also devastating for the tourism industry. The root of the conflict goes back to British colonial rule over the island.
Sri Lanka has a rich biodiversity
There are many interesting animals in Sri Lanka, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a Sri Lankan leopard. Some other animals that you can see in the wild include Water buffalo, Sambar deer, Grey hornbill, Langur, and Sea turtles – just to mention a few, in addition to Elephants and Blue whales.
Cultural facts about Sri Lanka
- While most restaurants will have cutlery available, most Sri Lankans eat with their right hand.
- It’s rude to use your left hand for other things than cleaning yourself after a toilet visit.
- Turning your back on Buddha statues is considered rude. You should always be facing Buddha.
- Public affection is considered a private matter, and it’s typically frowned upon.
- In rural areas, the Sri Lankan form of exorcism (Thovil) is still being performed.
- Nodding your head means “no” and shaking your head from side to side means “yes”.
Fun Facts about Sri Lanka
- A Sri Lankan person eats 107 kilos of rice per year on average
- It’s considered bad luck to ignore cravings of a pregnant woman in Sri Lanka
- Cricket is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka
- There are over 30 million mobile telephone subscriptions in the country
- Home to the World’s oldest surviving human-planted tree, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.
- There are around 6,4 million Sri Lankans that are using social media.