The basics Population: Around 21 million Capital: Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte Religion: Approximately 70% of Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhists, and 11% are Hindu. Emergency numbers: 110 (ambulance/fire, Colombo), 119 (police) The key dates Poya Days. These are Buddhist public holidays occurring every full moon day. Shops and businesses generally close for the day, and the sale of meat and alcohol is widely prohibited. 13-14 April: Sinhalese New Year. This major anniversary is celebrated not only by the Sinhalese people but by most Sri Lankans. Many workers return to their home villages where they set off firecrackers and partake in feasts. The hot spots Popular destinations include Colombo, Sigiriya, Unawatuna, Kandy, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Nuwara Eliya, Adam’s Peak, and Yala National Park. Among the eight World Heritage Sites are the Golden Temple of Dambulla and the ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya. Some itinerary ideas • Go Coastal: Negombo – Colombo – Hikkaduwa – Galle – Mirissa • Tea & Temples: Colombo – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya • Cultural Triangle: Kandy – Sigiriya – Polonnaruwa – Anuradhapura How to stay healthy • Drink bottled or boiled water, or carbonated drinks. Avoid tap water, fountains and ice cubes. • Street food can be delicious but it’s best to avoid uncooked food (especially shellfish) and ice cream vendors. • The sun can be full-on in Sri Lanka: keep your fluids up! (No, not just beer.)

While you’re there, please don’t… • use your left hand when shaking hands, handing money and small objects, and so on. Happily, Sri Lankans are fairly forgiving of tourists when they mess this up! • take photos of guards, police or sensitive locations. Before you go, read … Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje – a fictionalised account of the author’s return to his native Sri Lanka in the late 1970s. Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka – though you have to be mad about cricket to enjoy it, this Singapore-based Sri Lankan’s first novel is a stunner. Before you go, watch … A Peck on the Cheek – a Tamil drama in which young Amudha learns she is adopted and sets out to find her biological mother. From Dust – a documentary that looks at the government’s response to a natural disaster, in this case, the Asian tsunami of 2004. They said it “The island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) is a small universe; it contains as many variations of culture, scenery and climate as some countries a dozen times its size.” – Sir Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author and resident of Sri Lanka for over 50 years, from 1956 until his death in 2008 “Wisdom can be found travelling.” – Sri Lankan proverb “It’s time for Sri Lankan to heal the wounds and unite without regard for religious and ethnic identity.” – Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

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