Taprobane, Serendib, Emerald Island and The Teardrop of India - Sri Lanka has earned many endearing monikers for its colorful past. In fact, the word "serendipity" (meaning the faculty to make fortunate discoveries by accident) originated in Sri Lanka in the 18-century, when the English writer Horace Walpole was so smitten by the place that he felt an urge to coin a word worthy of his lucky discovery.

The story of this eclectic nation began with mankind's need for one resource essential to its survival -water. Sophisticated irrigation systems emerged as early as the 1st Century A.D., leading to the birth of two great ancient Sinhalese civilizations: Anuradhapura in the center of the northern plain and Polonnaruwa, further southeast, near Mahaweli Ganga.

Anuradhapura, the first major capital city of Sri Lanka (4th Century B.C. - 8th Century A.D.), was famous for its flourishing monastic community and tradition of learning. The pursuit of knowledge led to the recording of history early on. Buddhist monks recounted Anuradhapura's development as far back as the 6th Century A.D. leaving behind the sacred scripture of Mahavamsa and its sequel, Culavamsa. The monastic accomplishments found their expression also in the construction of hemispherical domes called stupas or dagobas, a Buddhist architectural innovation imported from northern India. Sacred Buddhist relics are housed in these astonishing structures.

The next capital city, Polonnaruwa was the center of power until the 13th Century, boasting one of Sri Lanka's largest man-made reservoirs, as well as the ruins of once spectacular palaces, pleasure gardens and sculptural wonders. The irrigation projects initiated by King Parakramabahu I, especially the 5,940-acre Parakrama Samudra, have sustained the vibrant civilizations of Sri Lanka for hundreds of years.

Kandy (16th - 19th Century) was the third and last great Sri Lankan kingdom. The relocation of the country's capital ensured Kandy's significance as the permanent site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Royal Palace. To this day, the tooth relic has anointed the city as the country's religious capital, serving as a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world, especially during the Esala Perahera festival.

The early 16th Century also saw the arrival of foreign colonial powers that had a profound impact on the social and religious fabric of the country. Under Portuguese and Dutch rule, the Muslim community crystallized as an identifiable ethnic group. At the same time, missionaries brought with them Christianity. Even agriculture wasn't left untouched. The English introduced their plantation agriculture to Ceylon's economy in the mid-19th Century, focusing on three major crops - tea, rubber and coconuts. This rich plantation infrastructure has been a valuable resource to Sri Lanka, even after attaining independence in 1948.

For visitors, Sri Lanka's colorful tapestry of history, religion, architecture, wildlife and food makes it a fascinating place to explore.

Ayurveda in Sri Lanka

"Ayurveda" is not just a form of medication that locals swear by, it is a total way of life known to generations of Sri Lankans for over 3000 years. It is a gentle method of treating the root cause of illness of both mind and body.It is a science of healthy living, and has two aims, to preserve health and to cure a body afflicted by disease.This holistic form of therapy utilizes the diet, herbs, oils, animal products, yoga and meditation to heal and rejuvenate both the body and mind.

Although Ayurveda can be enjoyed casually for its toning massages and herbal baths, it has a series of intense treatments that take over a period of weeks or even months and produce remarkable results. Ayurveda makes use of the island's natural resources like herbs, leaves, flowers, barks, roots and berries and uses them to cleanse the blood and the body of impurities.

It is claimed that many conditions can be alleviated or cured by Ayurveda, including arthritis, migraine, exhaustion, high blood pressure, depression, cystitis, asthma, nicotine and heroin addiction.

Sun & Sea

As the shimmering horizon disappears into the distant azure sky, tall gusts of waves surf towards the palm-fringed sandy beaches encircling Sri Lanka. This is paradise, blessed with soft white sand and wide-open vistas of the Indian Ocean. It's the perfect place to spend a relaxing beach vacation or a few days in the sun before continuing your journey to the Cultural Triangle.

The more popular beaches are located on the south coast, which is famous for its sunny weather and clear blue sky. Explore the laid-back charm of this region and and discover unusual and exciting attractions like the famous Kudawella blowhole on the rocky Unawatuna beach - a rare geological formation shooting huge columns of water high up into the air during the monsoon season. The famous stilt fishermen along the shores of Weligama present another spectacular sight, sitting for hours patiently on stilts in the ocean. While further down the coast, Hikkaduwa is perfect for snorkeling or taking a glass bottom boat ride, as the marine sanctuary there flourishes with an abundance of corals and tropical fish.


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