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Sri Lanka

The wonders of Sri Lanka are luring visitors once again. With spectacular beaches, historic sites and delicious cuisine it is a country that offers intrepid travellers experiences that contrast and surprise.

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Kandy is Sri Lanka’s cultural capital as it plays host to dozens of Buddhist shrines including the country’s most sacred, The Temple of the Tooth. Here you can join the throng of white-clothed devotees as they file in, colourful lotus blooms in hand, to perform their daily puja (worship) to the melodious thumping of drums.

Sri Lanka is an island that teems with wildlife. On its shores lie no less than 20 wildlife-filled national parks plus many more wetlands, sanctuaries and reserves. The elephant is one of the island’s most popular attractions – most numerously seen during the ‘Gathering’ in Minneriya National Park in September and October– but Sri Lanka is also renowned for being one of the best places in the world to see leopards and blue whales in their respective habitats in the wild.

Other creatures that can be seen include sloth bears, crocodiles, sambar deer, monkeys and wild boar. Of the 435 resident bird species on the island, 26 are endemic with many more arriving during the winter migratory season. Whilst Yala remains the island’s most popular and easily accessible national park, 2010 has seen the reopening of Wilpattu and Kumana for the first time since the war.

Besides its natural beauty, what makes Sri Lanka such a fascinating country to visit is its diverse society with its mix of Sinhalese and Tamils, its Muslims and Burghers, and the external influences of its English, Dutch and Portuguese colonialists. This contrasting jumble is perfectly reflected in the nation’s striking architecture that can be observed all over the island and also through its mouth-watering cuisine. In the North, sari clad women cycle past ornate brightly coloured Hindu temples conversing in rapid Tamil, which feels a world apart after spending time in the Sinhalese dominated South.