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Compared to big brother India next door, Sri Lanka seems small. But this is one instance where size doesn’t matter. The island nation has been gaining increasing fame for its beautiful natural wonders – most notably its lush beaches – but the country also boasts ancient ruins, eight Unesco World Heritage sites, mountains laden with charming tea plantations and verdant jungles where elephants roam wild.
Formerly known as Ceylon, the island has a history that dates back more than 2,000 years, and a diverse ethnic and religious complexion made up of Buddhist Sinhalese, Hindu Tamils, Muslims and mixed-race minorities. A British colony from 1815 until 1948, the status of English as a recognised language, the country’s cricketing prowess and its tea industry are colonial legacies of its former ruler. Before that, though, the Portuguese and Dutch ruled parts of the country. It’s this potpourri of different cultures and identities that makes the country so unique and diverse.
Aside from its beaches, the colonial gems of the capital Colombo are the best-known attractions in Sri Lanka. Yet there are countless destinations outside of the capital that are worth investigating. Here are the best spots off the beaten path...