Sri Lanka lies just off the south-east coast of India with its southern tip barely 30km from the equator. This is a tropical island that for centuries has attracted the covetous gazes of people from all over the world.

A land apart from the influences of the mainland, Sri Lanka grew freely, and even today the air of wildness is never far away. Although waves of invaders from the first arrivals of the Sinhalese in 500BC to the last usurpers, the British in the 18th century, have attempted to tame the island and its landscape, all only succeeded in making the island even more diverse and beautiful.

It is in the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, and the countless other relics of antiquity that the real heart of Sri Lanka is found. Here there is evidence of an ancient society that was counted among the most sophisticated in the world of its time. Sigiriya Rock Fortress is called by many the eighth wonder of the ancient world, and not undeservedly, yet this is only one of many amazing sights throughout the country.

Sri Lanka though never needed man to add his own flourishes to its beauty. Much of the island is still covered by forest despite the best efforts of the British who exported great quantities of precious wood to build their war ships and feed the furnaces of the industrial revolution. The diversity of plant and animal life is breathtaking. Wild elephants inhabit many areas and you can still see big cats, snakes and deer roaming the countryside.

With peace a real possibility for the first time in decades, and with Colombo continuing to develop as an Asian capital of importance, Sri Lanka is entering what could be its most dynamic period as an independent nation. Stunning beaches, stunning scenery and a remarkable cultural heritage will ensure that tourists play their part in this renaissance.

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