Hanging like a tear-drop from the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Ringed by a necklace of palm-fringed beaches, its mountainous interior rears up in a jungled hinterland roamed by elephant and leopard, rising finally to the cool highlands that grow the country's famous tea.
Amidst all this there's culture too. Overwhelmingly Buddhist, Sri Lankans practice their gentle beliefs with lavish enthusiasm. There are thronged temples and sacred relics, religious festivals and extravagant sacrements, at their most spectacular in the holy city of Kandy, home to the Buddha's tooth.
Here's your guide to enjoying everything that this magical island has to offer.
Anastasiia Kotelnyk / Shutterstock.com
Looking for inspiration?
The hills or the beach? That used to be the hardest choice facing travellers in Sri Lanka. But with the end of the conflict in the island's north, there's another spectacular option for visitors to consider.
Nick Boulos visited Sri Lanka's Tamil heartland recently and found an area transformed. Many people have returned, turning to tourism to rebuild their lives. 'Hotels and homestays are springing up, military bases have been transformed into wildlife parks and nature resorts', he reports. 'Former battlefields are now family-friendly seaside getaways.'
Thankfully, Sri Lanka is compact enough for you to take in its other high points too. Chris Haslam recommends the surf beaches and leopard-infested jungles of the east coast. While Katherine Sazdanoff sings the praises of Sri Lanka's hill country, listing 8 places you must not miss when you want to escape the tropical heat.
Sri Lanka: Exploring the east coast – Chris Haslam
Sri Lanka's northern soul – Nick Boulos
8 highlights of Sri Lanka's hill country – Katherine Sazdanoff
Sri Lankan leopard / Shutterstock.com
Wildlife photographer and tour guide, Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, says Sri Lanka is the best place in Asia for seeing wildlife. The island’s isolation from the mainland, the heavy rainfall of the two diagonally blowing monsoons, and the country’s wide range of altitudes have given it a variation in climate and biodiversity normally found only across an entire continent.
Gehan's handy guide to the national parks of Sri Lanka tells you what to expect to see in each park, how to get there and nearby points of interest.
If it's elephants you're after, Lizzie Matthews suggests heading to the hills, and to Minneriya in particular, where you can witness a huge gathering of the beasts. Lyn Hughes, on the other hand, visited Yale on the east coast and indulged in a little leopard spotting. She explains how you can too.
Sri Lanka's best wildlife National Parks – Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
Elephant Diaries: Walking and wildlife in Sri Lanka – Lizzie Matthews
Tantalise your tastebuds
As an island nation, it's no surprise to learn that Sri Lanka's tastiest dishes are influenced by the sea. Chef Peter Kuruvita shares his three favourites, including a stunning Jaffna Crab Curry that he claims is the best curry in the world.
If it's a refreshing beverage you're after, Bree Hutchins recommends a cup of Sri Lankan tea. With a twist, of course – spicy or otherwise.
3 Sri Lankan seafood dishes – Peter Kuruvita
3 refreshing drinks from Sri Lanka – Bree Hutchins
Elephants in Kandy / Shutterstock.com
Capturing it all on film
Want to take a killer photo of that leopard lounging on a branch in Yala National Park? Or of the family of elephants, splashing in the river at Minneriya? Listen up: the planet's pre-eminent wildlife photographer, Mark Carwardine, is on hand with five essential photography tips for wildlife images.
If it's inspiration you're after, look no further than the images of Sri Lanka our readers have brought back from their travels.
5 essential photography tips for wildlife images – Mark Carwardine
Readers' photos from Sri Lanka
Freshly picked tea / Shutterstock.com
Everything you need to know
Ready to start planning your trip? Our Sri Lanka Travel Guide is the place to start.
If you have a particular question about Sri Lanka, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum, where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Or check out the questions people have already asked about Sri Lanka. The answer to yours might already be there.
Sri Lanka Travel Guide – Wanderlust Team
Sri Lanka Q&A
Sri Lankan beach / Shutterstock.com
Lead image: Smiling Sri Lankan fisherman / Shutterstock.com