50 Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka

Last updated on April 18th, 2022

Sri Lanka is an island country located in the Southeast of India. Although most overlooked, this Indian Ocean hidden gem has so much to offer to the world. From its intriguing historical background, interesting economic growth, impressive culture to amazing natural resources, there is so much to learn about Sri Lanka.

So, if you’re planning on visiting this small island country, be it for educational purposes or luxury, here are 50 interesting facts about Sri Lanka that should arouse your curiosity.

1. Unique Nicknames

Sri Lanka’s geographical map is unique resembling a tear-drop. And because of its position in the south of India, it’s popularly referred to as the “tear-drop” of India. It’s also referred to as the “pearl of the Indian ocean due to its geographical location.

2. Home of Many languages

While English is popularly spoken in Sri Lanka, the country also recognizes Tamil and Sinhalese as national languages. The country also accepts multiple sign languages.

3. The Land of Rice

The main food crop of Sri Lanka is rice. So expect to eat lots of rice with curry with your hands as most people don’t prefer cutlery. To fit in, always say rice curry and not the other way round, as rice is considered more valuable than curry!

4. Cricket is the Most Popular Sport in Sri Lanka

Although the official national sport in Sri Lanka is volleyball, cricket is the most popular and it has won the Asian cup in 2014, 2008, 1997, and 1986. Also, the Sri Lanka cricket team has always achieved significant results in the world cup, even qualifying for the finals in 2011 and winning in 1996 vs Australia

Tea plantation, Kandy, Sri Lanka. For facts about Sri Lanka
Tea plantation, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image credit – cattan2011

5. Tea World Records Holder

Sri Lankans love their tea. In fact, tea is their primary export crop.

6. Had More than One Colonizer

Sri Lanka was colonized by three colonizers before finally gaining its independence in 1948. The first colonizers were the Portuguese (1505-1543), followed by the Dutch (1658-1796) and then the British (1776-1948)

7. Used to be called Ceylon

When the Portuguese empire arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505, they gave her the name Ceylon which was transliterated as Ceylon in English by the British.

Train on Nine arch Bridge in Sri Lanka.
Train on Nine arch Bridge in Sri Lanka. Facts about Sri Lanka. Photo © 204474 | Dreamstime.com

8. Good Travel Destination all Year-long

You can visit Sri Lank any time of the year because of its fairly constant temperatures. But if you want to avoid rain, and enjoy the hot sunny weather of this beautiful Indian Ocean Island, visit between December – March (West and South coasts. Or April -September (hill country and East coast)

9. Home of 91 mammal Species

Sri Lanka is a proud home to around 91 mammal species distributed throughout the country. Out of this, 16 are rarely found in other countries, while 14 of them are categorized as endangered species.

10. 26.5% of its land is listed as Protected

The country has the highest percentage of protected land compared to other Asian countries and across the world. Of this protected land, there are 92 Key Biodiversity designated areas, which are listed as irreplaceable.

Sri Lanka on map

11. Its Legal Drinking Age

The official alcohol buying age in Sri Lanka is 21 years. In 2018 the country made an attempt to amend its 1955 law to allow women over the age of 18 to buy alcohol, a right which they had been denied for more than 60 years. But the move was reversed by former President Maithripala Sirisena.

12. Not every Hotel Offers Overnight Bookings

In Sri Lanka, the name hotel isn’t reserved only for places offering overnight stays. It’s common to find cafes, bars, and even restaurants being referred to as hotels. The locals cannot explain the reason behind this either. So, ensure you ask what’s on the menu or if there is room for the night as you move around.

13. When Visiting Someone

Whenever visiting a Sri Lankan home, ensure to carry a small remembrance gift with you. This is a common practice over there, and your hosts will appreciate it.

14. The Head Nodding Confusion

Contrary to most cultures across the world where the nodding of one’s head means “yes”, in Sri Lanka this act means “no”. Instead, Sri Lankans shake their heads from side to side to mean yes.

15. Buddhism is the Most Followed Religion

With around 70% following, Buddhism is considered the most popular religion in Sri Lanka. The Island country also consider the Sacred Tooth Relic, which is believed to be the home of the Buddha’s sacred tooth as its most valued Buddhist shrine.

16. First Woman Prime Minister

Sri Lanka made history in the world by electing the first female prime minister in 1960. And no, she wasn’t elected once, but thrice!

St.Clair waterfall Sri Lanka
St. Clair waterfall Sri Lanka. Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka. Image credit – Mal B

17. Home of Intriguing Waterfalls

With a record of over 400 waterfalls, the country prides itself on hosting some of the highest density of waterfalls in the world. The tallest of them all being the Bambarakanda Falls measuring 241 meters. You can swim in most of the waterfalls, and they’re the main source of energy in this beautiful country.

18. Produces the Healthiest Cinnamon

Cinnamon is believed to have originated from Sri Lanka. It’s still grown in the country and is ranked as the healthiest you can find in the world.

19. High Literacy Rate in South Asia

The country values education and has ensured to document it as a fundamental right in its constitution. Currently, its literacy rate is at 91.9%, ranking it among the top 10 most literate nations in South Asia.

20. Vibrant Multicultural Heritage

Sri Lanka is home to various languages, religions and ethnic groups. Most artists produce classic artworks based on their religion. There is also freedom of expression in the contemporary art scenes, with rising artists being encouraged to display their works at the “Green Path” near the Colombo National Museum over the weekends.

Flag of Sri Lanka

Flag of Sri Lanka for fact file of Sri Lanka

21. One of the World’s Most Complicated Flag

Although the Sri Lanka flag is based on the golden lion symbol of a lion in the original Ceylon flag, it also features a lot of religious symbols. From the green stripe for Muslims, orange strip for Hindus, to the Maroon background for the Sinhalese people, it will take some good explanation for you to understand each flag symbol.

22. The Most Important Source of Gemstones

There are various minerals, such as Rubies, Sapphires (blue, pink and yellow), hessonite garnet among others being mined in Sri Lanka. They even have the Ratnapura town which is popularly referred to as a land of Gems in Sri Lanka.

23. Conservative Nation

Although Sri Lankans are very friendly and welcoming people, they’re very conservative, especially when in public and sacred places. Women are especially expected to cover their shoulders, and legs for both genders. Also, expect to remove your shoes in some sacred places such as temples.

Pinnawela Elephant orphanage / sanctuary Sri Lanka
Pinnawela Elephant orphanage, Sri Lanka. Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka. Image credit – Mal B

24. The Elephant Rides

While the domestication of elephants is illegal in most countries, you can still find working elephants in some parts of Sri Lanka. Last year, the Sri Lanka government passed a law to ban riding elephants while drunk.

25. No Selfies with Buddha

In Sri Lanka, it’s a great offence to take a picture with your back facing Buddha. Also, most temples and cultural centres in this country forbid indoor photography in specific areas.

26. Adam’s Peak

Also referred to as Sri Pada, this is Sri Lanka’s most sacred mountain. It attracts pilgrims from all over the world, who hike through to the top for a moment at the popular footprint. According to Buddhists’ beliefs, the footprint was left there by Buddha during his visit to Sri Lanka.

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka. Image credit – VSL Travels

27. Home to the World’s oldest Human Plant

The Jaya Sri Tree, the world’s oldest human tree, which is backdated to 288 BC, is still found in Sri Lanka’s Mahamewna gardens. It’s surrounded by walls, water canals and golden fences for protection purposes. No construction is allowed within 500 meters meets of the tree.

28. Malaria-Free Nation

Being a tropical country, Sri Lanka was famously known for malaria disease. However, the government implemented strong measures to curb the disease, leading to it being declared a malaria-free nation in 2016 by the WHO.

blue whale
A blue whale. Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka. Image credit – Kenny

29. Best Whale Watching Scenes

Whales are very common in the South Coast of Sri Lanka, especially from November to April. The most visible varieties include the blue, pilot, fin and sperm whales. You might also spot some dolphins and flying fish.

30. The Civil War Ended in 2009

Sri Lanka experienced one of the longest civil wars that lasted for almost three decades (from 1983 to 2009). It’s believed that around 80,000 people lost their lives during this time. The country’s tourism sector also suffered great losses over those years.

6 girls, 6 different passports travelling to Sri Lanka
6 girls, 6 different passports travelling to Sri Lanka. Image credit – maddalena monge

31. Least Powerful Passport

You can only travel to 47 destinations without a visa using Sri Lanka’s passport, making it one of the least powerful passports worldwide. However, the country’s visa is easily accessible and can be applied online.

32. Was Worst Hit by the 2004 Tsunami

During the outrageous 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the country was ranked the second-worst hit. Around 40,000 people lost their lives. According to reports, animals such as elephants and flamingos sensed the tsunami and escaped to safer grounds.

33. Sex Was the Most Searched Word in 2020

According to Google trends in 2020, the most searched word was Sri Lanka “sex”. The fact was attributed to the covid-19 related imposed lockdown, which affected physical relationships.

34. Once Denied Akon Entry

Due to the respect accorded to Buddha in Sri Lanka, the country denied Akon, a renowned musician entry into the country in 2010. This after one of his videos contained indecent pool part videos in front of Buddha’s statue.

35. Home to Sigiriya Rock Fortress

The Sigiriya Rock Fortress rises 200m from the forested plains and is recognized as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The massive rock is one of the most popular tourist attraction sites in Sri Lanka.

Adam's Bridge, Sri Lanka
Adam’s Bridge, Sri Lanka. Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka. Image credit – Charith Gunarathna

36. Might have been Physically Connected to India

According to Hindu devotees, the current Adam’s bridge, which stands between India and Sri Lanka was constructed millions of years ago by Lord Ram, with the help of an army of monkeys. But Scientists and archaeologists attribute its existence to the formation of sand and stone.

37. Features 1340 km Coast Line

Sri Lanka is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in South Asia. The coastlines stretch hundreds of miles, allowing visitors to enjoy surfing and scuba diving.

Wood-apples for sale on the road-side
Wood-apples for sale on the road-side. Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka. Image credit – Ankur Panchbudhe

38. Home to Unique Fruits

The country’s tropical climate makes it favorable for various types of unique fruits. Visitors enjoy King Coconut, Ceylon Olive, Wood apple, among other Sri Lankan fruits.

39. Take Slow on Public Display of affection

As earlier mentioned, Sri Lankans are conservative people. They consider affection a private thing, and any public display of it is frowned upon.

40. Exorcism Still Exists

In some rural parts of Sri Lanka, exorcism rituals, such as the Sanni Takuma is still practiced. They are believed to chase off demons from a possessed person.

41. The Use of Hands

In Sri Lanka, things are meant to be passed around by the right hand or both hands. The left hand is meant for cleaning, especially after visiting the toilet.

A beautiful sunset somewhere in Sri Lanka.
A beautiful sunset somewhere in Sri Lanka. Interesting Facts About Sri Lanka. Image credit – llee_wu

42. Courtesy and Refreshments

Sri Lankans are naturally welcoming and love offering refreshments to their visitors. Turning down a refreshment offer is considered rude.

43. Alcohol Consumption and Mealtime

Many religions in this country do not encourage alcohol consumption. Therefore, restrain from drinking some during dinner/shared meals.

44. Flowers As Gifts

In Sri Lanka, people don’t consider flowers as gifts. They are commonly used in specific occasions such as weddings, mourning or religious activities.

45. Head Touching

Sri Lankans consider the head as the most sacred part of the human body. It’s therefore not appropriate to touch someone’s head, especially children and babies.

Aerial view of Colombo, Sri Lanka. fact file of Sri Lanka
Aerial view of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Modern buildings with coastal promenade area. Photo © Madrugadaverde | Dreamstime.com

46. Women and Surnames

After marriage, women in most parts of Sri Lanka change their surnames to that of their husbands. They, however, keep their patronymic name.

. . . continue reading on the next page