Official Name:Commercial capital: Colombo
Capital:PopulationÂ 21.2 million
Population: Area 65,610 sq km 25,332 sq miles
Area: Major languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English
Major Languages: Major religionsÂ Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity
Major Religions: Life expectancyÂ 72 years men, 78 years women
Life expectancy: CurrencyÂ Sri Lankan rupee
Want to see elephants in the wild? You€™re unlikely to find a better country in the world to do so than Sri Lanka! Uda Walawe National Park is the most popular place. However, Minneriya National Park is home to one of Asia€™s greatest wildlife spectacles, known as €œThe Gathering€. More than 200 elephants gather in the one spot there during August and September each year! Here€™s a secret though €” nearby Kaudulla is just as good (and cheaper). It€™s possible to hang out with elephants up close at the famous Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage as well, which can be visited on a day trip from Colombo. If you€™re a wildlife enthusiast, you€™ll also enjoy leopard spotting on safari at Yala National Park. A more difficult to reach but less crowded alternative (without the hundreds of jeeps) that€™s known for its leopards is Kumana National Park. It has elephants and plenty of birds too. In addition, avid birders definitely shouldn€™t overlook Bundala National Park.
Although it€™s only a small island, Sri Lanka has an impressive eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Two of them are major cities. Galle, situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, is surprisingly stylish and hip. This coastal city was founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, and further developed in the 17th century by the Dutch. The main attraction is Galle Fort, and a sunset walk around it is mesmerizing. Kandy, in central Sri Lanka, is the country€™s second largest city. Known for its culture, it was the royal capital of Sinhalese Kings from 1592 to 1815 (when the British took it over). The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was built within the royal palace complex and holds a tooth believed to have belonged to the Buddha.
Sri Lanka has a tropical, monsoonal climate. The high season runs from December until March, and is weather-wise the best time to visit the southwest part of the country (Colombo, Galle, and Hill County). The weather in Sri Lanka€™s north and east is best during the low season, from May until August. April and September are shoulder season months, and offer the best chance of good weather if you want to visit the whole country.02of 12 Explore Sri Lanka€™s Heritage Cities Christer Fredriksson/Getty Images