A teardrop-shaped island cast adrift in the Indian Ocean, Sri lanka is filled with cultural and natural treasures. Indians, Portuguese, Dutch and British have all left their marks here, making for a delightful mix of ancient cities, monuments and atmospheric colonial architecture.
At the same time, palm-fringed beaches are never far away and lush mountainous greenery beckons inland. It's clear to see why Marco Polo proclaimed Sri Lanka to be one of the best islands in the world.
However, its teardrop shape is not inappropriate and Sri Lanka has known its fair share ofpolitical turmoil and natural disasters in recent decades. Once the country became a Republic in 1972, serious conflict arose from the Tamil minority (occupying the north and east), who demanded a separate state. Terrorist activity by the Tamil Tigers has been prevalent ever since - apart from a shaky ceasefire in 2002, which sadly did not last much more than two years.
The country was also devastated by the 2004tsunami, which killed more than 30,000 Sri Lankans and wiped out many coastal communities. While many tourists have been discouraged by the troubles, tourism is a healing force in this hard-hit country, and visitors will be guaranteed a warm welcome.