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Few islands of similar small proportions have as beautiful and diverse a natural environment as Sri Lanka. Lapped by the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean, dazzlingly white beaches frame an interior of enormous variety. In the lowlands, there is wildlife-rich tropical vegetation, where you’ll find magnificent elephants, leopards, water buffalo and rare bird species. In the contrasting cooler climates of the hill country there are waterfalls and terraced tea plantations.

Variety isn’t exclusive to the natural landscape; the familiar and the exotic collide in the many man-made attractions. Sri Lanka's 2,000 years of history traces back to early Sinhalese civilisation, whose influence can be seen in the ruined cities and Buddhist monuments. Colonisation by the Portuguese, Dutch and British lends an air of familiarity to Sri Lanka’s Eastern exotic charm.

The bustling capital of Colombo, once one of the most important ports of the British Empire, demonstrates its British and Dutch influences in its Fort, Dutch Hospital shopping precinct and The Old Parliament building.

The country lays claim to no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Polonnaruwa, which was home of the Sinhalese Kings during the 12th and 13th centuries who built giant Buddha statues and palaces in the beautiful natural setting.

Distances are short and experiences are plentiful, from spectacular train rides through verdant tea countries to jeep safaris in national parks (Minneriya); from relaxing mangrove boat trips to oxcart journeys through rice paddies and farmland. Explore legendary temples, stroll through Royal Botanical Gardens (Peradeniya) and get up close to the wrinkly elephants that the country is famed for (Pinnawela Elephant Orpanage).