It is hard to describe the essence of Sri Lanka, it has to be experienced. The country is rich in tradition and while it has embraced the modern world, retains its old values. With the importance given to elders and the due respect given to their experiences, you will find Sri Lanka a place where you can feel safe and cared for. Skills are handed down from generation to generation with religion playing a very important role in everyday life.
Yet Sri Lanka has managed to strike the perfect balance between the old and the modern so that you never feel as though you are stuck in a time warp. Instead you can enjoy tradition cuisine, influenced by our colonial past and served with a modern twist. You will find buildings with colonial architecture that have withstood the test of time yet now housing modern institutions; you can listen to music that speaks of our history yet appeals to our modern tastes. Sri Lanka's essence has to be experienced; come visit Sri Lanka, the wonder of Asia.
The British brought the first tea shrub to Sri Lanka in 1824, planting it at the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens but it was not until 1867 that tea was planted for commercial purposes.
Sri Lankan tea is categorized as low, medium or high grown variety depending on the altitude at which it is grown. The rolling hills of Nuwera Eliya, with an altitude of 1,890 meters (6,200 ft) produces the world's best tea - called the "Champagne of Teas" - celebrated for lots fine flavor and lingering freshness.
Today, Sri Lanka produces more than 300,000 metric tons of tea. It is the world's largest producer of black tea with Colombo being the world's largest tea auction centre.
Sri Lankan's are passionate consumers of the "cuppa", and often find any reason to enjoy a piping hot cup of ginger or milk tea.
Sri Lanka's spices have been its main attraction for thousands of years. The Romans, Arabs and the western world traded with Sri Lanka in the bygone years. Today it remains one of the foremost exporters of quality spice across the world.
The island's dominance in the spice world is reflected in the fact that both cinnamon and cardamom are native to Sri Lanka and the country is also a major supplier of pepper, cloves, nutmeg and mace. Sri Lanka supplies almost 90 percent of the world's cinnamon - between 7,500 to10, 000 tons annually.
A number of therapeutic spice gardens are found on the routes into Kandy from Colombo, and many offer multi-lingual garden tours. Here you can view and sample not just spices but a range of produce from vanilla and cocoa pods, curry leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and sandalwood, red bananas, sea coconut and king coconut, coffee beans, aloe vera, and much more, in the wild.
Sri Lanka's age-old culture is one seeped in traditional arts and craft. In modern day Sri Lanka, these traditions live on.
Batik - Adapted from the Indonesian classic art, Batik gained elitist status in medieval Sri Lank, featuring prominently in the Kandyan Court in the form of banners, wall hangings and the ceremonial dress of the nobility. Today most batiks artists are located in the Western province, Colombo in particular. Some young and enterprising designers have taken the art-form to high fashion featuring their exclusive creations in the global fashion ramps.
Handloom Weaving - Historically, hand-loom weaving has its roots in the Kandyan region, principally in the production of robes for the Buddhist monks. Today, the art is practices mainly in the central province and with the encouragement of the Government, modern accessories like curtains, furnishing materials, linens and dress fabrics are produced to the highest international standards.
Lace work - A legacy of the Portuguese, lace work was introduced to Sri Lanka in the middle of the 16th Century and further developed by the Dutch. The growing demand for lace work internationally has seen the establishment of four National Craft Council training centers in the south of the country where lace work is famous. Artisans in the Galle Fort, weave snow-white reams of intricate lace using the dying technique of Beeralu.
Wooden masks - Sri Lanka has a long tradition of mask- making, with most masks featuring carved images of demons, divine beings, legendary characters and animals. In early times they were used as part of "devil dancing' rituals to exorcise spirits and illness, a traditional ritual that is still prevalent amongst communities in rural Sri Lanka. Masks also feature prominently in traditional Sri Lankan theatre. About 15,000 museums around the world house Sri Lankan mask collections, among them the British Museum. Majority of the mask-making artisans are found in the southern and western provinces.
Pottery - Sri Lanka's long unbroken pottery tradition goes back over the centuries to the proto-historic period, or the time predating recorded history. Terracotta artisans in contemporary Sri Lanka create a large and varied range of decorative pieces in addition to the more traditional religious and utilitarian pottery. The majority of pottery artisans live in the western and central provinces.
Coconut shell-ware - The ancient craft holds an exalted position among all the crafts in Sri Lanka. Many early 'water dippers' are now collector's items, some with fine quality, silver-mounted carvings. The artisans specializing in the craft are found in the western coastal region.
A Grand National passion, cricket is played on every available pitch across the length and breadth of Sri Lanka. Visitors are often amazed at how both the young and old, irrespective of gender are obsessed with this national pre-occupation. This small island nation boasts of 9 international-class cricket grounds, 2 of which lie in the shadows of stunning World Heritage Sites.
What do the Queen of Sheba, the famous Caliph of Baghdad, Haroun al-Raschid, the Duchess of Windsor, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana all have in common? They are just some of the famous names fortunate enough to have owned exquisite gemstones mined in Sri Lanka.
Fortunately for lovers of some of the world's finest gems, the soil of Sri Lanka produces a seemingly endless supply of these precious stones. And just as reassuringly, Sri Lanka also has skilled jewelers who produce jewelry that meets the standards of the world's top jewelry houses.
Sri Lanka is renowned for producing the finest and largest blue sapphires in the world, and also has the biggest variety of gems in the world, with 40 out of the 85 gemstones in existence found on the island. With the greatest concentration of gems on earth, Sri Lanka is ranked amongst the top 5 gem producing nations. Much of the country's surface contains gemstone minerals ranging from Blue and Yellow Sapphires, Star Rubies and Star Sapphires, Pathparaja, Topaz, Amethyst, Garnet, Aquamarine, Moonstone, Alexandrite and Cat's Eyes to name a few.