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10 Unique Facts About Sri Lanka


After years of being seemingly overlooked by travellers heading elsewhere, Sri Lanka is now becoming a popular destination of choice and it’s not hard to see why. Sri Lanka is a small but diverse country with plenty of charm; from pristine beaches and incredible wildlife to famous tea and ancient ruins, there is something for everyone on this island. Even better, distances are short, which make it easier to discover lots in a shorter space of time than, for instance, its neighbour India. You might have already read up on the best that the country has to offer, but here are a few lesser known facts about Sri Lanka…
Decorative torn edge

1 – Pearl of the Indian Ocean & Teardrop of India

Sri Lanka has two names that it’s also known as. The first is ‘pearl of the Indian Ocean’, this is said to be named after its incredible beauty, varied biodiversity (the highest in Asia!), as well as one of its main exports being precious gemstones. The second, the ‘teardrop of India’, is a little more obvious, due to its perfect teardrop shape and being off the coast of India.

Sri Lanka teardrop map
Sri Lanka tea pickers Nuwara Eliya

2 – The Sri Lankan head “waggle”

In Sri Lanka, it’s very common for people to “waggle” their heads from side to side (more of a pendulum swing than a shaking of the head), there’s quite a bit of variation on what this actually means. But generally, it means “yes” or an affirmative answer. However, it can also be interpreted as “Do you agree?”.

3 – Sri Lankan national sport

You might be mistaken for thinking the national sport of Sri Lanka is cricket. Although it is by far the most popular sport in the country (after it’s introduction by the British in the 1800s, and having several successful teams, coming runners up in some of the largest competitions), the national sport of the country is, in fact, volleyball, which was introduced in 1916.

Sri Lanka volleyball
Sri Lanka Tamil tea pickers

4 – Sri Lanka’s largest export?

Tea is Sri Lanka’s largest export, accounting for 12% of its export by product (2014). It’s the fourth largest exporter of tea in the world (Source updated 13/02/18), and in February 2017, marked its 150th anniversary of tea exportation. Ceylon Tea, being that Sri Lanka is most known for, is considered by the cleanest tea in the world by the ISO (with the least pesticide residue quantities).

So if you like tea, you’ll love Sri Lanka!

5 – Adam’s Peak

Adam’s Peak is the most sacred mountain in the country. Steeped in legend and religious theories, Adam’s Peak (or Sri Pada) has pilgrims from all over the world climb to its peak by candlelight to stand in the famous footprint left there. Buddist’s believe that it is the footprint of Buddha when he visited Sri Lanka. Tamil Hindus believe it’s the footprint of Lord Shiva. Christians and Muslims in Sri Lanka believe that this was the footprint of, Adam as he was exiled from Eden (some believing that Sri Lanka was Eden itself).

Adam’s Peak was also noted by Marco Polo in 1298 during his travels that it was a place of pilgrimage even then.

Adams Peak Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka waterfall

6 – Hydropower

Thanks to the countries waterfalls and rivers, the majority (over 50% in 2014) of the power for the country is generated by Hydropower.

7 – Cinnamon’s origins

Cinnamon is known and loved around the world, from cinnamon buns to curries and Indian food. Cinnamon is actually from Sri Lanka and was discovered by the Egyptians as early as 2000BC, who used it for many things, including as a spice, but also as perfuming in the embalming process. Most of the world’s cinnamon still comes from Sri Lanka (80-90%!), so you can thank them for sharing this with the world!

Sri Lanka cinnamon shop
Sri Lanka Kandy accommodation balcony view

8 – Universities

There are twenty universities in Sri Lanka (15 official universities and 5 Government ones – updated 13:02:18), which, considering the population (around 20 million) and the size of the country, is impressive!

9 – Literacy

Over 92% of people living in the country are literate which means that they boast the highest literacy rate in the whole of South Asia.

How do we help?

We support the Rainbow Centre, a haven for children in extreme poverty areas which helps them receive education, welfare and medical help.

Sri Lanka Bentota Rainbow Centre local child
Sri Lanka flag

10 – Sri Lankan flag

Sri Lanka’s national flag is one of the oldest flags in the world. A golden lion flag was said to have been brought with the first king of Sri Lanka (Vijaya) from India. The golden lion, remained part of the flag until 1815 when Sri Lanka became British Ceylon where the Union flag of British Ceylon replaced it. The golden lion holding its sword was re-introduced in 1948 after independence was achieved in the same year.

The four Bo leaves in the corners replaced spearheads in 1972 and represent four values of the nation; loving-kindness, compassion, equanimity & happiness. Can’t argue with those for strong principles!