Sri Lanka

Driving Directions Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA is an island republic lying in the Indian Ocean just off India’s southeastern tip, from which separated by the Palk Strait.

Until 1948, when it achieved independence, it was under British rule and called Ceylon. The shallow Palk Strait is interrupted by a chain of reefs and islands known as Adam’s Bridge, which almost links the two coasts. The island is dominated by a central, southern mass of hills and mountains (rising to a maximum height of 2,524 meters or 8,281 feet), surrounded by lower coastal plains.

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The climate is equatorial with a low annual temperature range, but it is affected by both the northeast and southwest monsoons. Rainfall is most torrential in the southwest of the country, while the north and east are relatively dry.

Sri Lanka has a wide variety of natural vegetation, including tropical jungles and forests containing many types of trees and plants such as mahogany, satinwood, ebony, cypress, and eucalyptus. Equally varied are the wildlife species, which include many rare animals and birds.

Agriculture engages 47 percent of the workforce, and the chief crops are tea, rubber, coconuts, and rice. Some rice, sugar, and wheat were imported. Sri Lanka has long been famous for its tea plantations, and tea is one of the economy’s mainstays. Among the chief minerals mined and exported are precious and semiprecious stones. Graphite is also essential. The primary industries are food, beverages, tobacco, textiles, clothing and leather goods, chemicals, and plastics. Attempts were made to increase the revenue from tourism.

Politically, Sri Lanka is afflicted by ethnic divisions between the Sinhalese and Tamils. In the 1980s, Tamil extremists’ attempts to establish an independent homeland brought the northeast of the country to the brink of civil war, and the situation remains extremely volatile.

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Situated on the Indian Tectonic Plate, the island is a teardrop-shaped mass separated from India by 29 kilometers (18 miles) of a shallow sea. The south-central section of Sri Lanka is a rough plateau cut by a range of mountains. Narrow coastal plains surround the mountainous region to the east, south, and west. In the north, the coastal plain extends from the eastern to the western shores of the island. Rivers and streams flow towards the sea in all directions from the central mountain area.

Sri Lanka lies in the northern Indian Ocean, with the Bay of Bengal to its east. The waters surrounding the island are so deep that Sri Lanka is almost unaffected by tidal variations. To the south of Adam’s Bridge, the Gulf of Mannar comes between Sri Lanka’s northwest Lagoon cuts into the coast near the point at which the Yan River empties into the sea.

A few small islands extend from the north of Sri Lanka to the Indian mainland. Delft, covering 50 square kilometers (19 square miles), and Velanai, with an area of 68 square kilometers (26 square miles), are both situated in Palk Bay. Southwest of the Jaffna Peninsula, an elevated portion of the continental shelf, forms rocky islands known as Adam’s Bridge, nearly connecting Sri Lanka’s northwest coast to India. Mannar Island is part of Adam’s Bridge.

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