Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island of just over 25,000 square miles off the south-eastern coast of India. The capital is Columbo and the ethnic mix is 70% Buddhist, 15% Hindu, 8% Christian, and 7% Muslim. Sri Lanka has wonderful beaches – don’t miss the stilt fishermen at Weligama, varied landscapes, and a wealth of historical sites. These include Anuradhapura, a city established in the 4th century BC, which rose to prominence with the arrival of Buddhism two centuries later and stayed important for a thousand years. Founded in the 12th century AD the former capital of Polonnaruwa was one of the great urban centres in South Asia. Kandy is nestled in the island's hill country and was home to the country’s last independent kingdom, which fell to the British in 1815. Kandy is famous for being home to the sacred relic of the tooth of the Buddha and visits here can be combined with a trip to a tea plantation and the Elephant Orphanage at Pinniwela, where the afternoon bath time in the river shouldn’t be missed. The cave temples of Dambulla in the centre of the island are filled with Buddha statues and murals showing scenes from his life. Sigiriya is a rock outcrop that rises over 200m from the surrounding plane with palace ruins on the top. It is most famous for the Sigiriya frescoes, featuring 2 bare-breasted damsels that line the route to the top. The Sinharaja Forest Reserve, 120km south-east of Colombo, is the last stretch of virgin rainforest on the island. The 7362-foot peak of Sri Pada, the 'Holy Footprint', has the distinction of being sacred to the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, due to the giant footprint (5 feet 7 inches by 2 feet 6 inches) at the top of the mountain - left either by Shiva, Buddha, St Thomas, or Adam depending on the religion.
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