This tiny island nation, situated between 5 and 10 north latitude, used to be called Ceylon. Since 1972, it has become better known as the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The capital of this country is Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte. A pearl-shaped country, it is situated in the Indian Ocean and divided from the south-eastern tip of the Indian peninsula by a stretch of water called the Palk Strait. Strategically located at a mid-point between Europe and the Far East, this country has gained in importance logistically.
Sri Lanka has a total land area of 65,610 sq.km. It is blessed with a diverse geographical landscape. In the midst of this island nation is a mountainous terrain known as the Central Highlands. Here lies the country's highest point, Pidurutalagala (8,261 ft.), and Adam's Peak, a popular religious destination.
Surrounding this elevated area lie sprawling plains. The Highlands give rise to several rivers and waterfalls. Besides the verdant plains, the coastal areas are dotted with beautiful beaches and lagoons, a treasure-trove for tourism. 40 % of this country's land area is covered with dense forest.
Another geographical landmark is Adam's Bridge, which is a continuous line of limestone shoals forming a natural pathway between the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and onto the south-east tip of coastal India.
For better administration, Sri Lanka is divided into 9 provinces and 25 districts, which are the second rung of administration, after the Provincial first level. Each district is under the control of a District Secretary, appointed by the Central Government.
The major cities of Sri Lanka, ranked according to population density, are:
The climate of Sri Lanka is tropical. It is quite ideal, warm and sunny nearly all year round. However, there are distinctive dry and wet seasons. The average temperatures are normally around 27-32 degrees Celsius. Of course, the higher you go, in the Central Highlands, you will find that the temperatures tend to fall. The month of April is the hottest, with maximum rainfall in May and June, brought in by the South-West monsoon. This rainfall affects the south and west Sri Lankan coasts, while a second bout of North-East monsoon showers affect the northern and eastern coastal areas.
The Sri Lankan Standard Time or SLST is UTC/GMT+5.30. There is no daylight-saving time and the same UTC offset all year round.
Colombo is the biggest city of Sri Lanka, with a population of 5.6 million. In ancient times it was well-known as a harbour serving the sea route used for trade between the East and the West. Today, this city has become a commercial and financial hub. Within its suburbs lies the actual legislative capital of this country, Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte.
The beauty of this city lies in the fact that it has several canals running through it. The main attraction, however, is a water-body, the Beira Lake, which is located in the midst of the city. This huge lake was used for defending the city by the colonialists. Towards the north and north-east of Colombo is the Kelani River, which runs along to meet the sea.
It is a bustling city, juxtaposing modernity with colonial grandeur, slum dwellings with huge bungalows, and malls with colourful local marketplaces. The busy streets of Colombo are an adventure in themselves, especially if you choose to commute in a tuk-tuk! The natives of Colombo are welcoming and cheerful. You will find this city on Sri Lanka's west coast to be full of people who still reflect their colonial connections with their Portuguese, Dutch and finally, English rulers, in their clothing and customs.
Colombo has become quite a cosmopolitan city today. You will find natives who are Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils or Sri Lankan Muslims. Small groups of people from other countries and European ex-pats have also made this city their home.
After the civil war which had ravaged the country ended in 2009, the city of Colombo has seen rapid development of infrastructure and the rise of a modern skyline. The Sri Lankan Government wishes it to become a 'world-class city,' which will pull in international trade, business and tourists.
Not for nothing is Sri Lanka dubbed the island of serendipity! Colombo, too, has a benign climate. The hottest month is April, while the coolest month is January. Maximum precipitation occurs in May. The average annual rainfall is 2348 mm. while the average annual temperature remains at 27.0 °C in Colombo. Though dryer seasons do come in, from February onwards, sporadic rainfall cannot be ruled out. Thus, one can be quite comfortable traveling around during all months except a few.
For greater details of weather and meteorological observations, log on to: www.yr.no/place/Sri_Lanka/Western/Colombo.
As an expanding city, Colombo has 15 zones into which it is divided. The neighbourhoods have area-codes ranging from 1 to 15.
Colombo also has suburbs to its south, towards Galle. These are near to the city centre and are preferred destinations for cheaper rental accommodations, quiet beaches and educational institutions of higher learning.
Dehliwela, Mount Lavinia, Ratmalana and Moratuwa are the four major suburbs.
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