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Sri Lanka Country Guide

Explore Sri Lanka in Asia

Sri Lanka with the capital city Colombo is located in Asia (Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean). It covers some 65,610 square kilometres (slightly larger than West Virginia) with 21,128,000 citizens.

Interactive map of Sri Lanka

The terrain features mostly low, flat to rolling plain with mountains in south-central interior. The average density of population is approximately 322 per km². The notable climate conditions in Sri Lanka can be described as tropical monsoon with northeast monsoon (December to March) and southwest monsoon (June to October). Potential natural disasters are occasional cyclones and tornadoes.

To reach someone in Sri Lanka dial +94 prior to a number. There are 3,523,000 installed telephones. And there are 15,868,000 registered mobile phones. The cellular networks commonly support frequencies of 900 MHz. Websites registered in this country end with the top level domain ".lk". If you want to bring electric equipment on your trip (e.g. laptop power supply), note the local power outlet of 230V - 50Hz.

About the flag and history of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Flag Icon

Yellow with two panels; the smaller hoist-side panel has two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and orange; the other larger panel depicts a yellow lion holding a sword on a dark red rectangular field that also displays a yellow bo leaf in each corner; the yellow field appears as a border around the entire flag and extends between the two panels; the lion represents Sinhalese ethnicity, the strength of the nation, and bravery; the sword demonstrates the sovereignty of the nation; the four bo leaves - symbolizing Buddhism and its influence on the country - stand for the four virtues of kindness, friendliness, happiness, and equanimity; orange signifies Sri Lankan Tamils, green the Sri Lankan Moors; dark red represents the European Burghers, but also refers to the rich colonial background of the country; yellow denotes other ethnic groups; also referred to as the Lion Flag.

The first Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C., probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced in about the mid-third century B.C., and a great civilization developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (kingdom from circa 200 B.C. to circa A.D. 1000) and Polonnaruwa (from about 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty established a Tamil kingdom in northern Sri Lanka. The coastal areas of the island were controlled by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century. The island was ceded to the British in 1796, became a crown colony in 1802, and was formally united under British rule by 1815. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted into war in 1983. After two decades of fighting, the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) formalized a cease-fire in February 2002 with Norway brokering peace negotiations. Violence between the LTTE and government forces intensified in 2006, but the government regained control of the Eastern Province in 2007. By May 2009, the government announced that its military had defeated the remnants of the LTTE. Since the end of the conflict, the government has enacted an ambitious program of economic development projects, many of which are financed by loans from the Government of China. In addition to efforts to reconstruct its economy, the government has resettled more than 95% of those civilians who were displaced during the final phase of the conflict and released the vast majority of former LTTE combatants captured by Government Security Forces. At the same time, there has been little progress on more contentious and politically difficult issues such as reaching a political settlement with Tamil elected representatives and holding accountable those alleged to have been involved in human rights violations at the end of the war.

Geography Quick-Facts

SummaryContinent: Asia
Capital: Colombo
Size65,610 square kilometers (km² or sqkm) or 25,332 square miles (mi² or sqmi)
slightly larger than West Virginia
CurrencyName Rupee, Currency Code:LKR
Country Top Level Domain (cTLD).lk
Telephone Country Prefix+94
Mobile Phone Connections15,868,000
Landline Phone Connections3,523,000

Country Position in World Rankings

Information about single country attributes and how these compare against the rest of the world. The information below is compiled with data from 2013. As such, it may differ a bit to the Information above in the text (which is from 2010).


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Area65,610 (sq km)122

People and Society

Value nameValueWorld Rank
Population21,675,648 57
Population growth rate0.89 (%)125
Birth rate16.64 (births/1,000 population)119
Death rate6.01 (deaths/1,000 population)161
Net migration rate-1.74 (migrant(s)/1,000 population)156
Maternal mortality rate35.00 (deaths/100,000 live births)117
Infant mortality rate9.24 (deaths/1,000 live births)147
Life expectancy at birth76.15 (years)83
Total fertility rate2.15 (children born/woman)107
Health expenditures3.00 (% of GDP)179
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate0.10 (%)120
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS2,800 129
HIV/AIDS - deaths200 101
Obesity - adult prevalence rate5.10 (%)155
Children under the age of 5 years underweight21.60 (%)27
Education expenditures2.00 (% of GDP)166
Unemployment, youth ages 15-2419.40 (%)61


Value nameValueWorld Rank
GDP (purchasing power parity)128,400,000,000 67
GDP - real growth rate6.40 (%)37
GDP - per capita (PPP)6,200 146
Labor force8,194,000 59
Unemployment rate4.50 (%)42
Distribution of family income - Gini index49.00 24
Investment (gross fixed)27.70 (% of GDP)31
Taxes and other revenues13.60 (% of GDP)198
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)-6.20 (% of GDP)179
Public debt81.00 (% of GDP)26
Inflation rate (consumer prices)9.20 (%)196
Central bank discount rate7.00 (%)37
Commercial bank prime lending rate9.41 (%)94
Stock of narrow money3,834,000,000 111
Stock of broad money21,890,000,000 83
Stock of domestic credit24,420,000,000 75
Market value of publicly traded shares19,440,000,000 65
Industrial production growth rate8.40 (%)22
Current account balance-4,737,000,000 164
Exports10,510,000,000 94
Imports19,080,000,000 78
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold7,400,000,000 80
Debt - external22,820,000,000 77


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Electricity - production11,520,000,000 (kWh)92
Electricity - consumption10,000,000,000 (kWh)90
Electricity - installed generating capacity3,139,000 (kW)88
Electricity - from fossil fuels53.80 (% of total installed capacity)148
Electricity - from hydroelectric plants44.60 (% of total installed capacity)49
Electricity - from other renewable sources1.60 (% of total installed capacity)66
Crude oil - imports41,000 (bbl/day)60
Refined petroleum products - production50,000 (bbl/day)85
Refined petroleum products - consumption89,620 (bbl/day)82
Refined petroleum products - imports48,140 (bbl/day)69
Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy14,090,000 (Mt)91


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Telephones - main lines in use3,608,000 44
Telephones - mobile cellular18,319,000 49
Internet hosts9,552 136
Internet users1,777,000 77


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Airports18 141
Railways1,449 (km)80
Roadways91,907 (km)49
Waterways160 (km)101
Merchant marine21 94


Value nameValueWorld Rank
Military expenditures2.90 (% of GDP)42

Data based on CIA facts book 2010 & 2013, wikipedia, national statistical offices and their census releases

List of current world heritage sites

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th c ...
Ancient City of Sigiriya
The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 180m high (the 'Lion's Rock', which dominates the jungle from all sides). A series of galleries and sta ...
Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's highlands are situated in the south-central part of the island. The property comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These montane forests, where the land rises t ...
Golden Temple of Dambulla
A sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, with its five sanctuaries, is the largest, best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings (covering an area of 2,100 m2 ) are of particular importance, as ...
Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
Founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese, Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century, before the arrival of the British. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the ...
Sacred City of Anuradhapura
This sacred city was established around a cutting from the 'tree of enlightenment', the Buddha's fig tree, brought there in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religio ...
Sacred City of Kandy
This sacred Buddhist site, popularly known as the city of Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British i ...
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Located in south-west Sri Lanka, Sinharaja is the country's last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds, but the reserv ...