Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located southeast of India and northeast of the Maldives.
The island is home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities. The majority of the population is from the Sinhalese ethnicity, while a large minority of Tamils have also played an influential role in the island's history; Christians in both groups are recent converts who have kept the traditional culture. Moors, Burghers, Malays, Chinese, and the aboriginal Vedda are also established groups on the island.
Sri Lanka's documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years. It has a rich cultural heritage and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pali Canon, date back to the Fourth Buddhist council in 29 BC. Its geographic location and deep harbors made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to the modern Maritime Silk Road.
In antiquity, Sri Lanka was known to travelers by a variety of names. According to the Mahavamsa, the legendary Prince Vijaya named the land Tambapanni ("copper-red hands" or "copper-red earth"), because his followers' hands were reddened by the red soil of the area. In Hindu mythology, such as the Ramayana, the island was referred to as Lankā ("Island"). The Tamil term Eelam (Tamil: ஈழம்,), was used to designate the whole island in Sangam literature.
Ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobanā (Ancient Greek: Ταπροβανᾶ) or Taprobanē (Ταπροβανῆ) from the word Tambapanni. The Persians and Arabs referred to it as Sarandib (the origin of the word "serendipity") from the word Cerentivu. Ceilão, the name given to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese Empire when it arrived in 1505, was transliterated into English as Ceylon. As a British crown colony, the island was known as Ceylon; it achieved independence as the Dominion of Ceylon in 1948
Tourism in Sri Lanka is growing rapidly. For centuries, Sri Lanka has been a popular place of attraction for foreign travelers. The Chinese traveler Fa-Hien arrived in Sri Lanka in the late 4th century. In the twelfth century, Italian explorer Marco Polo claimed that Sri Lanka to be the "best island of its size in the world". Currently Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has classified Sri Lanka into several suitable for tourism development.
There is a significant domestic tourist segment making excursions in Sri Lanka. In 2014 six million Sri Lankans traveled within the country as domestic tourists. The main purposes of travel by the domestic tourists are pilgrimage, family holiday, study works, and sightseeing. The main destinations of domestic tourists are Anuradhapura, Kataragama, Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Sri Pada, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla. Domestic tourism is noticeable during school vacations and on weekends.