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Previously known as Ceylon, the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a South Asian island country. It is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Several smaller islands are part of Sri Lanka, most of which are inhabited.

It is believed that a land bridge once connected Sri Lanka with India. In 14890 AD, a cyclone deepened the channel, and now only a chain of limestone shoals remain above the water. The south-central portion of the main island is mountainous, while the remainder of the island consists of coastal plains.

Sri Lanka has more than a hundred rivers, the longest being the Mahaweli River. Within these rivers are fifty-one natural waterfalls. Sri Lanka also contains forty-five estuaries and forty lagoons.

Sri Lanka includes several national parks and nature reserves, some of them quite large. There are also several natural rainforests, one of the most popular being Bodhinagala Forest Reserve, which is set in an old Buddhist monastery. Native species of animals include Asian elephants, leopards, and sloth bears, as well as a host of colorful birds.

The weather changes as you move about the island. Being in the Indian Ocean, its overall climate is tropical and warm, but in the south-central region of the main island, the terrain is mountainous and the climate is colder and wetter. Temperatures are warmer in the northeastern coastal regions.

Sri Lanka has two seasons rather than four. For the most part, there is a wet season and there is a dry season, with the wet season known as the monsoon season. To complicate matters, each part of the island has a dry and a wet season in correlation to the other part of the island. From October to February, Sri Lanka has the northeastern monsoon, which mostly affects the northeastern region of the island. From May to August is the southwestern monsoon, which affects the southwestern portion of the island, at which time the northeastern part of the island gets a respite. There are not generally any monsoons between February and May, or from August to October, although that doesn't mean that it cannot rain during this period. Sri Lanka also experiences typhoons, but these can generally be predicted ahead of time.

Administratively, Sri Lanka is divided into nine provinces, each of which exercises a degree of autonomy. These provinces are the Central, Eastern, North Central, Northern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, and Western.

The Central Province is a popular tourist region. It includes the ancient city of Kandy, the last capital of the ancient kings, the capital of the Central Province, and home to one of the most sacred Buddhist temples. The Central Province is in the mountainous region of Sri Lanka and includes waterfalls, tea plantations, nature reserves, and camping areas.

The Eastern Province is known for its beaches, popular resorts, and surfing opportunities.

The North Central Province includes several historical sites, as ancient kingdoms were based in this part of the island. Tourists often visit the North Central Province before continuing on to Kandy.

The Northern Province doesn't see as many tourists as most other parts of the island, largely because this part of the island was badly affected by the civil war, and there are unexploded landmines there yet. The Sri Lankan military is working to clear the region up, however.

Sri Lanka's North Western Province is home to its largest national park, the Wilpattu National Park, and is a popular region for those interested in island wildlife. Dolphin and whale spotting may be done from this region, as well.

The Sabaragamuwa Province is one of Sri Lanka's interior provinces, situated in the central-southwestern part of the island. Its capital city is Ratnapura and the center of long-established ruby and sapphire mines. There are also forest reserves and national parks in this province.

The Southern Province is another historical region, and home to the ancient cities of Kirinda and Tissamaharama, as well as the holy city of Kataragama. Although Galle is also an ancient city, very little of it survived the Portuguese invasion. The Southern Province also has several national parks, Yala being the most popular.

Uva Province is the second-least populated and, being in the mountainous region, it is one of the coolest parts of the island. It is known for its spiritual retreats. A portion of Yala National Park is in Uva.

Another popular tourist region is the Western Province, largely because of its capital city, Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka. Because of its large harbor, Colombo was known to ancient traders two thousand years ago.

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