Sri Lanka Main

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If not for a long and particularly violent ethnic conflict, Sri Lanka would almost certainly be one of today's favorite travel destinations. Consider this: More than a thousand miles of gloriously uncrowded tropical beaches, superb diving, an Indian-flavored cuisine, wildlife that includes elephants and leopards, and ancient ruins that echo from a grand civilization dating back more than 2,000 years.

The first European visitor enchanted by this exotic place was Marco Polo, who in 1292 marveled at the rubies and sapphires found in its streams. Gems are still mined here, but the real jewels are the beaches, and because the long-running civil war has never targeted tourists, the island annually attracts thousands of Europeans looking for an escape from northern winters (and Australians looking for uncrowded surf).

Common sense still dictates any itinerary to this island (the southern and southwestern regions have generally been spared most of the violence), but peace talks are currently under way, so there is new hope that serenity will soon return to the island once known as Ceylon. Stay tuned.