This “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” is known for its lushness and its diverse landscape, as well as a number of ancient cities. Also reputed for its hospitality and friendliness, Sri Lanka is the home of many religions, cultures, languages and species of wildlife. Sinhalese and Tamil are the official languages, with English widely used for commercial and educational purposes, although the country gained independence from Britain in 1948. An island country, Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon until 1972. It is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, with a written history exceeding 2,550 years. Since the nineteenth century, it has been a plantation economy, exporting tea, coffee, sugar, rubber and cinnamon. It is impossible to get bored on this beautiful island, which boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, 15 national parks and countless waterfalls, tea gardens, tropical forests and mountains. If the flora and fauna ever start to lost their appeal, there are plenty more active pursuits to follow. Volleyball is Sri Lanka’s national sport, but cricket the more loved, with Sri Lanka’s cricket team having achieved considerable success in recent years. Aquatic sports are also popular, thanks to the wide array of beaches and backwaters.