Several fast-flowing non-navigable rivers arise in the mountains.
The Mahaweli Ganga, from which hydroelectric power is obtained, is the longest at 322km.
The holy Adam’s Peak (2,243m) is so called from a mark at the top in the likeness of a human footprint, variously attributed as the print of the Buddha, Vishnu or Adam, and is a place of pilgrimage.
The coastal plains are broader in the north, tapering off in the long low-lying Jaffna peninsula.
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.
The era spans the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and early Iron Ages.
There are about 3,300 species of plants, of which some 288 are threatened with extinction.
Arable land comprises 20 per cent and permanent cropland 16 per cent of the total land area.
The island is home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities.It is almost linked to the Indian mainland by Adam’s Bridge, an atoll barrier, mostly submerged, lying between the offshore island of Mannar and India itself.The country comprises nine provinces (from south to north): Southern (provincial capital Galle), Sabaragamuwa (Ratnapura), Western (Colombo), Uva (Badulla), Eastern (Trincomalee), Central (Kandy), North-Western (Kurunegala), North-Central (Anuradhapura) and Northern (Jaffna).The international ports are at Colombo, Galle, Talaimannar and Trincomalee.Bandaranaike international airport is 32 km from Colombo.