Sri Lanka, just off the tip of India in the Laccadive Sea, is sometimes referred to as “India Light.” The West-Virginia-sized nation may have similar roots, but 70+ years of independence — and a 30-year civil war — has left an indelible mark on this country and its people.

Divided into three regions — the highlands, the plains, and the coast — Sri Lanka is a land of high tea trails, scores of ancient temples, and blue waters full of blue whales. There’s also amazing food, epic hiking, and the buzzing city of Colombo. Though small, Sri Lanka packs a punch. (It also packs in the smoothies.) Celebrating a mere decade on the tourist radar, Matador has you covered for your trip below.