A fantastic time to travel across the whole country, Sri Lanka is generally basking in sunshine and relatively dry all over throughout these months. Temperatures will be lovely and warm, although a touch cooler up in the Hill Country. Beaches on the south and west coasts are dry, hot and sunny. This is the inauguration of whale watching season and Mirisa is the most popular destination among the travellers. On the full moon day of January and February, the “Duruthu Perahera” and “Navam Perehara” are held displaying the ancient traditions, cultural heritage, traditional folklore, folk music and the folk dance, which have developed throughout the ages around Buddhism and Buddhist practices in the island.
April is a holiday month in Sri Lanka where the Sinhalese and Tamil communities celebrate the dawning of the New Year. It’s a colourful socio-cultural event with large family dinners held at home and parties and fireworks out on the streets. Also arguably the driest and hottest month of the year, April starts to get very hot – especially in the central and Cultural Triangle regions with temperatures at least in the mid-30°Cs. It’s a great month to head to the beach, with clear skies and long, sunny days.
Colombo empties out during this time when most escape to the cooler hills or the sandy beaches. In anticipation of the holiday rush, Nuwara Eliya – the upcountry hill station, spruces itself up and various activities ranging from golf tournaments, motor cross races, and flower shows are all held. Make sure to avoid the hottest hours of the day (11am-3pm) when sightseeing during April.
May – June
The months May and June are the most important to Buddhist in Sri Lanka. Full moon Poya day in May, Buddhists all over the world venerate the life of Lord Buddha – his birth, enlightenment and passing away. Homes, villages and cities in Sri Lanka are lit up in serene splendor with oil lamps, intricate handmade lanterns, and colorful Pandals depicting the life story of Lord Buddha are erected across the island.
During the full-moon poya day of June, Buddhists celebrate Poson when the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Mihindu thero, is remembered. Thousands of pilgrims and devotees flock to Buddhist shrines across the country to pay homage to the Buddha, Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha (the Buddhist monks). Mihintale mountain peak, where Buddhism originated on the island in 247 BC, is taking on a serene air during this period with thousands of pilgrims lighting incense and oil lamps as a commemoration of the event. May and June apart from the religious and cultural events, are the months for Beach Holidays and Surfing
May is the beginning of the surfing period in Arugam Bay in the southeast, listed as one of ten top surf spots in the world. June is the height of the surfing period in Arugam Bay when international surfing championships are held. Sri Lanka’s undiscovered, the turquoise seas of the East & Northeast coasts : Trincomalee & Uppaweli ,Kalkudha & Pasikudha and Arugambe, are perfect at this time for a beach holiday .The season goes up to October and for Snorkeling and Diving the blue East coasts are ideal. Whale & dolphin spotting excursions are also organized along the coast.
July – September
This is known as dry season, meaning that the rain become spare and the weather is hot & dry at this time of the year. Temperatures remain high across the country at around 29°C average and the beaches are hot and dry. During the dry season, water becomes scares in the north central province and wild elephants from all around migrate to Minneriya National Park’s large Minneriya reservoir. Coined as ‘The Gathering’, herds of over 300 elephants can be seen by the Minneriya water tank.
The sacred shrine of Kataragama comes alive during the month of July when the Processing is held for two weeks in honour of God Skandha, the warrior god of Kataragama. The perehara depicts Hindu folklore, music and dance forms as well as fire walking in sacrifice and devotion to God Kataragama. During the month of August, Kandy dazzles for two weeks with the sounds and lights of the Kandy Perehara – a magnificent procession where the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is majestically paraded on an elephant back along the streets of Kandy. This ritual, which has been taking place for hundreds of years, is an experience of a lifetime.
Bellanwila temple, another significant temple in Colombo, also holds its annual perehera which is also a colorful procession of the island. The annual Hikkaduwa beach fest will take place in August. Organised by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, this festival draws large crowds from Colombo and overseas. The three-day event starts off with a drumming festival followed by beach parties and other side events.
October – November
Despite the chilly monsoon weather, this is the activity filled period of the year. The annual Colombo Marathon organised by the Association of International Marathons & Distance Races in association with Lanka Sportreizen and the Ministry of Tourism, take place during November attracting many participants around the world.
The much anticipated annual Sri Lankan Airlines Golf Classic is held in October. The beautiful Victoria Golf & Country Resort; ranked as ‘Best Course in Asia 2005’ by Asian Golf monthly and as the ‘Top 100 Most Beautiful courses in the World,’ by Golfers Digest is the best course to test your golfing ability. The annual World Food & Spice Festival is held in Colombo every year. Colombo’s leading restaurants with world class chefs around the world come together to surprise and entertain your taste buds with distinct flavors of cuisine across the world.
Sri Lanka is a birder’s delight. Its tropical climate and relative isolation are responsible for the amazingly diverse bird life that attracts more than 490 species. Almost 111 migrant species descend on the country having flown south for the winter. The migrant season starts in November and continues on till March. November to April is the best season to experience the thrills and spills of an exciting rafting adventure in a jungle paradise. The rafting trip mixes the excitement of the rapids with calm sections through the jungle-clad mountains, tea and rubber plantations. The best time of year to spot Yala’s leopard cubs is from November to December. This endangered leopard subspecies – Panthera Pardus Kotiya is only found in Sri Lanka and is difficult to spot. The Yala National Park is the home to numerous species of rare birds and wildlife.
December is usually a great month to travel if the monsoon winds down, with nice, hot and dry weather across the island. The rains will also have helped thicken out the lush green landscapes, making it an exceptionally beautiful time to enjoy the rural parts of Sri Lanka.
Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, is sacred to all four religious groups in Sri Lanka – the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and the Christians. During the climbing season from December to April, thousands of devotees from many faiths make the pilgrimage to the peak of this 2,234 meter mountain. Young and old give courage to each other and recite traditional stanzas while climbing to the peak. The climb is best attempted at night where you reach the mountain top to see the sunrise and the awe-inspiring view from the top. Christmas is celebrated in true Sri Lankan style with festivities starting weeks ahead with all the hotels and shops in Colombo decked out for the holidays. Special Christmas services are held in churches and small chapels across the country. Colombo usually takes a week-long holiday beginning from Christmas Eve up until New Year’s Day on January 1st.