The Best Times to Visit Sri Lanka
Cliches aside, our island can be viewed as ideal to visit throughout the year. Regardless of what the weather is like in one part of the country, another part would offer a great experience in likeness or kind.
We’ve summed up some of the notable adventures and events that occur within each month of the year so you can plan your next vacation to Sri Lanka based on your preference.
The waters that surround Sri Lanka are home to the largest marine mammal in the world – the Blue whale. January is generally considered the best time to hop on an ocean safari and catch sight of these magnificent creatures. You’ll also encounter species of other whales including Common Blue, Sperm and Bryde’s whales. The best whale watching destinations are Mirissa and Weligama on the southern coastal belt alongside Cape Weligama.
As much as whale watching is famed around our waters, so is dolphin watching. Spotted, Spinner, Bottlenose and Common dolphins are a delightful encounter around the west and southern coast of the island. These creatures are habitually friendly and highly intelligent. They are graceful sleek swimmers and travel in groups often referred to as ‘pods’. Kalpitiya and Mirissa are famed for frequent dolphin sightings.
Visit the Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is our island’s only tropical rainforest and a must visit if you decide to travel in March. Research suggests more than 60% of the existing trees are endemic, and also considered rare. The lush reserve is also home to endemic wildlife, especially birds, mammals and butterflies, as well as various species of insects, reptiles and amphibians.
Experience the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year
This is a celebration of the traditional New Year by both the Sinhalese and Tamils of our island. It’s origin dates back to ancient times, and signifies the harvesting period – rice being a staple food of the nation, and thus commemorating an important time. There are many vibrant rituals, age-old customs and mythical beliefs that surround this celebration, warranting a truly unique experience no matter where you are on the island.
Experience Vesak and Palu Season
It is said that the Lord Buddha was born, enlightened, and passed away on this full-moon day known as Vesak. Lanterns of traditional Buddhist hues are hung across the streets and pandols of large stature depicting historic Buddhist tales are erected in communal areas. Worshippers visit temples, gather in large crowds to chant or meditate, reflect on Buddhist teachings, and share food with one another.
The palu trees bear fruit from the month of May, and brings out all sloth bears that feed on it at the Yala National Park close to Wild Coast Tented Lodge. These creatures are typically shy but overindulge on the fruit and become far too preoccupied with feasting to notice humans.
Experience the southern surf circuit in Weligama and Wildlife in Yala
Weligama is located at the heart of the southern coast surf circuit of Sri Lanka. Surfers from across the world come here to catch the waves along with enhancing some of their skills through the many surf schools dotted along the coast. The famous little island right at the fringe of the bay provides a really fun longboard wave, and occasionally a short board wave. This is ideal during the summer season, and every now and then during the shoulder season making this surf hotspot a favourite all year round during your stay at Cape Weligama.
The water level sinks low during the middle of the year and this brings out all forms of wildlife including the elusive leopard, mugger crocodile, and Asian elephant to quench their thirst from exposed lakes. The Yala National Park is only a couple of minutes away from Wild Coast Tented Lodge and can be visited during the early mornings as well as late afternoons.
Experience the Kataragama Perahera and Surf in Arugam Bay
As far as processions go, be sure to experience at least one of them during the month of July or August. The Kataragama Perahera is held in honour of the God Skanda, interwoven around many faiths of the island and engulfs the streets in colour and wonder. Wild Coast Tented Lodge is located just an hour away and makes for an ideal stay as you experience this colourful procession.
Surfers from across the world find the breaks on the east coast of our island a mighty challenge and a thrilling experience starting from the early weeks of the month.
Experience the Kandy Perahera
The oldest and grandest of Budhhist festivals celebrated across our island is the Kandy Esala Maha Perahera. A procession held in commemoration of paying homage to the ancient buddhist relic, the sacred tooth of the Buddha features dancers, jugglers, drummers, musicians, fire-breathers and colourfully decorated elephants.
Hosted and celebrated at the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, this procession includes the sacred relic being carried atop a chosen elephant and venerated by the masses present. Stay a night or two at Ceylon Tea Trails, and hop on an hour’s train ride to experience the festivities in Kandy.
Visit Lunugamvehera and Experience the Elephant Gathering in Minneriya
The Lunugamvehera National Park is situated between Yala and Uda Walawe, acting as a reserve corridor for elephants. The park is home to over 40 mammal species, spotted and sambar deer, palm cats and the sloth bear. As many as 184 species of birds have also been recorded in the park, including a handful that are endemic. Although often overshadowed by the two big neighbourhood parks, this one’s just as special for those looking for a quieter experience while staying at Wild Coast Tented Lodge. The Minneriya National Park also plays host to an annual gathering of elephants – the largest in fact in the world. Travellers will find both experiences a once in a lifetime adventure.
The Festival of Light
Symbolising the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance, Deepavali is one of the most popular festivals celebrated by Hindus in the island. Typically lasting over a span of five days, it includes observances such as lighting little candles in clay holders, prayers at the temple, decorating the streets in light and feasting on sweetmeats. Head to the tea country and enjoy experiencing this festival whilst staying at Ceylon Tea Trails for a night or two.
Beginning of Migrant Bird Season
Our island is famed for its fauna, owing to the fact that a large number of native as well as migrant bird species can be sighted throughout the year. Home to over 435 species of birds in total, of which 236 are resident breeders, 203 are migrants and the rest are vagrant types. The seasonal migratory birds are terrestrial as well as aquatic, ending their long journey on our island, making it a regular wintering ground. Yala, Wilpattu, Horton Plains, Uda Walawe and Bundala are amongst some of the best known reserves, parks and areas to visit.
Beginning of Adam’s Peak Pilgrimage Season
Sri Pada as it is commonly known as in Sinhalese, is revered as a holy site by Buddhist, Hindus, Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka. Approximately over 20,000 pilgrims climb the peak annually. Located in the Central Highlands close to Ceylon Tea Trails, the goal is to reach the peak at sunrise and so pilgrims begin their journey a couple of hours in advance. It is also popular due to the panoramic views from atop.