During the season from January to April, the Southern coast and the North West coast are ideal for whale and dolphin tracking. Large dolphin pods can be found offshore a few miles away. Those fortunate may also experience the sighting in the profound waters of a giant Blue Whale swimming. Also, in January, the historic Kelaniya Buddhist temple, just minutes away from the capital of the island, will hold its annual ‘perehara’ a wonderful cultural procession with numerous elephants all dressed in their finery, traditional dancers, drummer, flag bearers, and Buddhist monks, all walking in procession in honor of Lord Buddha.
April is a vacation month in Sri Lanka, where the Sinhalese and Tamil groups commemorate the dawn of the New Year. It’s a time when families get together to conduct traditional rituals, religious ceremonies, offer thanks for a good rice harvest, an d wish peace and prosperity to all for the upcoming new year. In the rural regions, it is best to see festivities and traditional customs. During this moment, Colombo empties out when most flee to the cooler mountains or the sand beaches. In expectation of the holiday rush, Nuwara Eliya–the upcountry mountain village, is sprucing up and there are all activities that range from golf tournaments, motor cross races and flower displays.
Kataragama’s sacred wilderness shrine comes alive during the month of July when the Esala Perehara is held in honor of God Skanda, Kataragama’s warrior god, for two weeks. The perehara portrays types of Hindu culture, music and dance, as well as fire walking in sacrifice and dedication to God Kataragama.
Annaiwilundawa relates to a collection of freshwater tanks within the sanctuary, meaning “ seven wetlands or tanks” in the local Tamil language. For several resident and migratory birds, this is a very significant wetland. The best way to experience Annaiwilundawa is to spot countless species of birds throughout the months from October to April. These wetlands are indeed significant nesting places for water birds such as the Asian Open-bills, Painted Storks, all species of Egrets, Little Indian & the threatened Great Cormorants, Spot-billed Pelican and Black-headed Ibis. Also great for viewing butterflies and dragonflies is this wetland sanctuary.
The muchawaited Donald Steele Golf Tournament takes place in the scenic Victoria Golf and CountryResort in the Kandyan capital in February. More excitement is revealed on Colombo streets in February with the full-moon day Navam Perehara. A treat for kids and adults alike, this perehara features all the traditional types of dance along with mask dancers, Kandyan and kavadi dancers, drummers and gleaming elephants. For this case, a number of elephants from different areas of the nation together with their mahouts make the lengthy trip to Colombo.
Buddhists around the globe glorify Lord Buddha’s existence on Vesak’s full-moon Poya day in May–his birth, enlightenment, and passing away. Homes, villages and towns in Sri Lanka are illuminated in peaceful glory with oil lamps, complex hand-made lanterns and colorful pandals portraying Lord Buddha’s life story. May is also the start of surfing in the southeastern Arugam Bay. Arugam Bay, recognized as one of the worlds’ top ten surf spots, is a famous youthful resort for surfers and vacationers. Also ideal at this moment for snorkeling along with whale and dolphin sighting expeditions are the coast’s turquoise seas off Trincomalee in the East.
Kandy brightens up for two weeks throughout the month of August with the sounds and lights of the Kandy Perehara–a splendid ceremony where Lord Buddha’s sacred tooth relic is majestically paraded on an elephant back along Kandy’s streets which is a lifetime opportunity to witness. The Bellanwila temple of Colombo also conducts its usual perehera, a colorful procession as well. The Nallur festival in Jaffna-northern Sri Lanka is also another festival not to be missed. The most famous of all occurrences is the ‘ Ther Thiruvila’ (chariot festival) a rather colorful ceremony. The extravagantly dressed God Murugan is carried out and put on a sophisticated silver throne and paraded along Nallur’s roads. The celebrations will be going on for almost 25 days.
With the start of the season, Kalpitiya’s North West coastal town is a must for viewing whales and dolphins. During the summer, incidents of enormous pods of up to 2,000 Spinner Dolphins were recorded. These dolphins frequently swim alongside the ships and frolic in the seas- an exciting place for both adults and kids alike.
The international hot air balloon festival takes place in Colombo throughout March, flying hot air balloons all over Colombo is attended by up to 100 people from around the globe.
Throughout June’s full-moon poya day, Buddhists commemorate Poson when Mahinda marks the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Thousands of pilgrims and devotees travel throughout the nation to Buddhist temples to honor the Buddha, Dhamma (the teachings of Buddha) and Sangha (the Buddhist monks). During the whole era, Mihintale, in which Buddhism arose on the island in 247 BC, takes on a peaceful atmosphere with thousands of pilgrims in honor of Buddha illuminating incense and oil lamps. June also is the elevation of Arugam Bay’s surfing period when global surfing championships take place.
Those who are privileged enough to attend the Minneriya National Park during the dry season in September will experience an exciting site when hundreds of elephants make their way to the Minneriya lake in search of food and water from the neighbouring north central province jungle areas. Massive heard of elephants (up to 400) converge within a few square kilometers of the lake – an incredible view to see, known as the gathering.
Perfect for whale and dolphin viewing during the season in December to April, is the more isolated southern coast and the North West coast. Massive dolphin pods can be found offshore a few miles. Fortunate ones might also encounter the sighting of a giant Blue Whale swimming off Mirissa in the profound waters. December also marks the pilgrim’s starting season where the devotees climb the sacred Adam’s peak.