Legendary explorer Marco Polo deemed Sri Lanka to be ‘the finest island of its size in all the world.’ Benefitting from the modern marvel of air travel, our globe-trotting experts have seen even more of the globe than the legendary Mr. Polo himself managed to. However, when it comes to Sri Lanka we can only say that his words ring truer today than ever before.
In Sanskrit, Sri Lanka means “resplendent island”, which is a befitting name for such a vibrant, aromatic and wonderfully diverse country. If you’ve been before, you’ll already know of plenty permanent attractions to warrant multiple visits to the teardrop of India. The ancient, sacred site of Adam’s Peak is reputed to be where Adam and Eve first set foot on Earth after being cast from the Garden of Eden. Further north, Sigiriya, meaning Lion Rock in Sinhalese, is a magnificent vantage point from which to take in stunning views of Sri Lanka’s landscape, while also gaining an insight into its colourful history. Its beauty, culture and cuisine are reason enough to visit on their own, but if you need another excuse, we’ve got twelve months’ worth of reasons to visit this year.
The first month of 2016 may have been and gone by the time you read this, but worry not, because the Fairway Galle Literary Festival is held each January on the southwest coast of the island. The festival presents the opportunity to hear discussions from critically acclaimed authors, as well as debates and theatre performances. Along with its literary lure, you can enjoy musical concerts, wine tasting, cookery classes and various workshops, plus there are several children’s events to rouse the imagination of your budding young travellers.
If you’re thinking of taking advantage of this celebration of wonderful words, we recommend that you stay in either of our superb nearby five star resorts – Why House and Kahanda Kanda.January
Navam Perahera is a grand two-day festival held every year in Colombo under February’s first full moon. Featuring bright lights, processions of elephants, dancers, drummers and street performers, this is a celebration of all things Sri Lankan. Travellers hoping to catch a glimpse of the spectacle may want to consider the delightfully restored old colonial manor house that is The Wallawwa Hotel.
Also occurring in February is the Donald Steele Golf Tournament, which has taken place each year at the spectacular Victoria Golf and Country resort in Kandy. Avid golfers have the perfect nearby accommodation in Bougainvillea Retreat.
Near Colombo, a little-known but magical week-long annual event takes place, where hot air ballooners converge on Sri Lanka and offer special flights over Sigiriya and Hambantota. If you’ve never been in a hot air balloon – take it from us – it should definitely be up there on your bucket list. Its close proximity to Colombo makes The Wallawwa Hotel an ideal resort from which to take to Sri Lanka’s skies.
In the Sinhala calendar, the month of Bak (that’s April to the western world), marks the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, celebrated across Sri Lanka on either the 13th or 14th April. This year’s celebrations fall on the 14th and is marked by various feasts and traditional practises. Unlike our New Year, which begins at midnight, the moment of passing from one Sinhalese year to the next is determined by astrological calculations and the end of the old year and beginning of the New Year actually occur several hours apart. Since this is one of the most important days in Sri Lanka’s calendar, you’ll find festivities taking part across the island, but if you need a recommendation of somewhere to stay, then look no further than the tranquil retreat of The River House, situated between Colombo and Galle.
The full moon of the 21st May 2016 marks the most sacred festival in Sri Lankan Buddhist culture. Colourful lanterns line the streets, food stalls offer free food and drinks to passers-by and crowds of people sing devotional songs, all in celebration of the life, death and enlightenment of the Buddha. Described by some western commentators as “the Buddhist Christmas”, there’s certainly a festive air of togetherness and merriment across the country during these week-long celebrations. Our Sri Lankan travel experts recommend staying at the stunning Shinagawa Beach if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of this extraordinary festival.
The summer ushers in another Buddhist full moon festival, but this one is much more personal to Sri Lanka, as it celebrates the arrival of Buddhism to the island. The biggest and grandest of celebrations take part in the central town of Anuradhapura in the North of the cultural triangle. If you’re visiting Sri Lanka in June and would like to catch a glimpse of this unique festival we recommend staying at Heritance Kandalama Hotel in Dambulla, which is just a 90 minute drive from Anuradhapura.
Every July, Tamil devotees of the Hindu Lord Skanda flock in pilgrimage to the southern town of Kataragama, paying homage to their deity by performing acts of self-mutilation, including walking atop hot coals. The Last House, situated on Mawella Beach, is a superb property situated just 2 hours from this sacred Hindu town.
Kandy Perahera, the island’s most famous festival, takes place in early August. This ten-day Buddhist extravaganza features dazzling displays including bejewelled elephants, dancers, musicians and acrobats. Close to the historic Kandy Kingdom, Bougainvillea Retreat is the ideal accompaniment to accommodate your experience of this illuminating occasion.
Simply known as ‘The Gathering’, in September and October a natural phenomenon occurs, where hundreds of elephants congregate in large groups around Minneriya National Park’s main watering hole. In the heart of the Cultural Triangle, Heritance Kandalama Hotel is again well placed to help you witness this amazing spectacle – just a 35 minute drive away from the park.
We’re not quite sure why, but November seems to be a quiet month in the Sri Lankan calendar. Everybody needs their rest, even this island’s festival-loving inhabitants, and November is clearly the time to relax and recuperate. If you’re looking for a supremely serene Sri Lankan experience, then this is your month. If tranquillity is high up on your checklist then Anantara’s Tangalle Peace Haven Resort on the south coast offers an ideal getaway.
The December full moon marks the start of the five-month pilgrimage season, where people from all over Sri Lanka and the world make their way to Adam’s Peak. Not only is it reputed to be Adam and Eve’s first Earthly destination but it’s particularly important to the island’s inhabitants because it holds the footprint of Buddha – a rock, claimed to contain the imprint of Buddha’s foot, there to remind followers that he once lived on Earth and walked on a spiritual path. Spirituality and mythology aside, Adam’s Peak is a place of natural beauty, soaring into the sky, it offers arguably the best views of Sri Lanka in the entire country. One nearby hotel, which we’d recommend, is Heritance Tea Factory. Full of colonial character and charm, this fantastic resort sits high up in the hills and is located near Nuwara Eliya Golf Club.
All of the above is just a small sample of the events set to take place over the next year in this unique and diverse island. If you’d like more information about what Sri Lanka has in store for you, get in touch with our travel experts today.