20 places worth visiting
With me in Sri Lanka
For us, presenting our country, culture, the way of life is our biggest happiness. Just as we did as youngsters when our parents took us around Sri Lanka for our first time. Every destination has its own story, every story comes with its own experience, and every experience comes from the people. With the friendly guides & myself, we would love to help narrate the bygone Era of Sri Lanka 7, of course, everything of today.
Folk festivals in Sri Lanka
Whale and Dolphin Watching
If it’s Whale and Dolphin watching, nothing can beat the experience you will get in Sri Lanka. It was revealed that the Indian Ocean waters surrounding Sri Lanka is home to the highest density of Sperm Whales in the world, and also an ideal environment for the Blue Whale, in addition to other types of whales and dolphins. So if you are lucky enough you will see one of the breathtaking sightings of Blue whales – the largest animal on earth among the 1000s of friendly pods of dolphins, if you visit Sri Lanka during the season from January to April.
For the past 20 years (Yes it’s that long) the city of Colombo hosts a dearly loved “market”, a kind that sells art. And it is none other than “Kala Pola” (Art Market). It is the time when hundreds of artists from around the country gather at one of the most beautiful streets of Colombo city – next Viharamahadevi Park; to celebrate art, by showcasing their paintings and sculptures that line the sides of the street.
In a world where we limit ourselves to multiple digital screens, such as our phones, PCs, or tablets; Kala Pola is the perfect break, to get out and spend some time with friends and family. Apart from the art, you will also love the live music and food stalls, while kids can get themselves busy from all the kiddies activities arranged for them.
The much revered Kelaniya Buddhist temple located just a hop, step and a jump away from the island’s capital, prepares heavily during the month of January to hold their annual perehara – an absolutely astounding cultural procession with scores of elephants all dressed in their finery, with traditional Sri Lankan dancers, lively drummers, innocent flag bearers, and Buddhist monks, all participating in the procession in honour of Lord Buddha.
Donald Steele Golf Tournament
This much anticipated event for Golf enthusiasts began in the month of January 1999, as the initial Donald Steel Trophy was played on the occasion of the opening of the Victoria Golf Club. Ever since, the tournament has become an annual fixture, which is held on the month of February, attracting over 100 players from about 15 countries including golfers from UK, Canada and New Zealand that definitely assures the highest levels of sportsmanship in the sport. The tournament is organized in honour of Donald Steel, the designer of the tricky and scenic Victoria golf course.
Commencing on full-moon day, Navam Perehara is one of the most extravagant events held in Colombo that transform its commercial ambience to a mesmerising cultural event. The procession features all the traditional dance forms including mask dancers, Kandyan and Kavadi dancers, representing different cultures in Sri Lanka, while enthused drummers and glittering elephants from various parts of the country make the long journey to Colombo along with their mahouts for this event to liven up the moment.
Hot Air Ballooning Festival
The hot air ballooning festival kicks off at the end of March, welcoming all ballooning enthusiast from across the globe to experience a wonderful holiday, ballooning over Sri Lanka’s enchanting greenery and the cultural triangle. Float over the blue reflections of the lakes and rivers, see the wild beasts roam in their natural habitat, see the variant topographies as you share the sky with the birds.
Maha Siva Rathri
Sinhala and Tamil New Year
Like various countries have their own New Year celebrations aligned with their cultural rituals and beliefs, as such Sri Lanka celebrates New Year in the month of April. Hence it is a holiday month in the isle where the Sinhalese and Tamil communities celebrate the dawning of the New Year. It’s that time of the year everyone start a fresh, and the atmosphere smells of delicious sweetmeats specially made for the holiday. What’s so warming to witness is that at the new years the entire country engages in a series of activities at the same auspicious time, dressed in the same colour, facing the same direction wishing peace and prosperity to all for the coming New Year. Festivities and traditional rituals are best seen in the rural areas. Colombo empties out during this time when most head to their homelands or escape to the cooler hills or the sandy beaches.
On full moon day in May, Buddhists all across the world venerates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Lord Buddha. To commemorate the event Sri Lanka changes almost entirely since every street, every house and every commercial property are lit up in serene splendour with oil lamps, elaborated lanterns and especially colourful pandals that depict the life story of Lord Buddha. If you visit Sri Lanka during the period visit Colombo for the Vesak glamour and cultural cities to experience the serene holistic feel.
Poson is the event where Sri Lanakn Buddhists celebrates the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Mihintale – the blessed peak where Buddhism was preached for the first time by Mahinda thero ; engulfs in a serene atmosphere, as thousands of pilgrims and devotees light incense and oil lamps in honour of Buddha, Dhamma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha (the Buddhist monks). Even on this event the country is decorated with handmade lanterns that depict 3 stages of Lord Buddha’s life. When you are making your holiday itinerary during this period make sure to include Mihintale, Kandy and ancient cities of Sri Lanka to experience Poson feel at its best.
The Esala Perahera in Kandy is one of the oldest and grandest of all Buddhist festivals held in Sri Lanka, including dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, and lavishly decorated elephants. During the time the city transform itself to a dazzling spectacle for two weeks with the sounds and lights of the Kandy Perehara – a glorious procession where the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is ceremoniously paraded on elephant back along the streets of Kandy. This ritual, has been taking place for more than hundreds of years, have become one of those events that should be in your lifetime goal list to experience.
While Kandy is dazzling away quite similarly Kataragama is also competitively celebrates Esala Perehara in honour of God Skandha – the warrior god of Kataragama. The jungle shrine comes back to life with the festivities and the procession represents Hindu folklore, music and dance forms, and also fire walking is done by many believers, in sacrifice and devotion to God Kataragama.
Ever wondered what will happen if 500 to 600 elephants were at one place? Why would you wonder, when it actually happens in Sri Lanka. Yes, you read it right, during August and September the thinning banks of the Minneriya Lake promotes one of the most unique scenes you will ever see – ‘Minneriya Elephant Gathering’ ; A mass migration of elephants gathered at one point. The reason behind this giant gathering is that during this time of the year, dry season hits this region, drastically reducing the water supplies. The only fertile place with enough and more water to accommodate such a large group of animals is the Minneriya reservoir, thus they all gather around it during the dry spell. According to the authorities this spectacle has been repeated for over hundreds of years, but has caught the world’s eye quite recently. The gathering has gained so much momentum that even lonely planet listed it as the 6th wildlife spectacle in the world.
Bird Watching at Anawilundawa
For all the bird enthusiasts out there, this is the time you should visit Sri Lanka, especially Anawilundawa Wetland Sanctuary that is located between Chilaw and Puttalam. The unique topography sits at a point where three very distinct eco-systems collide, and in spite of that since its bordering the coast it is also flanked by mangroves and fresh water lakes. Therefore this becomes one of the best choices for a huge variety resident and migratory species of animals and birds counting for more than 150 species to reside and relax.
Kalpitiya is one of world’s top whale watching hotspots, ideal for remarkable views of the mysterious creatures. Not to mention the opportunity to see the largest animal on earth up close and personal, is a once in a lifetime, awe-inspiring break that a one should not miss, when you visit Sri Lanka during November and April. It is pretty difficult to see whales in their natural habitat without going out of our comfort zones, but at Kalpitiya – the destination offers the luxury of seeing whales in their natural environment just a short distance from the island’s shore. Kalpitiya is famous for its sightings of a variety of whales, including Sperm Whales and Blue Whales, and a visit here is essential as it is a world class attraction of marine life.
Pilgrimage Season – Adam’s Peak
December marks the opening of the pilgrimage season when devotees climb the sacred Adam’s Peak. The sight is unbelievable, as thousands of devotees in their groups of family and friends climb up singing songs of devotion, sharing stories and utter determination of paying homage to Lord Buddha’s foot print. The long path way that is snaked right through to the top, is lit throughout the night creating a vision of utter beauty from afar. If you wish to make the climb make sure to time your journey so that you are able to witness the sunrise at the Adam’s peak, since it’s one of the spectacular visions in the world where you can glimpse the first ray of the sun, standing among the clouds.
The jolly holiday season is definitely a celebration in Sri Lanka too, but primarily celebrated in Colombo and the surrounding areas. The Christmas cheer, the smell of rich cake, carols and Christmas songs can all be seen with all the malls decked with all of Christmassy feel to promote the infectious joy and cheer.