Several aspects should be looked into if you are to make the best of your holiday.
Timing your holiday
Depending on the type of vacation you intend having, you should select your locations. Beach holidays are best during the driest months when the seas are calm. However the climate varies in different parts of the island according to the monsoon rains.December to March are the driest and best seasons on the west and south coasts and in the hill country, while the eastern coast enjoys its dry spell during May to September.Two major cultural pageants, the Kandy Perahera and the Kataragama festival take place in July/August each year
The tourist season does coincide with the calm seas on the western and southern coasts during December to March. However these times can be quite crowded as westerners, mainly Europeans, travel out of their countries to avoid the cold winters. Air fares and accommodation rates are higher during December to March than during the off season when one can take advantage of very competitive rates.
Finding your way about
Having a road map in hand is an excellent way of finding your way around the country. There are several types of maps which could be purchased, but the most appropriate is the Road Map produced by the Sri Lankan Government Survey Department. This overall map is clear to read, and is easily available at leading Bookshops and the Survey Department Map Sales Center in Colombo Fort. (Telephone: 01-435328). The Nelles Verlag 1:450,000 Sri Lanka, is one of the best foreign produced maps, and it includes city maps of Colombo, Anuradhapura, Kandy and Galle.
Sri Lankan Special Holidays
In addition to Saturday and Sunday, the full moon day (Poya Day) of each month is a holiday in Sri Lanka. On Poya Days all places of entertainment are closed and no alcohol is sold. Hotels make special arrangements for customers to order their alcohol the day before Poya holiday.Sri Lanka, being a tropical country, enjoys barmy weather throughout the year. The "tourist" season is from October to April. However, there are many attractions and events that happen all through the year. Check these out before you decide which time is best for you.
FEBRUARY - Independence Day Sri Lanka celebrates it Independence Day on the 4th of February. Ceylon as the island was then known, gained independence in 1948 and this anniversary is celebrated each year with much pomp and pageantry.
Navam Perahera Undoubtedly Colombo's grandest outdoor parade, the Navam Perahera is a spectacular display of Sri Lanka's traditional forms of art. Dancers and drummers from around the island perform in this procession, which winds its way along the streets of the city. Over 100 caparisoned elephants add considerable grandeaur to this annual spectacle which draws thousands to the city to view its progress.
MARCH Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) Adam's Peak or Sri Pada is Sri Lanka's holy mountain. This is the best time of year at which one might climb the Peak. Pilgrims pay homage to an ancient footprint at its summit, believed to be that of Lord Buddha.
APRIL Sinhala and Tamil New Year This celebration marks the harvest festival - a time for song and celebration as the busy months spent working in the paddy fields draws to a close. Sri Lanka's two main ethnic groups, the Sinhalese and Tamils, celebrate a common traditional New Year marking the passage of the Sun from Pisces to Aries. Traditional games are played and customs observed. Astrologers prescribe auspicious colours for each year and new clothes are made and worn in accordance with these instructions, to ensure good luck in the new year. Special food items and sweetmeats are prepared and eaten an auspicious hour.
The "Season" The April holiday season coincides with the Sinhala/Tamil New Year and Easter holidays during which all schools are closed for a month or more. If you intend combining business with pleasure, its best you avoid this period since most places shut down 8th and 20th April. In April most city dwellers retreat to the cooler climes of Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela where they might enjoy "up-country" pursuits such as hiking, golfing and riding. The hill country resort town of Nuwara Eliya takes on a carnival atmosphere with garden exhibitions and competitions organised at the Park, entertainment such as dances organised at the hotels and horse races at the Nuwara Eliya race track.
MAYVesak A thrice blessed day for Buddhists, Vesak commemorates the birth of Lord Buddha, his attaining Enlightenment and his passing away in to Nibbana. It is a festival of lights with lanterns and gigantic illuminated displays known as "Pandols" decorating the temples, streets and homes of Buddhists. It is also a time when wayside food and drink outlets called "Dhansal" distribute refreshments free of charge to passers by
JUNE Poson Mihintale Festival This full moon festival commemorates the advent of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the 3rd Century BC. The ancient site of Mihintale where the Buddhist doctrine was first preached is the central focus of activities.
JULYFruit Season Kataragama Festival The jungle shrine of God Kataragama on the south east of the island is a popular destination for pilgrims. Highlights include acts of self-mortification such as fire walking. Fragrant markets turn in to a sunburst of colour and the cries of vendors tell us that the island's exotic fruit season has begun. Fruit to be found include rambuttan, mango, durian, papaw, pineapple, mangosteen etc.
AUGUST Kandy Esala Perahera The Esala Perahera or pageant is a climax in a series of Peraheras. A golden casket containing 34 relics of Lord Buddha are taken in procession around the streets of Kandy. Over a thousand costumed dancers and drummers, torch bearers and whip crackers as well as over a hundred caparisoned elephants decorated in silks and coloured lights, take part in this spectacular procession.
Vel Festival Celebrated by Hindus, a colourful and intricately decorated Vel Chariot carrying the weapons of God Skanda is taken in procession along the streets of the city of Colombo, on a tour of the Hindu temples.
SEPTEMBERVintage Car Rally Formerly known as "The Old Crocks Rally", sporty MGs, convertibles and relics from a bygone era of motoring form an impressive line up of over 125 vintage cars participating at this annual rally.
OCTOBER Kite Festival A burst of colour and flurry of floating tails fixed on kites of assorted shapes and sizes take to the skies in this spectacular contest held by the sea, on the Galle Face Green in the heart of the city of Colombo.
NOVEMBERDeepavali A "Festival of Lights", it is a celebration to welcome Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and good fortune, into Hindu homes, which are gaily decorated and illuminated with oil lamps and lights.
DECEMBER Christmas Sri Lanka's significant Christian population celebrates the universal joys of Christmas with singing of carols, giving of gifts and other traditional festivities.