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Luxury Hotels in Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka – a year-round destination
We’ve said it before but Sri Lanka really is a year-round destination – you just need to know when and where should be visited at certain times of the year. What we’ve shared in this guide are the best/driest destinations per month, and the optimal times for viewing wildlife (for example). However, out of season, and during monsoon months, you still get hot, sunny rain-free days while leopards, for instance, can be observed year-round. Not only do the seasons mean that you can combine regions within an itinerary to opt for the driest weather, but even in shoulder or quieter months, the weather can still be good. Sri Lanka is a tropical destination, which means showers can break out anytime, anywhere, even when it’s supposed to be dry. May/June and October/November are often seen as shoulder season months when the monsoons are shifting and wind directions (which affect the tides and rainfall) start changing from west to east (and vice versa).

Consider temperatures too – very high elevations such as Nuwara Eliya are coldest in the winter (though cold equates to wearing a light jumper at night as the temperatures can dip to 11C though during the daytime are usually around 20C-25C). Another example is the Gal Oya region, which is warmest between April and September (something to consider given that there is no air conditioning at Gal Oya Lodge, though we’d argue that even during this time of year, their fans are more than sufficient). In low elevations, although the mercury only strays a few degrees above/below 30C throughout the year it can definitely feel hotter due to high humidity levels.

Letting clients know about the differing seasons means they can also take advantage of lower rates and special offers for quieter months of the year while other trade-offs include fewer people at popular attractions and a wider choice of rooms (this is especially important for claiming family rooms or suites at small boutique hotels). Wildlife may also be more visible during wetter times of the year. 

JANUARY
Beaches in season: south and west coasts – we love Tangalle, Dalawella and Balapitiya
Wildlife: Whale- and dolphin-watching season on the south and west coasts – launch pads for these activities include Mirissa (south) and Kalpitiya (north west)
Culture: Navam Perahera, Colombo – Colombo’s biggest two-day full moon temple festival draws throngs of spectators keen to see processions of elephants, dancers, drummers and street performers. Aluth Sahal Mangalle or New Rice Festival is a harvest festival when paddy farmers from across the island bring rice from their new harvest to Kandy’s tooth temple for blessings. Also in October.
Best weather: south and west coasts, western hills (such as Hatton), Nuwara Eliya, Wilpattu National Park 

FEBRUARY
Beaches in season
: south and west coasts – we love Tangalle, Dalawella and Balapitiya
Wildlife: Whale- and dolphin-watching season on the south and west coasts – launch pads include Mirissa (south) and Kalpitiya (north-west). 
Culture: Independence Day (4th) – celebrated with parades, usually in Colombo along the Galle Face Green. Given the high number of road closures due to military parades, we’d recommend avoiding Colombo during this time. Public holiday.
Sport: Donald Steele Golf Tournament – a popular golfing championship held at the glorious Victoria Golf & Country Resort, near Kandy.
Best weather: south and west coasts, western hills (such as Hatton), Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Wilpattu National Park

MARCH
Beaches in season: south and west coasts
Wildlife: Whale- and dolphin-watching season on the south and west coasts – launch pads include Mirissa (south) and Kalpitiya (north-west).
Best weather: south and west coasts, western hills (such as Hatton), Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Cultural Triangle, Wilpattu National Park, Gal Oya National Park 

APRIL
Beaches in season: south and west coasts. Start of the east coast season – we love Kalkudah, Arugam Bay, Passikudah and Trincomalee
Wildlife: Last month for whale- and dolphin-watching on the south and west coasts – launch pads include Mirissa (south) and Kalpitiya (north-west). 
Culture: Sinhala / Tamil New Year (13th/14th) – a non-religious two-day harvest festival celebration, and one of the most important holidays in Sri Lanka’s calendar. It’s a time when families get together to conduct traditional rituals, offer thanks for the rice harvest, and wish peace and prosperity for the coming year. Celebrations and rituals take place across the island, though are best in rural areas.
Best weather: south and west coasts, western hill country (such as Hatton), Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Cultural Triangle, Wilpattu National Park, Gal Oya National Park

MAY
Beaches in season: east coast (see April) though south and west coast are very pleasant too – our favourites are those further east (and therefore slightly drier) such as those in the Tangalle area.
Culture: Wesak Poya (usually occurs in May) – this is the most sacred full moon holiday which commemorates the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha. Homes, villages and cities in Sri Lanka are lit up in serene splendour with oil lamps and intricate handmade lanterns. This full moon holiday also marks the end of the Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season.
Sport: May is the beginning of the main surfing season in Arugam Bay (until September). Kite-surfing and windsurfing are also starting to take off in/around Kalpitiya and Mannar on the north-west coast.
Wildlife: Whale and dolphin watching season starts from Trincomalee on the northeastern coast. Sloth bear season starts in May/June and continues to July. The bears are drawn to the fruits of the palu trees in Yala and Wilpattu national parks and are much more visible during this time.
Best weather: Cultural Triangle, eastern hills (such as Ella), east coast, south and west coasts, Gal Oya National Park

JUNE
Beaches in season: east coast beaches are best (see April)
Sport: Good visibility for diving off the north east coast
Culture: Poson Poya – a significant full moon holiday for Sri Lankan Buddhists, since it commemorates the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Pilgrims light oil candles in temples across the island, though Mihintale, near Anuradhapura, is the main focus.
Wildlife: high chances of seeing a leopard in Yala National Park due to the dieback of vegetation. Sloth bears are still at their most visible in Yala and Wilpattu national parks
Best weather: east coast, Cultural Triangle, eastern hills (such as Ella), Gal Oya National Park  

JULY
Beaches in season
: east coast beaches are best (see April) though during the high summer months the weather is usually good on south and west coasts too (expect a few showers/cloudy days)
Sport: Peak month for surfing in Arugam Bay and kite-surfing in Kalpitiya. Good visibility for diving off the north east coast
Culture: Kataragama Festival – one of Sri Lanka’s most visual festivals where devotees pay homage to Lord Skanda by performing acts of self-mutilation, including walking over hot coals.
Wildlife: Higher chances of seeing leopards in Yala National Park due to the dieback of vegetation. Sloth bears in Yala and Wilpattu national parks
Best weather: east coast, south coast, Kandy, eastern hills (such as Ella), cultural triangle, Gal Oya National Park

AUGUST
Beaches in season
: east coast beaches are best (see April) though during the high summer months the weather is usually good on south and west coasts too (expect a few showers/cloudy days)
Sport: Peak month for surfing in Arugam Bay and kite-surfing in Kalpitiya. Good visibility for diving off the north east coast
Wildlife: from late August, elephants begin converging on Minneriya Lake, in an event coined The Gathering. With up to 300 elephants participating, this is the largest gathering of its kind in the world. This month also offers an optimal chance at seeing leopards in Yala National Park
Culture: Kandy Perahera – Sri Lanka’s most famous festival, a 10-day Buddhist extravaganza with extravagant nightly parades of bejewelled elephants, dancers, musicians and acrobats.
Best weather: east coast, south coast, Kandy, western hills (such as Hatton), Nuwara Eliya, eastern hills (such as Ella), cultural triangle, Gal Oya National Park

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER
Beaches in season
: east coast beaches until late September/early October
Culture: Aluth Sahal Mangalle or New Rice Festival take places again in Kandy (see January).
Wildlife: The Gathering continues (see August). Block 1 of Yala National Park is usually closed annually between mid-September and mid-October though this varies from year to year. Designed to offer relief to wildlife at the height of the dry season it occurs in just one of the five zones that make up the reserve. Blocks 3 and 5 are often offered as alternatives but may take longer to reach. For viewing elephants by boat from Gal Oya Lodge, September and October are good months for sightings as lake water levels have usually receded, and often stay low until November, when the monsoon begins.
Best weather: east coast, Kandy, eastern hills, cultural triangle, Gal Oya National Park

NOVEMBER
Beaches in season
: November marks the start of the south west coastal season (the ocean begins getting calmer) though there can still be showers
Culture: Karthika Festival (festival of lights) is celebrated in November in Kandy by Sri Lankan Hindus originating from Tamil Nadu in India. It is a very low-key celebration that welcomes the goddess Shakti. Deepavali (another festival of lights) is also observed amongst Hindu communities this month.
Wildlife: start of the whale- and dolphin-watching season on the south and west coasts.
Best weather: Kandy, the south and west coasts 

DECEMBER
Beaches in season
: South and west coasts
Culture: Adam’s Peak Pilgrimage Season – The December full moon marks the start of the five-month Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season (ends on the Wesak full moon in May). Christmas is celebrated across the island with hotels putting on special meals such as seafood/beach BBQs and fireworks on Dec 31st
Best weather: south and west coasts, western hills (such as Hatton), Nuwara Eliya


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