Sri Lanka is well known as a winter sun destination, offering a tropical alternative to those cold, dark days in the northern hemisphere. However, thanks to the country’s unique climate and topography, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean is also a superb summer getaway.
For such a small island, the weather patterns in Sri Lanka are surprisingly complex, with each half of the island experiencing a monsoon season at different times of year. Generally, the best time to visit the west, south and most central parts of Sri Lanka is between December and April, when the monsoon rains recede to leave clear blue skies and warm temperatures. In contrast, the best time to visit the north and east of Sri Lanka is during the summer months of May to September, when the days are sunny, hot and dry. Read on for some of our top picks to experience the best of Sri Lanka in summer.
This bohemian surfer’s hangout comes alive in the summer months, with wave sliders from all around the globe descending on the area to enjoy the world-class surf. There is plenty to do for the non-surfer too, with incredible wildlife on your doorstep, rugged beaches to explore, interesting eco-projects and some fantastic restaurants to enjoy while soaking up the laid-back vibe.
Sri Lanka’s answer to the Maldives, this area is blessed with miles upon miles of pristine white sand beaches. During the summer, the seas are calm and the gently shelving sands make for perfect swimming conditions. There are a number of top-quality resorts to choose from here, as well as some excellent independent accommodation options. For those looking for adventure, set sail on a private catamaran and explore the region’s spectacular coves.
One of Sri Lanka’s two National Marine Reserves, Pigeon Island lies about 1km offshore from Nilaveli Beach near Trincomalee. These crystal clear waters offer up incredible snorkelling opportunities with green sea turtles galore and abundant tropical fish. Boat rides to the island and snorkelling gear can be easily arranged in Nilaveli.
Walk with the Veddas
Visit Gal Oya National Park and embark on a truly unique experience, walking the jungle with the indigenous Vedda people. Hear their unique language as they chant songs, learn about natural medicines, witness their customs and religion, and get involved with traditional hunting methods.
Head off the beaten track and visit the northern city of Jaffna. Out of bounds to tourists until 2010, this vibrant city is now once again welcoming visitors to its historic heart. This capital of the north is closer to India in both location and culture than it is to Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Discover colourful temples; explore beautiful islands including Delft, home to hundreds of wild horses; and indulge in incredible culinary delights such as the famous Jaffna crab curry.
The Great Elephant Gathering
While Sri Lanka is famed for its abundant wildlife, there is one sight in particular that is particularly inspiring, the great elephant gathering of Minneriya National Park. During the summer dry season, these gentle giants are drawn to the park’s reservoir waters where herds of up to 300 individuals can gather to eat, drink and socialise. They say elephants never forget, and for those lucky enough to witness the gathering, this is an experience that will stay with them forever.
This region is the historic heartland of the island, and home to some of the country’s most significant cultural sites. Dating back to the 4th century AD, towering Sigiriya Rock Fortress was once an impenetrable citadel atop a rocky outcrop which continues to dominate the surrounding plains today. A marvel of ancient engineering, there is still evidence of the buildings, water systems and fortifications that made this place so daunting to any approaching army. The Cave Temples at Dambulla are a series of stunning, fresco-filled caves dating back to the 2nd century BC. Over time the caves have been repainted and artworks added by various rulers of Sri Lanka. The last repainting, which is in the Kandyian style, dates back to the 17th century.
The ancient ruined cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura have both been the island’s capital cities in the past. Today nature has reclaimed their streets in scenes straight out of a fantasy novel. Many of the religious monuments are still intact, including the colossal stupas at Anuradhapura which, at the time of construction, were the second-tallest buildings on earth after the pyramids of Egypt. Pollonuwara is home to the seven-storey Sathmahal Prasadaya edifice, which continues to baffle historians to this day. Polonnuaruwa is also home to Sri Lanka’s Monkey Kingdom which we covered in a recent article.
Kandy Esala Perahera
Every year, in July or August, the Esala Perahara hits the streets of Kandy city. The grandest Buddhist festival in all of Sri Lanka, the parade features a vibrant mix of dancers, jugglers, musicians, fire-breathers, and lavishly adorned elephants. Held over a number of days in the month of ‘Esala’ (July or August depending on the lunar calendar), this is the time of year when it is believed that Buddha gave his first sermon to his disciples after he attained enlightenment.
This is just a small selection of the wonderful summertime locations and activities this magical island has to offer. For bespoke itineraries, get in touch with our travel partners at Kingfisher Tours Sri Lanka and spend your summer holidays exploring a land like no other.