Aurélie has some excellent suggestions for spending New Year’s Eve in Sri Lanka:
As for me, there’s no place quite like Sri Lanka to spend New Year’s Eve. Most of my December 31sts have been spent in cold and dreary Paris, until I moved to Colombo. In December, the sun here is out in full force, downpours are much less frequent, and the golden down south beaches are ready for relaxing. If you want to spend your New Year’s Eve celebrating on a sunny beach relaxing in peace or in an unimaginably unique way, check out my recommendations:
For a New Year’s filled with fun—
This is probably the quintessential New Year’s Eve destination in Sri Lanka. The golden beach of Bentota is easily accessible from Colombo, so you can quickly drop in for an exciting New Year’s Eve bash and be on your way the next day. At Bentota, you can spend your time at a deluxe resort and enjoy scrumptious celebratory dinners. There are many hotel and seaside restaurant beach parties to mark the end of 2015 with a lot of dancing and music (but don’t expect revelry like in, say, Thailand). You can watch fireworks and fly sky lanterns to welcome 2016 at midnight.
Fly sky lanterns on New Year’s Eve at Bentota.
My all-time favorite beach escape from the city! Unawatuna comes alive for the New Year’s Eve. Be aware that there will be many tourists because it’s the peak season. If you like meeting people, you’ll love it there. Don’t worry too much. You’ll be able to find a spot of white-gold beach to sunbathe until it’s time for the partying. The hotels in the area host wonderful (and relatively tame) New Year’s Eve parties and dinners. This is the place to be if you want sun and fun on New Year’s Eve.
Enjoy a New Year’s Eve beach bash at Unawatuna.
If you’re looking for western-style parties with dance-pop, jazz, techno or whatever, Colombo is the best place. There are many city hotels and clubs offering New Year’s Eve parties. I’m quite partial to the Sky Lounge bar at Kingsbury hotel, where you can count down to 2016 with excellent cocktails and a killer view of the greater Colombo area and the coastline. OZO hotel is known to throw great dance parties, and you can also try Colombo Hilton, Taj Samudra, Galadari and Galle Face Hotel for high-end NYE parties. The Kingsbury hotel last year held a champagne and oyster soirée at one of their restaurants, and probably will have a similarly classy event this year, too. Mount Lavinia hotel for the past two years held a nice 20s Flapper-themed NYE party that those of you who love to dress up can most likely try this year. There will also be many local and international music festivals around the city. (You can send us an inquiry if you want to clarify an event.)
Enjoy indulgent New Year’s parties in Colombo.
For peace and quiet—
If you can’t stand the crowds in pretty much all the beaches down south, head over to the Kalpitiya peninsula. People come here to go on dolphin watching tours, and only a few stay behind to enjoy the long golden beaches. You can escape the dolphin fanatics at peaceful Alankuda and Palagama beaches. There are amazing hotels (one with a stunning infinity pool) and beach chalets for a truly relaxing New Year’s Eve away from the crowds.
Enjoy crowd-free beaches at Kalpitiya on New Year’s Eve.
Be the first to welcome the first light of the New Year at Adam’s Peak in the Hill Country. This legendary mountain is said to have a sacred footprint at the top that attracts long lines of pilgrims starting Christmas Eve (which also happens to be a poya holiday.) If you can climb to the top on New Year’s Eve, you can catch the first rays of golden sunlight of 2016. The climb can be exhausting, but the panoramic view of the lush surroundings and the breathtaking sunrise is absolutely worth it. It’ll definitely be a unique way to spend the New Year’s Eve.
Catch the first rays of sunlight of the New Year at Adam’s Peak.
Enjoy a completely tranquil New Year’s Eve getaway at this Benedictine monastery tucked away in scenic Haputale. A great place to experience both history and nature, this hilltop monastery was originally built by an English planter who styled it after the Leeds Castle in Kent. The area is very peaceful, and the monastery has a jaw-dropping rose garden for strolls. Visitors have to pay a Rs. 100 entrance fee to tour parts of the building, including the library filled with books such as “Love Affairs of Mary Queen of Scots” and “History of the Tory Party.” Getting there, the road goes through the rarely visited Thangamale Bird Sanctuary. After enjoying the stunning highland view, visitors can shop at the monastery’s organic garden. If you’d like to spend the New Year’s Eve night at the monastery, you’ll have to call in and get approval in advance.
Enjoy a tranquil New Year’s Eve getaway at Adisham Monastery.
Go off the beaten path this New Year’s Eve to the Ambuluwawa biodiversity complex, situated near the historic town of Gampola. Unlike other nature reserves in Sri Lanka, which are strictly jungle, Ambuluwawa has a stupa rising from the distance and a temple, a church, a mosque and a Hindu kovil standing side by side. Hardly a soul ventures here so you are highly unlikely to encounter trekkers in the area. But what I really find unique about this reserve is the oddly-shaped white tower situated on a hillock, overlooking the greenery like a real-life Ecthelion. There’s a spiral stairway that goes up and up until you can reach a sky-high point that overlooks almost the entire reserve!
This New Year’s Eve, discover the white tower of Ambuluwawa.
(Photo credit: afar.com)
Hilltop temple trek
Spend a quirky New Year’s holiday discovering three breathtaking temples near Kandy—Embekke, Lankathilake and Gadaladeniya. First, drive to Embekke, a historic temple with gush-worthy woodcarvings of dancers, fighters and elephant-lion hybrid creatures. Then trek through the rural countryside of Gampola to the iconic Lankathilake temple. On the way, you can see lush paddy fields tended to by hardworking farmers. After enjoying the view, trek to explore more of the captivating countryside until you reach Gadaladeniya temple situated on a breezy hill. The entire trek can be completed in one day starting from Kandy.
Spend this New Year’s Eve trekking to scenic temples.
(Photo credit: lankalibrary.com)
Why not ditch the raucous crowds on New Year’s Eve and enjoy yourself by going on a tuk tuk ride through verdant tea plantations? It’s actually one of my favorite activities in the Hill Country. Try to leave in the morning when the tea bushes are still shrouded in a silvery mist, and tea pickers are unhurriedly climbing up the hills to work. On a tuk tuk, that lacks any doors, it’s easy to get an intimate view of the plantations and see the tea bushes and workers up close. If you like, you can go back to Kandy in the evening for a celebratory dinner at a hotel.
New Year’s Eve tea plantation tuk tuk safari.
I love spending my holidays doing something exciting, including on New Year’s Eve. For my usual clients who are uninterested in the party scene, and are looking for bit of the extraordinary, I always recommend wildlife safaris at enamoring national parks like Yala and Udawalawe. You’ll have the best chances of seeing herds of wild elephants, grazing and playing, on an unforgettable jeep safari in Udawalawe. At Yala, if you are lucky, you might be able to spot sloth bears and the largest leopards in the world! Isn’t it wonderful to feel a bit of nature on a special holiday like New Year’s Eve?
On New Year’s Eve, go on a wildlife safari.
So, which place out of all the above would you really want to be on New Year’s Eve?