Aurélie’s roundup of best things to do in Sri Lanka in December:
It’s not just the biting winter of the northern hemisphere that drives hordes of tourists to Sri Lanka in December. It’s also the allure of unbelievably beautiful scenery that unveils in the southern and central parts of the country as the seasons shift with the monsoon winds. Stormy winds cease, and the warm sun graces golden beaches once more. The Christmas festivities take over major cities and coastal towns like Negombo. Things are never more perfect in Sri Lanka than in December, and here are the reasons why:
The monsoon finally eases
The vexing southwest monsoon ends around late October, transitioning in November to an inter-monsoon period that affects all areas of the island. In December, the northeast monsoon begins, finally halting the rain storms affecting the southern and central parts of Sri Lanka. This means, there are no more cold gales ruining a day out, and you generally don’t have to worry about landslides on a weekend mountain retreat. All in all, the weather usually is as sunny as it can be for a memorable vacation!
December is mostly a very sunny month.
Golden down south beaches!
With the changing of the monsoons, many good things come about, starting with the golden down south beaches opening up for much fun. This is when I take weekend breaks to enjoy amazing beaches like Unawatuna, Bentota, Tangalle, Polhena and Wijeya. The peak tourist season has its annoyances, but still, Sri Lanka’s down south beaches are amazing even with the crowds. All these beaches are basically paradise for sun worshipping and swimming. Surfers, if you miss Arugam Bay on the east, which is the best surf in South Asia, you can still tackle waves at Mirissa, Weligama, Midigama and Tangalle. Then there’s Hikkaduwa with a long-stretches of powder-fine sand for strolling and incredible coral reefs close to shore. The corals are unfortunately not as stunning as they used to be due to climate change and pollution, so go and see them before it’s too late. If you are like me, you probably prefer beautiful isolated beaches. Sri Lanka has that, too. Head to the Kalpitiya peninsula that has many idyllic beaches with more coconut palms than tourists.
Visit down south beaches in December!
Enjoy a warm Christmas under the sun!
Best of all, you can enjoy Christmas under the tropical sun. Sri Lanka maybe a majority Buddhist country, but that doesn’t stop the ostentatious Christmas decorations and sidewalk Santas showing up in major cities like Colombo and Galle. Sri Lanka’s small but devoted Christian community is concentrated in coastal cities like Negombo, where Christmas is celebrated as a highly spiritual event rather than as a consumerist spectacle. On Christmas Eve, you can attend humble masses at small seaside churches. Or, you can celebrate on a golden beach feasting on local delicacies. On Christmas Eve, it’s common for local hotels to host a special dinner, which is usually a big feast with both western-style dishes and traditional cuisine. (If you have booked a room with the hotel, the feast will be mandatory with a supplementary fee.)
Enjoy fantastic Christmas dinners by the beach in Sri Lanka.
Join local pilgrims on sacred journeys
December is a very special month in Sri Lanka indeed, as it is the best time of the year to join the pilgrims to the Adam’s Peak. From afar, Adam’s Peak towers above all other mountain ranges like a Sri Lankan Fuji. But that’s not really why it’s so special. Locals believe that there’s a sacred footprint at the top, made by Adam if you ask the Christians and the Muslims, as soon as he was expelled along with Eve from Paradise. It’s worth it to join the sea of white-clad pilgrims to the top, for the stunning sunrise at least if not for the holy legend. This year, the pilgrims would make the climb beginning 24th December, a full moon holiday.
Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season starts in December.
Go whale and dolphin watching
Tourists are hardly the only visitors to Sri Lanka in December. As the oceans elsewhere gets cold, pods of dolphins and whales pass by Sri Lanka in search of warm waters. Kalpitiya is the best place to go on dolphin-watching boat tours, and Mirissa in the south for amazing whale-watching tours. Trust me; you will never be the same after seeing wild dolphins and whales. It’s quite amazing beyond description, especially when you have a chance to see rare Blue whales and even orcas! The tours usually leave early morning, but afterwards there’s plenty of alluring beach to relax at.
See whales and dolphins in December
Best time to visit the Hill Country
Sri Lanka’s verdant Hill Country took my breath away the first time I visited (and this is coming from someone who’s spent many summers in Annecy). During the other times of the year, the central mountain region is prone to natural disasters like landslides. In December, the weather clears up and the Hill Country’s signature cool climate, that is so unlike the hot and humid lowlands, returns. Surrounded by imposing mountain ranges and hills covered in sprawling tea plantations, this area is a bit like the English countryside, sans the biting cold. The scenic towns here are tucked away in lush valleys dotted with enamoring cascades. This wonderful landscape offers amazing excursions and adventurous activities, like camping trips to the Knuckles Range, hiking trips, treks through tea plantations, cycling tours around remote villages and horseback riding outings through the hills. I particularly love exploring historic cities like Kandy, the last royal capital of Sri Lanka, and colonial towns like Nuwara Eliya on a bouncy tuk tuk whenever I’m in the area.
Explore the stunning Hill Country in December.
Time of the year to safari!
I first came to Sri Lanka because a friend of mine told me this tiny island had the best wildlife safaris she had been on in Asia. Now that I’ve been on several incredible safaris in the country, I don’t think my friend was exaggerating. December is the perfect time to see massive herds of wild elephants at Udawalawe National Park. Then there’s Yala National Park, where I once went on the safari to see the largest leopards in the world, impossibly hard to spot sloth bears, and ostentations of peacocks!
Enjoy the wildlife safari season in December.
There’s another wonderful spot for wildlife enthusiasts that’s not as well-known—Rekawa Beach. Near Tangalle, this alluring stretch of sand is known to hide hundreds of turtle eggs, some of them of endangered species. Rekawa is unique because the conservationists here do not transfer the eggs to a hatchery or disturb them in any way. The eggs mature naturally, and when the time comes, hundreds of baby turtles go out into the sea, a spectacle I was lucky to witness once. (It happens in the evening after sunset so don’t go during daytime.) Don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event.
See baby turtles hatch undisturbed.
I’ve only mentioned the best of Sri Lanka in December. There are also other things, like unbelievably cheap seasonal sales for reasonably good garments. You can find out more by visiting Sri Lanka!