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Top 5 ways to spend Christmas in Sri Lanka | Insight Guides Blog

Top 5 ways to spend Christmas in Sri Lanka

Although Sri Lanka is a year-round destination, spending Christmas here can be a truly magical experience. Whether it's seeing whales or elephants for the first time, or visiting some of Sri Lanka's most spectacular attractions, here is our pick of the top ways to spend Christmas in Sri Lanka.
Tea picker at work, Sri Lanka hill country. Photo: Shutterstock
Tea picker at work, Sri Lanka hill country. Photo: Shutterstock

Sri Lanka is stunning any time of year but with two monsoon seasons there is often confusion around when is the best time to visit. December is the perfect month to travel in the central, western and southern regions of the island. So, bearing this is mind, here is our selection of recommended experiences that will make a Christmas stay on the island truly memorable.

1. Sigiriya

The rock-citadel of Sigiriya is one of the most spectacular natural landmarks in Sri Lanka. An extraordinary cultural attraction, this majestic, sheer-sided outcrop of rock rises 200 metres above the plains that encircle it. The remains of one of medieval Sri Lanka's most remarkable royal palaces are laid out on Sigiriya’s flat summit. Reaching the top involves climbing a series of steep staircases affixed to the rock’s vertical walls, but you will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the ancient city’s expansive water gardens and the lush surrounding landscape. 

Explore Sigiriya as part of the trip of a lifetime on Insight Guides’ Sri Lanka Family Adventure trip.

Sigiriya rock-citadel, Sri Lanka. Photo: Ryszard Stelmachowicz/Shutterstock

2. Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth

Living Buddhist traditions are evidenced in the vibrant city of Kandy, the historic bastion of the island's Sinhalese culture and home to the Temple of the Tooth, Sri Lanka's most important pilgrimage site. It houses the revered Tooth Relic of the Buddha, believed by many Buddhists to be the most precious thing in the world. Set against the densely wooded backdrop of the Udawatte Kele Sanctuary, the temple comprises a sprawling complex of white, hip-roofed buildings scattered around lakeside grounds. You can also come to the city to watch traditionally Kandayan dancing – a memorable cultural experience. Spectacularly costumed dancers perform acrobatic choreography to an insistent accompaniment of high-octane drumming. Visit Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth as part of Insight Guides' Sri Lanka Cultural and Natural Beauty trip.

Buddha statues at the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Photo: DISHNI Rajapakse/Shutterstock

3. Elephant-spotting in Sri Lanka's national parks

A subspecies of the Asian elephant, Sri Lankan elephants are smaller than their African cousins, and with less prominent ears. Current estimates put the number of wild elephants in Sri Lanka at around 3,000. Living in family groups of around 15, led by the oldest female, herds migrate along so-called elephant corridors in search of food and water. The most famous elephant corridor in Sri Lanka is in the north of the country, linking Minneriya, Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa National Parks. 

Experience the thrill of seeing elephants in the wild as part of Insight Guides' Sri Lanka: Culture and Coast trip. The included jeep safari is planned according to the latest information on the location of the elephants at any given time. And you will be accompanied by an experienced guide with a wealth of knowledge who can help you spot animals that you might not notice and share fascinating details about how the elephants live and their habitats.

Minneriya elephants.Baby elephant at Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka. Photo: Marek Velechovsky/Shutterstock

4. Geragama Tea Factory

The lower slopes of Sri Lanka's verdant hill country are a patchwork of seemingly endless tea plantations. A legacy of the British colonial era, tea production remains hugely important in Sri Lanka – the country is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world. A visit to one of the estates is a defining experience of any visit to this island nation. A number or tea factories and estates in the highlands offer tours for visitors. West of Kandy, at the venerable Geragama Tea Factory, you can learn how the bushes are grown in the estate and discover the processes of how different types of tea are produced in the factory. And, of course, savour a refreshing cup of the estate’s finest tea accompanied by a slice of cake. 

Enjoy a visit to Geragama as part of Insight Guides' Sri Lanka: Culture and Coast trip.

Geragama Tea estate store, Sri Lanka. Photo: Olesia_O/Shutterstock

5. Whale watching at Mirissa (Thalpe)

Sri Lanka ranks among the top destinations in the world for spotting blue and sperm whales, and is perhaps the best place on the planet to see these two majestic species swimming together. There have also been sightings of other marine creatures in Sri Lanka’s waters, including killer whales and large pods of spinner dolphins.

The main centre for whale watching is Mirissa on the south coast. The whale watching season runs from December to January, as the whales travel in one direction, and then again throughout April, as they return. During these periods you are more or less guaranteed sightings of at least one or two of the gargantuan creatures.

Take a whale watching boat trip under the guidance of an experienced naturalist as part of  Insight Guides' Sri Lanka: Culture and Coast trip.

A whale's tail in the ocean off Mirissa, Sri Lanka. Photo: Shalom Rufeisen/Shutterstock   

Ready to take a trip to Sri Lanka?

Our local experts can plan wonderful tailor-made trips to Sri Lanka for you. Simply get in touch to let us knowyour ideas for the trip and when you would like to travel. We will create a personalised itinerary especially based on your preferences. You can browse our existing travel itineraries to Sri Lanka for inspiration, and keep in mind that all of pre-planned itineraries can be tailored to suit your specific requirements.

Updated 3 October, 2019