The cheapest time to visit Sri Lanka is from May to July. Sri Lanka experiences the first spell of monsoons during this time and most tourists have already left. This reduces ticket prices and accommodation costs due to the low demand. This rainy patch of the year can be used advantageously. Those who can admire the tea fields in the rain with a cup of coffee can do so, but those who cannot, they should come a bit later in July. Though it would technically be the monsoon period, the skies clear for just a few weeks in early September before the second monsoon spell starts.
There are three international airports in Sri Lanka. The island nation is well connected with the rest of the world through its national flag carrier – Sri Lankan Airlines.
- The Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) is the busiest international airport of Sri Lanka and is right on the outskirts of Colombo. The airport is only 32 kilometres from the city’s commercial district, close to the town of Negombo. Bandaranaike International Airport served a total of 9.8 million people in 2017. An expansion project of the airport is well underway and by 2020 two new 4 kilometre runways will grace the airport.
- Ratmalana Airport (RML) is the second busiest airport close to Colombo. It was the first international airport of Sri Lanka before Bandaranaike International Airport was built in 1967. From then on, the airport was only used for domestic flights, until in 2012 when the airport was reopened for a limited number of international flights. The airport is only 15 kilometres away from Colombo city, near the town of Ratmalana. In 2017, the airport handled 2.4 million passengers.
- Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI) is an international airport that serves the city of Hambantota, in south Sri Lanka. As most international airlines still tend to use Bandaranaike International Airport, Mattala Rajapaksa has seen few international arrivals over the years and is being used more for domestic transportation. That being said, the airport is still designated as an international airport and served 60,000 passengers in 2017.
A British Citizen is required to apply for a visa to visit the island country of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government advises that all tourists from the UK should apply for a ‘Short visit to Sri Lanka’ visa from the ETA, Electronic Travel Authority through their website. Although you can apply for the tourist visa once you land in Sri Lanka, applying beforehand prevents delays and standing in long queues. The short-visit visa is valid for 30 days.
The Sri Lankan climate is a bit of a puzzle, but to put it simply the best time to enjoy the tropical country is from January to April.
Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons. The first comes between May and July and the second monsoon season arrives in October and stays until the end of December. The monsoon weather is excellent for sprouting tea leaves but if you want to get some tan, it is better to come to Sri Lanka in the above mentioned period. Moreover, during this time the indigenous wildlife of the country including the birds, whales and dolphins are more active and visible.
Sri Lanka has a long history that dates back 125,000 years. Buddhism impacted the country greatly. Sri Lanka was the hub of Buddhism for a thousand years, after the Fourth Buddhist Council in 36 BC. The Kandy Kings left their mark as their palaces still overlook the lakes and rivers of the country. Sri Lanka gained independence from the British in 1948.
- The Sigiriya ancient fortress near Dambulla is perhaps the most famous landmark in Sri Lanka. The fortress lies on a giant column of rock surrounded by vast open space and was constructed in 500 AD by King Kasyapa. Sigiriya means lion’s rock in Sinhalese language because the fort had a lion’s head hewn out of stone at the gate. Only the giant stone paws of the lion survive today. The fortress was later converted into a Buddhist temple. Mosaics and statues line the narrow corridors of the ancient structure.
- The Gal Vihara or ‘Rock Monastery’ is in Polonnaruwa and is the best example of Sinhalese artistry. The sculptures at the monastery were built in the 12th century by the Parakramabahu I. The monastery has four large sculptures of Buddha, the dimensions of which were only limited by the granite rock available. The standing image of Buddha is 7 metres tall and the reclining Buddha is 14 metres in length, from head to toe. It is both a spiritual and an amazing place to visit.
- Sri Dalada Maligawa or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a sacred monastery in Kandy. The Temple holds the tooth of Buddha himself and has played an important role in the politics of the country since it was believed that whoever possessed the relic held the power to rule Sri Lanka. The Royal Palace adjacent to the temple is also open to tourists. Every morning, noon and evening the relic is cleansed in a ceremony with aromatic water which is then collected in pots and bottles, as the water is said to have therapeutic qualities.
Duruthu Poya or The Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka is celebrated in January with religious adoration throughout the country. The Sri Lankan Thanksgiving or Thai Pongal is also celebrated in January. Gifts are shared on this day and blessings are collected by worshippers from the nearest temples. Sinhala and the Tamil New Year are celebrated by giving alms, visiting family and friends and giving out sweets. Vesak Poya is the festival of lights. The festival celebrates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and the Parinirvana – Buddha reaching Nirvana.
In Sri Lanka, all roads lead to Colombo. Expressways traverse the island nation and 95% of all transport in the country is through roads. Recently, the government has increased its efforts to connect the innermost parts of the country with the harbours to promote economic growth. Busses managed by Sri Lankan Transport Board and private transport groups connect cities with the nearest towns. These buses run on urban and rural routes and move the people. There are plans of introducing a subway system to Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest and capital city.