Are you exhausted by the idea of a new year’s eve party? All the noise from the fireworks and the loud music can seem inescapable. You either join the party and drink till you can enjoy it, or you hide away at home, calming your pets as they fear for the end of the world. What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could have a meditative, spiritual experience instead? Keep reading.
While it may be a tradition in the West to countdown to midnight on new year’s eve, in Sri Lanka, it’s not as big a deal. Sure, every hotel will throw a party and a put on a fireworks display, but apart from the bourgeoisie in Colombo, the rest of the country doesn’t really celebrate it. We actually have our own new year, a harvest festival, and it’s celebrated in April!
If you’re up for an uphill climb (there are stairs, don’t worry!), a boat ride on a lake, or a campsite in a grassland, here are our suggestions:
Being a multicultural country, Sri Lankans share religious sites to which they make pilgrimages. People of all faiths begin the ascent to the top of a mountain, known to some as Sripada, Ratnagiri, Samanala Kanda, and Adam’s Peak. Yes, that Adam. Why do they climb? There is a footprint on its peak that Buddhists believe to be of the Buddha, Hindus believe to be of Lord Shiva, and Muslims and Christians believe that it was left by Adam as he set foot on earth upon exile from Eden.
What’s really to be marvelled at, though, is the view. If you make the climb at night, it will take about five hours to reach the peak. Once you’re there, settle in and look forward to the sunrise. Words can’t do justice to the sight, it simply must be seen and experienced. Watch as the sun leaps over the eastern horizon, drawing a shadow of the mountain in a perfect triangle over its western backdrop.
At an elevation of 2000 meters, there is a plateau rich in biodiversity, populated by endemic species. It is known as Horton Plains, a world heritage site that spans grasslands, a waterfall, a cloud forest and a spectacular view dubbed World’s End. It’s about a nine-kilometre walk, with a circuitous route, so you can decide in which order you want to experience it. Keep an eye out for the birds and lizards as you make your way through the cloud forest. In the grasslands, you’ll likely come across some sambar deer.
We suggest camping in the grasslands. The wildlife department operates three campsites, each about 500 meters from the visitation centre. You can spend a quiet night under the stars and then take the walk in the morning.
Man-made by damming one of Kala Wewa’s tributaries, the Kandalama Reservoir is a serene, placid water body that stands testament to this country’s ancient irrigation knowledge. Formed with masses of hewn rock, with stones ten feet thick at the base, placed like steps, it would have been quite a daunting task to complete. It’s actually often called Kandalama “Lake” as it’s so easy to mistake it for being a natural phenomenon.
You can look forward to birdwatching by boat, early in the morning. Imagine being greeted by birdsong at the dawn of a new year. Your view of the lake transforms over the course of the day, as the misty morning gives way to crimson skies at sunset. Other activities available in the area include hot air balloon rides as well as climbing Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress, just a few kilometres away.
Where To Avoid
In any case, if you want to enjoy a peaceful night on new year’s eve, you’d want to avoid major hotels, especially along the coast, and stay far away from the capital and larger towns. If you’d like to have a custom tour tailored to your needs, write to us and we’ll see right to it!