What is a Poya Day in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka Full Moon Poya Day

Whether you have got a trip to Sri Lanka planned, or it’s simply one idea of many floating around in your head, it’s important that you know the effects a Poya Day can have on your trip.

What is a Poya Day?

A Poya Day is the name given to the Buddhist full moon holiday called ‘Uposatha’, it is celebrated monthly in recognition of the moon being at it’s fullest point.

Sri Lanka Full Moon Poya Day

Photography by Chris Isherwood

This usually means that a Poya Day falls once a month, however there can occasionally be two Poya Days in one month depending on the lunar calendar. This additional Poya is given the prefix “Adhi”, meaning extra.

How is a Poya Day celebrated?

All Poya Days are recognised by the Sri Lankan Government and so are marked with both a civil and bank holiday, throughout Sri Lanka. All practising Buddhists within Sri Lanka meditate, reflect and put particular importance on the five precepts of Buddhism. These five precepts are to abstain from: harming living beings; sexual misconduct; stealing or theft; deception or lying and intoxication – whether from alcohol or drugs.

What impact will a Poya Day have on my holiday?

Due to the civil and bank holiday, many amenities will be closed on Poya Days. This includes banks, shops, restaurants. There is also a ban on the sale of meat and fish and a ban on both the sale of alcohol, and the consumption of alcohol in public places.

Will these Poya Day bans include my hotel?

Yes this ban on alcohol, meat and fish will extend to all hotels. However you will be able to consume alcohol from your hotel room minibar.

Will I be able to buy my own alcohol (before the Poya Day) and drink it on the Poya Day?

You can, as long as you do not do so in public spaces. Even within hotel grounds – such as by the pool. If you do this, you might find that not only will you be in trouble with law – but your hotel could also have its alcohol license revoked. For this reason, if you do wish to consume previously bought alcohol you should do so only in your hotel room.

Should I visit Sri Lanka over a Poya Day?

That is completely up to you to decide, as long as you are aware of the way it may affect your holiday. If you want to be able to frequent bars and restaurants every day, perhaps it would not be such a good idea. However, if you would not mind spending a totally relaxing (alcohol and meat free!) day, perhaps learning more about Buddhism, it might not be a bad idea!

Poya day or not, Sri Lanka is a beautiful country… Have you seen the images of Sri Lanka which it into our ten top travel photographs gallery?

What dates are the remaining Poya Days for 2015 and 2016?


  • Friday 31st July
  • Saturday 29th August
  • Sunday 27th September
  • Tuesday 27th October
  • Wednesday 25th November
  • Thursday 24th December


  • Saturday 23rd January
  • Monday 22nd February
  • Wednesday 23rd March
  • Friday 22nd April
  • Saturday 21st May
  • Monday 20th June
  • Wednesday 20th July
  • Thursday 18th August
  • Friday 16th September
  • Sunday 16th October
  • Monday 14th November
  • Wednesday 14th December

Have you visited Sri Lanka over a Poya Day? Why not let us know what your experience was like, either in the comments section or connect with us on social media! You can tweet us @secretsrilanka or find us on Facebook!