5 reasons to visit Sri Lanka in the off-season

written by Kate Gazzard March 27, 2024
A travellers look out of the window of a moving train at the lush landscapes of Sri Lanka.

Many travellers flock to Sri Lanka in the high season from December to March, but the off-season is where it’s at.

So, you’ve settled on Sri Lanka as the country that’ll star in your next adventure (excellent choice), but now you’ve come to the conundrum of deciding what time of year to go. When faced with the whole ‘peak season vs off-season’ debate, most people opt for the former. But there are several advantages to exploring Sri Lanka during the off-season.

A group of smiling travellers at a train station in Sri Lanka.
A group of happy travellers waiting for a train in Sri Lanka.

Imagine hiking to the top of the Lion Rock Fortress in Sigiriya without a bumbag-wielding tourist in sight, being able to afford the five-star hotel you’ve had bookmarked on your browser, or being outside for longer than 12 minutes without a constant trickle of behind-the-knee sweat. You get the point.

Off-season travel is the new peak season travel, especially in Sri Lanka. But first…

When is the off-season in Sri Lanka?

The off-season in Sri Lanka runs from April to September, bringing lower accommodation and activity prices in most regions, more availability, and fewer crowds at popular sites.

While the peak season is often regarded as the best time to travel weather-wise, the conditions experienced during Sri Lanka’s off-season can be just as enjoyable. Since the weather changes drastically depending on which region you’re in, you simply have to know where to go.

Coastal areas are typically warm all year round, while mountainous areas experience cooler temperatures and more rainfall during the monsoon periods. But even then, the rains aren’t likely to stop you from enjoying your itinerary, and there are still plenty of sunshine hours to get that all-important vitamin D.

Now, onto the good stuff.

Top Sri Lanka trips

1. There are fewer people around

When has having fewer people around ever been a bad thing? I’ll wait.

Travelling to Sri Lanka between April and September means there’ll be smaller crowds at famous attractions nationwide. That means fewer people queuing to get into the Colombo Lotus Tower, fewer nature-lovers wandering the green landscapes of Nuwara Eliya and fewer safari jeeps making their way through Yala National Park in search of leopards and elephants and crocodiles (oh, my!)

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still have to share this outstanding island with other travellers who also see the value in visiting in the off-season (maybe they’ve read this blog too?). But not being surrounded by hordes of tourists while you’re trying to connect to the very sights, sounds, and smells that make Sri Lanka the enviable, bucket-list destination that it is will go a long way in helping you enjoy your holiday.

The imposing figure of Sigiriya surrounded by lush greenery.
Sigiriya in all its glory.

2. Your money goes further

Perhaps the most obvious pro of travelling in the off-season is the money you’ll save. When the off-season rolls around, accommodation, transportation and activity prices go down, meaning you can do one of two things.

Either have the budget-friendly holiday of your dreams (without having to take overnight trains or stay at a backpackers hostel), or you can explore Sri Lanka for a bit longer and treat yourself to experiences that might’ve ordinarily been financially out of reach.

You can also be more flexible with your travel plans because you won’t have to book accommodation that far in advance. Last-minute deals, anyone? 

3. Enjoy weather that’s actually comfortable

In many destinations around the world (did someone say southern Italy?), the peak season means travelling when it’s hot. Like, 35°C+ hot. And while that might be conducive for swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea and drinking Aperol Spritz on shaded balconies, it’s less ideal when you’re standing alongside hundreds of sweaty bodies all trying to get a small glimpse of the Trevi Fountain.

Sri Lanka’s peak season coincides with the hottest annual temperatures in popular destinations such as Galle, Colombo and Kandy – we’re talking average highs of up to 32°C. So wandering around crowded city centres and visiting iconic cultural sites will have you feeling each and every per cent of the country’s humidity.

A group of people hiking through a lush landscape in Sri Lanka.
Exploring Sri Lanka’s lush landscapes.

Unless you travel to Sri Lanka during the off-season.

Yes, the humidity’s still high and the weather won’t always be perfect. There is the rainy season between October and December and the mountainous regions inland experience cloudier days from May to September. Still, the waters around this picturesque island are warm year-round and temperatures remain comfortable, even in tea country.  

Get all the info: When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

4. The beaches are at their best

If you think that just because it’s not Sri Lanka’s peak season you can’t lounge your days away on the pure white sandy beaches of Batticaloa and Trincomalee, think again. Sri Lanka’s east coast comes alive from May to September, experiencing highs of up to 33°C which is fine when you’re sipping ‘toddy’ straight from the source in the shade of a palm tree or scanning the waters for the tip of a dorsal fin on a dolphin-watching boat trip.

You don’t even have to wake up early and rush down to the beach with your towel in hand to stake out the perfect spot thanks to fewer travellers fighting you for prime sand space.

Instead, enjoy the emptiness that stretches for miles and the gentle waves that make for perfect snorkelling conditions. If paradise does in fact exist, it can be found along Sri Lanka’s eastern coast during the off-season.

Why you should bump Sri Lanka to the top of your travel wishlist.

5. There are festivals galore

If living it up at one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic festivals is on your bucket list, consider it checked off if you’re visiting Kandy in July or August. Touted as one of the most historically cultural processions in the world, the Esala Perahera Festival (also known as the Festival of the Tooth), pays homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, found in Kandy’s Sri Dalada Maligawa temple.

A lone traveller marvelling at the detailed interior of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy.
The detailed interior of Kandy’s Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

Bursting with fantastical colours and an exuberant spirit you’ll quickly get swept up in, this Buddhist pageant spans 10 nights of processions that feature beautifully embellished elephants and traditional musicians and dancers. The city is also lit up with elaborate light displays and adorned with celebratory decorations during this time.

Forget over-spending or worrying about coordinating your annual leave with Sri Lanka’s peak season, simply travel in the off-season instead. It sure does have its perks.

Explore our range of trips in Sri Lanka.

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