The best time to visit Sri Lanka is from December to March, as these months experience the lowest rainfall and most sunshine out of the year. This is also the country’s high season, so accommodation will be more expensive. But what Sri Lanka lacks in size it makes up for with a climate that's generally good all year round (with a few exceptions). On any given day in Sri Lanka, from the north to the south and the east to the west, you’ll encounter biblical rains, idyllic sunshine and everything in between.
When is the best time to visit Kandy, Colombo and Galle?
The best time to visit the south and west of Sri Lanka, as well as the hilly interior, is from December to March. This period experiences the lowest rainfall and most sunshine of the year, but is also the country’s high season, so accommodation will be more expensive. Sri Lanka’s east and north experience the full force of the Maha monsoon during this period, which hits hardest over November and December.
When is the best time to visit the east coast?
From May to August the Yala monsoon brings heavy rain to Sri Lanka’s classic tourist trail in the south and west of the country. On the other side of the country, however, the sun is shining and the surf’s up at beautiful beaches like Arugam Bay.
Best for: lounging on the beach along the country’s coastlines and spotting wildlife in national parks
January is one of the best times to visit Sri Lanka as the weather is pretty much perfect everywhere you go – think sunny days and warm temperatures. While there are fluctuations in temperature (the central regions of Kandy and other tea-producing areas are going to be cooler than the coast), you can expect average temperatures of around 30°C (86°F).
And with warm weather comes the opportunity to turn on ‘relax mode’ and hit the beaches of Mirissa and Galle or search for animals in Udawalawe National Park and Minneriya National Park as they look for water after the wild weather patterns of the north-eastern monsoon season.
Best for: trekking mountain ranges and visiting lesser-known temples
The weather in Sri Lanka in February is among some of the best with relatively dry conditions expected country-wide. Average temperatures of 30°C+ (86°F) are experienced in Colombo (as well as in the Cultural Triangle region of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy), while mountainous areas can dip to as low as 21°C (70°F).
But, with temperatures that good, it makes sense that February in Sri Lanka is among one of the busiest times to visit so you can expect large crowds at popular sites such as Sigiriya and Galle Fort. So, if you’re looking for some peace and quiet, try lounging out in the country’s northeast (which rarely gets busy) or visiting less popular temples like the Mihintale temple.
Best for: Relaxing on the beaches of Negombo and history buffin’ it through Polonnaruwa
While the weather in Sri Lanka in March is good enough to carry ‘best time to visit’ status, there aren’t as many families around as school is back in term in both the UK and Australia, making it a great time to explore the island’s beauty in relative peace. Again, the weather conditions during this month are relatively dry, although Sri Lanka’s weather can be unpredictable at times so you can’t completely rule out freak thunderstorms or brief, yet unexpected, rain showers.
Best for: pilgrimagin’ to Adam’s Peak or trekking through Horton Plains National Park
The weather in April in Sri Lanka is good without being the best – think comfortable temperatures and the chance of rainfall if you’re heading to the western and southern coasts or to the more central Tea Country. Having said that, there are still some areas that experience temperatures in the mid 30°C’s (95°F) and plenty of sunshine so you can get that much-needed vitamin C.
But bigger cities such as Colombo and Kandy are starting to get humid and muggy so if you’re not looking to sweat for 8 hours of the day (who is?), then head to the mountainous Central Highlands region to cool off. Or you can challenge yourself on a pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak or an equally as beautiful trek in Horton Plains National Park.
Best for: exploring World Heritage listed sites
May is well and truly in Sri Lanka’s ‘shoulder season’ weather-wise, meaning temperatures are mild and pretty consistent in northern and eastern Sri Lanka – think the Cultural Triangle and hill country. The same can’t be said for Colombo and other southern parts of the country with the arrival of the southwest monsoon season (expect to see several hours of heavy rain per day during the month).
Don’t let that deter you from experiencing the best of the country’s southern beaches though, some of these thunderstorms will pass quickly leaving you plenty of time to enjoy a quick dip in the Indian Ocean. If they don’t, swimming in the ocean while it’s raining promises to add plenty of fun memories to your adventure-filled trip.
Best for: whale watching in Trincomalee and national park visits
The southwest monsoon is in full swing in June in Sri Lanka so try and avoid Colombo and other neighbouring cities unless you want a really damp and humid holiday. The southern parts and central mountainous regions of the country are also experiencing infrequent rainfall, which may disrupt your travel plans if you want to spend long periods of time outside.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. June is the perfect time to explore the country’s northern and eastern coastal areas such as Trincomalee and Passekudah and enjoy temperatures of up to 30°C (86°F). Alternatively, it’s still hot and dry in the Cultural Triangle region, although wind speeds can increase during this time.
Best for: cultural attractions, swimming and other water-based activities
Similar to the weather conditions in May and June, the northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka experience warm and comfortable weather with average temperatures of 32°C (90°F), while the southwestern parts of the country are in the middle of their monsoon season. This doesn’t mean that you still can’t enjoy a trip to Colombo in July, but the chance of thunderstorms and rainfall is high, and so high are the mugginess and humidity levels.
Whale watching is a popular activity along the northern coasts during this time, as well as swimming, snorkelling and other water-based activities. July is also a good time to explore various cultural attractions in cities like Batticaloa and Kataragama.
Best for: temple festivals in both Kandy and Jaffna
The southwest monsoon season is nearing its end in August so you can expect to see travellers returning to Colombo and other surrounding cities as the month wears on, temperatures remain at a steady 30°C (86°F) and rainfall decreases. August is still the time best time to explore some of the lesser-known cities of Sri Lanka such as Jaffna, and while you’re there, why not take part in the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil Festival with its dance and drum-filled celebrations?
Best for: scenic train rides and local market visits
There’s never a bad time to visit Sri Lanka but if there was, September would be one of the months to reconsider travelling thanks to the increasing likelihood of encountering cyclones. While weather conditions are becoming more moderate along the southern and western coasts with the ending of the southwest monsoon season, the east coast is saying goodbye to its favourable weather with rainfall set to increase towards the end of the month.
Surprise, surprise the Cultural Triangle region still experiences warm and dry weather with plenty of sunshine but if your heart is set on relaxing in Sri Lanka’s coastal cities, September is not the month to do it as swimming isn’t advised due to rough sea conditions.
Best for: Diwali celebrations
October is one of the wettest months of the year in Sri Lanka so if you’re hoping for blue skies and sunny conditions, you might be out of luck. However, while most of the island can expect heavy rainfall and thunderstorms due to the inter-monsoon and the northeastern monsoon, the Cultural Triangle cities still experience hot and dry weather.
As October is considered the low season to visit Sri Lanka, there’ll be fewer tourists at popular attractions and accommodation prices will be lower. But the Hindu festival, Diwali, occurs in late October to early November and attracts thousands of participants each year, so expect a lot of revelry and celebration, particularly in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.
Best for: Tea factory visits, monastery tours and wandering around pottery workshops
The weather in November starts to get better in some regions across the island as the southwest monsoon winds decrease, however, the usually dry cities in the Cultural Triangle start to experience colder temperatures and an increased chance of rainfall. This remains the same for the mountainous regions of the island, as well as along the north and east coasts.
If you want to avoid most of the crowds that come with the start of peak season (December) but still want to get the best weather conditions possible, try travelling towards the end of the month. Lines at popular tourist attractions will be shorter, accommodation will be cheaper and rainfall becomes less likely. Sounds like a win/win to us.
Best for: Christmas celebrations and pilgrimage visits to Adam’s Peak
The beginning of the high season is finally here and with it brings cool and dry weather in all of the popular destinations such as Colombo and Kandy, as well as well-known beach spots like Unawatuna Beach, Mirissa Beach and Tallala Beach. But when the sun’s out, so are the tourists, so make sure you book your accommodation and activities well in advance to avoid disappointment.
While the rest of the country’s enjoying reasonably good weather, the northeastern monsoon is still wreaking havoc on Sri Lanka’s northeastern half so it’s best to stay away from cities such as Jaffna and Kilinochchi.
Our tours in Sri Lanka