The Best Time to Go to Sri Lanka

Fisherman spearing fish in Sri Lanka
Stilt fishermen

Sri Lanka by Seasons

Sri Lanka's tropical climate blesses the country with consistently warm and sunny weather, although rain is possible at any time of year. In fact, for such a small island, the weather patterns are remarkably complicated, so to simplify things we’ve split the year into its two monsoons and the transitional period between them.

While there's no one best time to visit, your best bet is to try to avoid the monsoons - when the rains fall in the north, head south, and when the rains fall in the south, head north.

Pasikuda beach
Southwest Monsoon

April to September

By April, Sri Lanka’s days are hot and dry, with temperatures in the mid-30s. Clear skies and copious sunshine make this the perfect time to head to the beach. The southwest monsoon arrives in May, mainly affecting Colombo and Galle, but the showers don’t last more than an hour or two, so it’s still a good time to travel, particularly in the north and east around Pasikuda and Trincomalee. From July to September you have a good chance to spot leopards in Yala National Park.

Go for:

Vesak Poya: celebrating the birth of Buddha, plus his enlightenment and achievement of nirvana, this May festival involves gift giving, worship at the temples and incense burning.

Esala Perahera: one of the biggest festivals in the country, the 10 days of Esala Perahera, held in Kandy in July and August, feature fire breathing, juggling and dancing in honour of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

Little green bee-eater
Inter-Monsoonal Period

October

In the transitional period between the two monsoons, the weather is warm and sunny, with temperatures in the high 20s and hot, dry days. It can be unpredictable though, with sudden showers, although this varies considerably from year to year. It’s best to be prepared for all eventualities – for your best chances of a dry day, try the beaches of Pasikuda on the east coast.

Go for:

Deepavali: held in October or November, Deepavali is also known as the Festival of Lights and is observed all over the country. Look out for candles and lamps, lit to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.

Birdwatching: if birdwatching is your bag, then October is a good time to get down to get down to Yala or Udawalawe National Parks to look for cormorants, pelicans and spoonbills.

Common dolphins, Sri Lanka
Northeast Monsoon

November to March

The northeast monsoon arrives in November, bringing heavy rain to the north of Sri Lanka but wonderfully warm sun to the southwest. By December the rains have eased, leaving lush green landscapes in their wake. When January arrives, much of the country is back in the sunshine, with gentle seas making the southern beaches very popular at this time. The central hills and Kandy are good options for escaping the heat and humidity.

Go for:

Whale and dolphin watching: between November and April, head to the south coast and look out for blue whales, sperm whales and Bryde’s whales, as well as dolphins, flying fish and turtles.

Feast of Our Lady of Lanka: in late January and early February, special church services, processions and flag hoistings celebrate the Virgin Mary. See it at the National Basilica of Tewatte in Colombo.

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