• When to visit Sri Lanka

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

A tropical paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, with a fascinating history that dates back centuries, diverse culture, incredible emerald-covered landscapes, and exotic wildlife, Sri Lanka is the ultimate bucket-list destination. The island’s varying climate ensures that, with careful planning, it can be enjoyed year-round.

The best time to arrive in Sri Lanka depends on the areas of the country you plan to visit. Generally, November through to April is the optimal time for ‘classic’ itineraries, focusing on the centre, south, and west of the island. At this time of year, the ‘Maha’ monsoon is affecting the eastern and northern half of the island, leaving the other side relatively dry and clear.

From June to September the inverse is true. In comes the ‘Yala’ monsoon, bringing heavy rain to the beach resorts of the south and west coast, but fine weather to the island’s north and east. For summer school holidays or honeymoon trips, focus your beach time out in Passekudah, Trincomalee, or Arugam Bay which are perfect at this time of year.

If you plan on touring the entire island, visiting anytime in February, March or April is generally your best bet. While this is the peak of the tourist season, the good news is that Sri Lanka’s relatively low-key relationship with mass tourism ensures it’s unlikely you’ll encounter hordes of tourists, so you can enjoy exploring without battling the crowds.

Outside of the Maha and Yala rains are two short ‘inter-monsoonal’ periods, roughly falling around May and again in October. At this time it’s hard to predict the weather with great certainty, but as a tropical destination you’re likely to experience a mix of blazing sunshine and short downpours every other day. This can be a great time to travel with little to no crowds at tourist sites and exceptional hotel rates.

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Sri Lanka season-by-season

Sri Lanka is a truly compelling destination, and with a varied climate which has something to offer all around the year. We’ve put together an overview of climate season-by-season and region-by-region below.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

High season for classic itineraries

November to April

This is the most popular time to travel, with the weather at its best the major regions of interest such as the Hill Country and south and west coasts. Major coastal cities Colombo and Galle, and beach areas such as Bentota and Mirissa are at their driest time of year, with average daytime temperatures ranging between 80-95F. Temperatures drop off as you move through higher elevations, with highland destinations such as Hatton and Nuwara Eliya pleasantly warm during the day but decidedly cool in the evenings and early mornings. areas a bit cooler.

Negombo, Sri Lanka

High season for east coast beaches

June to September

These months see the arrival of the Yala monsoon, bringing rains to the southwestern coast of the island, especially the heel of the country between Galle and Colombo. Beaches on the opposite side of the island – Nilaveli, Passekudah, Kalkudah, Arugam Bay – now come into their own with calm waters and long days of clear sunshine. The central belt of the island – the Cultural Triangle, Kandy, and the Hill Country – remain mostly dry and predictable, so full touring itineraries can still be conducted, albeit with a switch to the east coast to finish. Such itineraries also tend to bring in the more eastern national parks Wasgamuya, Maduru Oya, and Gal Oya.

Unawatuna, Sri Lanka

Inter-Monsoonal Months

May & October

These months fall in between Sri Lanka’s two monsoons, with the inter-monsoonal periods sometimes lasting as long as 2-3 months or as little as just a couple of weeks. Although rainfall patterns are unpredictable during this time, it can still be a great time to travel with few crowds and outstanding rates on offer, so there is incentive should you feel more relaxed about the weather! For return visitors or those seeking to get off-the-beaten-bath September and October is the best time of the year to visit Jaffna and the far north, which is glorious at this time.

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