When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?
Whether you knew it or not, the weather is the top factor to consider before setting out on your 3-hour tour or cross-world flight.
With two separate monsoon seasons in play, here’s all you need in order to plan your incredible getaway with the perfect weather tailored to your preference.
Unlike most other Asian destinations, Sri Lanka boasts the unique claim to being a year-round holiday destination. The amazing thing about Sri Lanka is that the island has perfect weather somewhere waiting for you to enjoy almost all year long. It may be monsoon season on one side of the island, but fortunately you can leave your umbrella behind, and take a short trip to the opposite coast where you’ll be lounging in a hammock along a sunny white sand beach.
The two separate monsoons affecting the island, bring heavy rainfall and less than desirable weather. For our American expat family, the monsoon hitting our town of Colombo just brings excitement because our kids love taking weekend trips to the east coast towns of Trincomalee or Arugam Bay where we can cast our rainy days away.
Since the weather in Sri Lanka can be a bit tricky, careful planning is a must. We take weather into consideration when helping our guests plan their perfect holiday.
The main Southwest “Yala” Monsoon brings heavy rain to the southwest region of Sri Lanka from May to September. The wettest period is from April to June. If you want to travel to the southwest region, the dry season runs from December to March.
The less severe Northwest “Maha” Monsoon season runs from October to February, while the wettest months are November and December. This is not the ideal time to head to the east coast.
There is also an inter-monsoon period of unsettled weather preceding the Maha Monsoon affecting October and November when heavy rain and thunderstorms can occur anywhere across the island. When taking all these factors into consideration, it is also worth bearing in mind that weather patterns in any country can vary significantly from year to year. You could come during the dry season and experience days of heavy rain. You could also come during a monsoon season and see all sunny blue skies. Another thing to understand is that even in monsoon seasons, it typically does not rain all day. The rain generally comes heavy, with downpours tending to be short and sharp, frequently dropping a number of inches in just a matter of a few minutes. In extreme cases this can lead to localized flooding, which when severe can require last minute alterations to your travel plans. Your professional travel host is always ready to help you make the adjustments needed for your safety and enjoyment when mother nature rains on your parade.
What is the most predictable factor regarding weather?
The country’s close proximity to the Equator means that at least one aspect of the weather in Sri Lanka, the temperature, remains fairly constant year-round. Coastal and lowland areas enjoy average daytime temperatures of around 78-86 degrees Fahrenheit. During the hottest part of the day, they can often climb up well into the 90’s. Temperatures decrease with altitude, reducing to a temperature in the mid 60’s in Kandy. In Nuwara Eliya and the highest parts of the island, on average it is a pleasantly mild 57–63. Nights in the hills can be quite chilly, with temperatures sometimes falling close to freezing. Humidity is often another high across the island. It can climb to a sweltering 90% at times in the southwest, and averages 60 to 80% across the rest of the island. The Cultural Triangle can drop as low as 60% during the monsoon month of March, and peak at around 80% during the November and December rains. Kandy and other towns in the highlands average 70-80% humidity throughout the year.
In practical terms, these weather patterns mean that when to go to Sri Lanka depends a lot on your route. If you’re heading to the west and south coasts and hill country, December to March is the best time to visit Sri Lanka. If you plan on seeing the east coast, you’ll get the best weather from April/May to September.
Picking the Best time, based on your Preferred Location:
All this variation means that the best time to visit Sri Lanka is really intertwined with where on the island you want to go: Basically, if you are heading to the west and south coasts and hill country, the best time to visit is December to March. Making your way to the east coast? The best time to visit would be April or May to September.
Let’s look at some of the specific locations to help you decide when to come:
Passekudah, Trincomalee, Arugam Bay, Batticaloa, Nilaveli, Kuchchaveli
Sri Lanka’s east coast comes to life with sunny delight, while the neighbors to the westside of the island are experiencing monsoonal rains. Influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, the best weather is from April to September, with the monsoon running from October until January.
The east was one of the last areas to be opened to tourists after the devastating 30-year civil war. The infrastructure and resort development have lagged behind the efforts of the west, but things are progressing rapidly, with luxury hotels and boutiques going up continually on some of the most beautiful and remote beaches of Sri Lanka. If you don’t mind venturing to the less developed (though still very nice and safe) side of the island, then the east is something to consider. The east coast’s summer offers a truly exceptional opportunity to enjoy some of Asia’s least developed beaches.
Kandy & Tea Country
Kandy, Ella, Nuwara Eliya, Haputale, Hatton, Adam’s Peak
Kandy sits at a much lower altitude than the ‘Tea Country’ and because of this you can expect to enjoy higher temperatures and lower rainfall than that of the hills to the south. Your journey from Kandy to the Cultural Triangle climbs an elevation of 2300 feet, so you will feel the temperature steadily drop as you climb. Both Monsoons affect the weather in the Tea Country, resulting in a climate that is somewhat reminiscent of the fall season in the U.S. for much of the year.
Sitting around 6500 feet above sea level, the region is much cooler than elsewhere in Sri Lanka. December marks the beginning of the Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season, which runs throughout the dry season until May.
Galle, Weligama, Mirissa, Tangalle, Yala National Park
The beaches near Galle in the south western corner, experience similar weather patterns to those of the west coast, with the best weather expected between late November and April. Further east, beyond Yala National Park, the weather can also be influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, with its higher rainfall from October to January, and dryer weather from May to September. As with much of Sri Lanka, September & October can also see heavier rain, although by November sunny blue skies are expected once again, with good weather lasting till May.
Colombo & West Coast
Bentota, Colombo, Negombo, Kalpitiya
The west coast’s weather is governed by the south-western monsoon, with the best weather expected between late November and April. Average temperatures throughout rarely drop much below 80, but at certain times high rainfall and stormy conditions mean that your dream beach plans are best made elsewhere. Rainfall is at its highest between June and September, although August is often an exception with much lower rainfall.
The Cultural Triangle
Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Minneriya National Park
Many of Sri Lanka’s cultural sites, with no less than five UNESCO heritage locations, including Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Sigiriya, are located within this ‘dry zone’. Aside from a high rainfall in November and December, conditions remain quite dry throughout most of the year. Visitors during June and July may experience some hot, strong winds.
Peak Tourist Season
Just like most other Asian countries, the time with the most visitors is December to mid-April. The low season can offer you the best of both worlds, great weather and lower visitor numbers. If you are looking for peace and seclusion, this might be the best time for you to schedule.
The school holidays for most of the country are the months of April, August, and December. During these months, kids are out of school and many of them will be traveling for holidays.
National Holidays & Festivals
If you want to see sites like the famous Perahera of Kandy, the Hindu and Buddhist New Year’s celebrations in April, or the Christmas lights of December, then you will want to add those considerations into the mix.
Hopefully I’ve been able to help you decide the best time to plan your get away. With year-round options and beautiful weather awaiting, you have numerous possibilities available to create the perfect tour, custom made for you.