The Best Time to Go to Sri Lanka

See When to Go for Beaches, Trekking, and Whale Spotting in Sri Lanka

Unawatuna Sri Lanka Beach
••• The beach at Unawatuna, Sri lanka. Greg Rodgers

Deciding the best time to go to Sri Lanka really depends on your trip objectives and where on the island you want to visit. Although Sri Lanka is a relatively small island, it experiences two distinct monsoon seasons with some "shoulder" months between the two seasons.

When to Visit Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka has sunshine on some part of the island pretty much year round, however, if you're like most people and plan to head to the beaches in the south, the driest months are between December and March.

Galle, Unawatuna, Mirissa, Weligama, and Hikkaduwa are driest and receive the most visitors between December and March. October and November are often the wettest months in the area. Temperatures rise month over month in intensity until April or May brings rain and cooler temperatures.

If visiting between May and October, you'll need to go to the northern or eastern sides of the island to find more sunshine. Jaffna and Trincomalee, although less popular, are good places to visit when the southwestern monsoon is causing heavy rain around Galle.

The months of April and November fall between the two monsoon seasons; weather can go either way. Mixed rainy and sunny days often occur across the island during shoulder months between seasons.

Heat and Humidity

Temperatures and unbearable humidity usually peak around April and May -- especially in Colombo where concrete and pollution tend to trap heat. Short showers bolster humidity until wet season arrives to cool everything down.

You'll barely take note of the humidity while enjoying the persistent sea breeze on beaches, but you'll certainly notice the instant that you leave the sand. A walk to the road or inland away from the coast is a good reminder that you're in a very tropical country with plenty of steamy jungle nearby!

Kandy, Hill Country, and the Interior

Sri Lanka's interior and cultural capital of Kandy stay a brilliant green for a reason: they receive rain from two separate monsoons.

Kandy often receives the most rain in October and November. The driest months are usually January, February, and March. Although the hottest month in Kandy is April, temperatures are usually far more mild and pleasant than those found outside of hill country.

Receiving sunshine for your trek to Adam's Peak is simply a matter of luck and wind direction. The winds can keep rain out of the region, or switch with little notice to bring showers from whichever side of the island happens to have the monsoon.

Understanding Sri Lanka's Monsoons

Because of its location, Sri Lanka uniquely experiences two monsoon seasons throughout the year. Mother Nature may not always observe our calendar, however, the seasons are somewhat predictable.

The southwest monsoon hammers the popular beach destinations along the southwestern side of the island throughout the months of May to September. Meanwhile, the northern and eastern sides of the island are relatively dry.

The northeast monsoon brings rain to the northern and eastern sides of Sri Lanka, particularly between the months of December and February. Traveling during monsoon season can still be enjoyable.

Whale and Dolphin Seasons in Sri Lanka

If you time your trip correctly, you'll have the option to see both blue whales and sperm whales on whale-watching excursions. The whales migrate, so catching them at specific points around Sri Lanka takes some timing.

The peak season for seeing whales in Mirissa and the south of Sri Lanka is between December and March. Whales can also be seen on the east coast in Trincomalee between June and September.

Alankuda Beach at Kalpitiya is the ideal place to see dolphins in Sri Lanka between December and March.

Sri Lanka in November

Visitors going to Sri Lanka in November can still enjoy decent weather at the popular beaches in the south while avoiding a bulk of the crowds. Although pop-up thunderstorms and heavy showers come and go in November, they typically don't last long and quickly give way to blue skies. By visiting just before the busy season begins, you'll be able to negotiate better rates for accommodation and won't have to fight for patches of sand on the beaches.

One potential downside of visiting Sri Lanka in November is the amount of construction in progress. Many hostels, guesthouses, and hotels will be busy hammering, sawing, and painting from the early morning hours to get ready for December and January crowds. Make sure you ask about potential work in progress and choose a place that is more or less ready to go before committing to a long stay.