Deciding the best time to go to Sri Lanka 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. For many people, the best time to visit Sri Lanka is in November, when visitors can still enjoy the decent weather at the popular beaches in the south while avoiding a bulk of the crowds.
Peak Season in 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, and thus these months also tend to be the most crowded. 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.
Weather in Sri Lanka
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 undoubtedly 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!
When to Visit 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 generally far more mild and pleasant than those found outside of hill country.
Receiving sunshine for your trek to Adam's Peak merely is 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 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 December and February. Traveling during monsoon season can still be enjoyable.
When to Visit Sri Lanka to See the Whale Migration
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.
March can be a great time to visit Sri Lanka, as the rainy season is yet to come and the bulk of winter's tourists have left. Weather is warm and nightly rainfall is frequent. Come May, some portions of the island will be affected by southwestern monsoon.
Events to Check Out
- Sinhalese New Year is a Tamil holiday that takes place on April 14. It's celebrated with games, family gatherings, and meals.
- May Day, also known as International Workers' Day, is celebrated each year in early May.
If you visit Sri Lanka during the summer, expect several hours per day of rain. While the ocean is warm, seas are rough at this time, and parts of the island are subject to hurricanes. Visitors to the Western side of the island will find it to be much drier, but also very hot.
Events to Check Out
- Summer marks the kick-off of many Muslim religious holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr, the first day of the Islamic holy month, and Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice.
Fall weather brings the northeast monsoon to much of the island, whereas the southwestern part of the country stays slightly drier. November is also the beginning of the tourist season, and a great time to visit: The weather is still warm, but humidity and rainfall is bearable. 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.
Events to Check Out
- Diwali, also called Deepavali, is celebrated in early November. The Hindu festival of lights is marked by impressive displays of candles.
Not surprisingly, Sri Lanka's short winter is the most popular time to visit the island. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, averaging around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun shines much of the day. The ocean is calm and nights are cooler, making winter an all-around ideal season to visit—if you can bear the crowds.
Events to Check Out
- Christmas Day is celebrated on Dec. 25.
- Sri Lanka's Independence Day is celebrated on Feb. 4. It was on this day in 1948 that the country gained its independence from British rule.