Weather in Sri Lanka: Climate, Seasons, and Average Temperatures

Galle Lighthouse at sunset with good weather in Sri Lanka

Peter Stuckings / Getty Images

 

The weather and climate in Sri Lanka are affected by two different monsoon patterns, which is somewhat unusual for an island so small, and the short dry seasons between monsoons still experience some rain. Regardless of when you visit Sri Lanka, you’ll be hot most of the time and probably caught by a rain shower more than once!

Ocean breezes keep beaches tolerable, but leaving the coast for too long becomes a harsh lesson in tropical humidity. If you can’t handle the sticky heat, head to the hilly Central Province in Sri Lanka’s interior for cultural treats and cooler evenings.

For all the top places to go in Sri Lanka, January and February are peak of dry season and the busiest months to visit. Trincomalee on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka is an exception: the best time to visit is between March and July.

Monsoon Season in Sri Lanka

The Northeast Monsoon brings rain to all of Sri Lanka in fall, especially the northeast side of the island. In the summer months, the Southwest Monsoon causes heavy rain in Colombo, Galle, and the most popular beaches along the southwest coast.

Flooding can be an issue during monsoon season. Although two powerful tropical cyclones hit Sri Lanka in 2016, the threat from big storms is relatively low.

Popular Destinations in Sri Lanka

You can time your visit to the country to coincide with the best temperature and climate in the region you're heading to, specifically. Here's a breakdown of a few popular destinations.

Colombo and the Southwest Coast

International tourists often spend their time at the beautiful beaches along the southwest coast, the colonial town of Galle and the capital, Colombo, before visiting Kandy later. This southwest corner of Sri Lanka is undeniably the epicenter for tourism on the island.

Colombo and the beaches to the south enjoy a hot, tropical climate throughout the year with temperatures rarely dropping below 75 degrees F. Two intense monsoon seasons separated by drier months affect the region. Plentiful rain can be expected even during the dry seasons. The peak months for travel are typically December, January, and February.

Precipitation by Month for Colombo
January Dry
February Dry
March Rain Increases
April Rain
May Heavy Rain
June Rain
July Mostly Dry
August Mostly Dry
September Rain
October Heavy Rain
November Heavy Rain
December Rain Decreases

Kandy and the Central Province

Kandy is arguably Sri Lanka’s cultural heart. The green, mountainous Central Province offers a change from beach life on the coast. The Temple of the Tooth located in Kandy is home to the left canine tooth of Gautama Buddha, considered to be one of the most important Buddhist relics in existence. The temple and city of Kandy are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The hilly Central Province is cooler, especially as elevation increases. Nights can become surprisingly chilly as temperatures dip into the low 60s F. The driest months in Kandy are usually February and March. The rainiest months are October and November with an average of 10 – 12 inches of rainfall each.

Precipitation by Month for Kandy
January Dry
February Dry
March Dry
April Rain Increases
May Rain
June Rain
August Rain and Sun
September Rain and Sun
October Heavy Rain
November Heavy Rain
December Rain Decreases
Scenery view of Kandy lake the beautiful stunning place in the heart of Kandy city, Sri Lanka.
Boy_Anupong / Getty Images

Spring

Spring is hot and wet in Colombo, Unawatuna, and other southern destinations, while this time is drier in Kandy.

Colombo and the Southwest Coast

Temperatures usually peak in April or May while hovering in the upper 80s F. Rain increases steadily in late March and peaks in June. Humidity is typically between 75 to 80 percent. There will still be plenty of sunshine even between thunderstorms. If you must visit Sri Lanka in spring, March is the best month.

What to Pack: Pack an uninsulated rain jacket or poncho, and your own umbrella, or you can buy one when you arrive; they’ll be for sale everywhere. Mosquitoes are also more of a nuisance during rainy months. Bring your favorite repellent from home, and purchase coils to burn when sitting outside in evenings.

Kandy and the Central Province

Average rainfall in March is between 3 to 5 inches while April sees the most rain (over 7 inches on average). Spring is also the warmest season in Kandy with high temperatures in the upper 80s F. The humidity is higher than usual in spring.

What to Pack: Temperatures can drop 20 degrees or more in the damp evenings. Pack a light cover-up.

Summer

Both the southwest region and the Central Province see a break in rain during later summer months, making it one of the best times to visit.

Colombo and the Southwest Coast

June is often rainy, but storms taper down in July and August, creating a short respite between monsoon seasons. July, the driest month in summer, still sees an average of 4.8 inches of rain in Colombo. Humidity stays around 80 percent. July and August can be the best months to visit the southwest coast of Sri Lanka outside of winter, the busiest season.

What to Pack: Sri Lanka is predominantly Theravada Buddhist, the same school as Thailand—though noticeably more devout. Avoid wearing shirts depicting Buddhist or Hindu themes, and cover tattoos of the same nature.

Kandy and the Central Province

Summer is pleasantly warm in Kandy with temperatures in the upper 70s F, but rain showers are common. June gets the most rain (around 5 inches); on average, one of every two days is wet. August is typically the driest month in summer.

What to Pack: Bring real hiking boots for the muddy trails if you plan to do any trekking in the Central Province.

Fall

This time of year is the wettest for both popular regions, seeing frequent and intense rain showers.

Colombo and the Southwest Coast

Fall brings Sri Lanka’s second and heaviest monsoon season. Rainfall can be intense enough to cause widespread flooding, especially in November. Temperatures average a little over 80 degrees F with 80 percent or higher humidity.

What to Pack: Pack for heavy rain. Have a way to waterproof your money, phone, and passport in a pinch if caught in a downpour. Local dive shops sell dry bags well suited for the purpose.

Kandy and the Central Province

The heaviest of the two monsoon seasons hits Kandy in fall. November, with 12 inches of rain on average, is usually the wettest month. Temperatures remain stable with highs in the 80s and lows around 66 degrees F.

What to Pack: Also waterproof your belongings here for heavy, torrential showers in October and November.

Winter

This is typically the best time of year to visit as it's the driest, perfect for all the outdoor and adventure activities the island has to offer.

Colombo and the Southwest Coast

With the driest months, sunniest days, and whale season starting, there are a lot of good reasons to visit Sri Lanka in winter! Word is out—a majority of Sri Lanka’s international visitors arrive in winter, making it the busiest season with the highest hotel prices.

January and February are the nicest months to visit Sri Lanka; both average only between 2 to 3 inches of rain. Temperatures swing from the low 70s F at night to around 95 degrees F in afternoon. Visibility is best for diving and snorkeling in winter.

What to Pack: Plan to sweat! Pack or purchase a hat and wear thin, breathable clothing; take extra tops. Simple flip-flops are the default footwear on the island.

Kandy and the Central Province

Like Colombo, winter is the driest and busiest time to visit Kandy and the Central Province. Expect warm, sunny days with temperatures in the upper 70s. Monsoon season begins to taper down in December; travel in January or February to enjoy the peak of the dry season.

What to Pack: Pack extra tops for hot days. Consider bringing sun protection from home; the options sold locally are often overpriced and sometimes outdated.

Whale Season in Sri Lanka

Whale season for the southwest coast (Mirissa is a popular place for excursions) is from November to April. December and January are often peak months for whale spotting, making the busy dry season even busier! The migrating whales pass along Trincomalee and the northeast coast from May until September.

Conveniently, surfing season in Sri Lanka roughly follows the same timing as whale season.

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