Best time to visit Sri Lanka
Working out when to go to Sri Lanka? Don’t worry too much about the monsoons. Just pack an umbrella for shelter from sun and showers.
When thinking about the best time to visit Sri Lanka, you need to keep an eye on its two monsoons: the Yala (south-west; April-September) and the Maha (north-east; November-March). With that in mind, the best time to travel to Sri Lanka is usually November-April in the south-west and February-September in the north-east. That said, July and August are popular in the south, with plenty of families embracing the sporadic tropical downpours and hot sunshine, and May is often lovely. Most of the country averages at 25°C year-round. Hill Country is an anomaly, with the central mountains around Nuwara Eliya a cool 19°C – and much chillier at night.
A month by month guide on when to go to Sri Lanka
January in Sri Lanka
January is a great time for a tailor made Sri Lanka adventure
February in Sri Lanka
March in Sri Lanka
March is great for a wildlife and whales tour in Sri Lanka
April in Sri Lanka
May in Sri Lanka
June in Sri Lanka
May is absolutely superb all around the country, as it is outside both monsoon seasons – and it is the quietest time of the year.
– John Beswetherick, co-founder of our partner Tikalanka
July in Sri Lanka
July and August are great for a Sri Lanka family vacation
August in Sri Lanka
September in Sri Lanka
September is a great time for a northern discovery tour of Sri Lanka
October in Sri Lanka
November in Sri Lanka
December in Sri Lanka
December is great for a small group food adventure
Northeast Sri Lanka Weather Chart
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Best times to visit Sri Lanka for festivals & events
Thai Pongal (14 January)Thai Pongal is a harvest festival when Tamil Hindus give thanks to the land, cattle and the sun god Surya. Temple bells tinkle, musicians pipe up, and women draw elaborate kolam designs on their doorsteps. Huge pots of freshly harvested, sweet rice are boiled up and left to overflow, symbolising abundance. (You’ll have an abundance of it in your belly, too.) Unusually, Thai Pongal follows the solar calendar, so it’s celebrated on the same date every year.
Independence Day (4 February)Sri Lankan Independence Day (AKA National Day) marks the date when the country won independence from Britain in 1948. Flags are unfurled, military parades stop traffic, and fireworks light up the skies all over the country. The main events are in the capital city, Colombo, including a televised speech from the president.
New Year (usually 13-14 April)Both Sinhalese and Tamil Sri Lankans return to their hometowns to celebrate the lunar New Year in mid-April, coinciding with the beginning of spring. Food is hugely important, with the year’s first meal presented on a long table piled high with squares of coconut rice, sesame rolls, deep-fried kokis biscuits and fruit. Expect a soundtrack of live music and firecrackers throughout the evening.
Vesak Poya (May full moon)Vesak Poya is the most important Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka, commemorating the triple-whammy of the birth, enlightenment and nirvana of Buddha. Worshippers pack temples, laying down offerings of flowers and candles, while dansal stalls serving free food pop up on roadsides. As night falls and the full moon rises, Buddhist homes and businesses light up with lanterns and oil lamps. The biggest celebrations are in the capital city, Colombo.
Eid al-Fitr (changes yearly)Eid al-Fitr is a two-day festival that honours the end of Ramadan. It’s also one of the holiest events in Islam, so it’s prayers first – either in the open air or at one of the 2,000 mosques in Sri Lanka – and then thanksgiving feasts of samosas and watalappam coconut puddings with friends and family.
Deepavali (October or November)Deepavali – or Diwali – is the world-famous Hindu Festival of Lights that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. In Sri Lanka, it’s mainly observed by Tamil Hindus who live in the Hill Country, north and east of the island. Beautiful kolam mandalas decorate doorways to invite in Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. You’ll also see streets lit with oil lamps and friends and neighbours sharing tasty sweetmeats.
Christmas Day (25 December)Like many other religious knees-ups, Christmas is a national vacation in Sri Lanka. One of the most peaceful ways to start the day is with midnight mass at the 19th-century St Lucia’s Cathedral in Colombo, where Catholics sing hymns and pray by candlelight. The Sri Lankan Christmas cake will lift your spirits almost as much. It’s packed with dates, cherries, raisins, orange peel and cashews marinaded in a heady mix of arrack, rose water, golden syrup and brandy, plus a healthy dash of island spices. Yum.
Our travelers also ask...
When is the rainy season in Sri Lanka?Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, so generally the rainy season in Sri Lanka is April to September in the south-west and November-March in the north-east. It’s worth noting that the northern monsoon is much less intense than the south, so don’t let it put you off traveling. October and November tend to be the rainiest months in Sri Lanka.
What is the hottest month in Sri Lanka?April and May are usually the hottest months in Sri Lanka, reaching highs of 33°C. That said, there’s not much difference in temperatures from month to month on the coast, which stays a steady 25°C-30°C on average right around the island.
When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka for a honeymoon?March is a popular time for honeymooners in Sri Lanka. Couples can get moon-eyed over blue whale watching tours, tropical beaches, national parks and relatively warm temperatures in the otherwise cool Hill Country. March is also a good time to pair Sri Lanka with the Maldives for a truly epic Indian Ocean honeymoon.
When is the best time to visit Colombo?Visit Colombo between December and February for dry, sunny weather. In fact, it’s a good time to explore the whole west coast – just don’t expect to have it all to yourself. This is prime tourist season.
When is the best time to visit Yala National Park?If you’re heading to Yala National Park, February until June or July is great, as the water tables are low and animals come out to exposed lakes to drink. Avoid September, when Yala closes for a few weeks to let the wildlife drink from the waterholes in peace after months of dry weather.
When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka’s beaches?December, January and February bring hot, sunny weather to the beaches in south-west Sri Lanka. Meanwhile, July, August and September are the ideal months for the beaches of the north-east. “The east coast beaches are starting to open up again since the end of the civil war,” says Liddy Pleasants, managing director at our partner Stubborn Mule Travel. “The best time to visit these beaches is during June to August, unlike Sri Lanka’s south-west beaches, which are best visited in December to March. That’s great for families who want to come here during the school summer vacations. And at the moment, because they are undeveloped, the east coast still has those idyllic tropical beaches.”
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