Beautiful Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean is known for its diverse landscape, its ancient history and its tropical climate. From its arid desert plains and lush green rainforests brimming with wildlife to its ancient temples. From its historical tea estates to its pristine beach filled coastline. There really is no wonder why many set their sights on visiting Sri Lanka at least once in their lifetime.
When to visit Sri Lanka at a glance
|East Coast: Trincomalee, Arugam Bay and Batticaloa||April to September|
|Tea Country and Adam’s Peak: Kandy, Nuwara Eliya||December to May|
|South Coast: Galle, Tangalle, Mirissa and Yala||November to May|
|West Coast: Colombo, Bentota and Negombo||late November to April|
|Cultural Triangle: Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Minneriya National Park||January to October|
Sri Lanka Weather and the Best Time to Visit
Known as ‘The pearl of the Indian Ocean’, tropical Sri Lanka could be considered a year-round destination. Temperatures are fairly consistent with average daytime temperatures, around the coast, of around 26 to 30 degrees Celsius. Temperatures in the higher altitudes in central Sri Lanka around Kandy average at about 18 to 22 degrees Celsius.
However, like its fellow Asian countries, Sri Lanka does have monsoon seasons. And so, to be considered a year-round destination, means these rainy seasons must be taken into consideration. In essence, you just need to know where to be when the monsoon seasons hit. And planning ahead will make all the difference to your experience.
Understanding Sri Lanka monsoon seasons
Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, and two inter-monsoon seasons. Understanding these seasons can dictate where you will want to be when they are in full swing.
The First Inter-Monsoon Season is from March to April. It brings with it thunderstorm-type rain across the whole of the country apart from the northern Jaffna Peninsula.
The Southwest Monsoon Season, known locally as Yala, is from May to September. It brings with it monsoon rains across the south-western half of the country.
The Second Inter-Monsoon Season is from October to November. It brings with it thunderstorm-type rain and strong winds across the whole country. This monsoon often leads to flooding.
The Northeast Monsoon Season, known locally as Maha, is from December to February. It brings with it monsoon rains across the north and eastern half of the country. The north includes the Jaffna Peninsula.
What this means is that in the south-west region the dry season is from December to March, and the wet monsoon rains are from May to September. In the north-east region of Sri Lanka, the dry season in is between May and September, and the monsoon rains are between October and February. So basically when one coast is dry the other is wet, and visa versa.
Best time to visit the East Coast of Sri Lanka – Trincomalee, Arugam Bay and Batticaloa
The best time to visit the east coast of Sri Lanka weather is from April to September, with monsoon rains from October until February.
Travel Tip: Not as developed as the west and southern coastline, the east coast offers visitors a chance to enjoy some of Asia’s least developed beaches. Accommodation ranges from basic to luxury, and the region has seen big developments in recent years.
Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka’s Tea Country and Adam’s Peak – Kandy, Nuwara Eliya
Because of its altitude, Tea Country is much cooler than the rest of the country. And because both the Yala and Maha monsoons affect it, rain is expected throughout most of the year. The best time to visit Adam’s Peak is during its dry season of December through to May.
Travel Tip: Visit the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. It was built in the 4th century and holds an important relic, one of Buddha’s teeth! Nuwara Eliya is regarded as the most important area for tea production in the country. But it also has many natural attractions including Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka.
Best Time to Visit the South Coast of Sri Lanka – Galle, Tangalle, Mirissa and Yala.
The best time to visit the southwestern coastline close to Galle is between late November and April. The best time to visit the southeastern coastline close to Yala is from May to September. Overall the best time for the southern coastline is November through to May.
Travel Tip: The fortified town of Galle has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. The fort which was built by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th and 18th centuries can be found surrounding the town and its historical buildings and churches. The Sinharaja Forest Reserve in the southwest is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of mammals and butterflies.
Best Time to Visit the West Coast of Sri Lanka – Colombo, Bentota and Negombo
The best time to visit the west coast of Sri Lanka is between late November and April. The average temperature, as with the rest of the coastline, is about 30 degrees Celsius. And thanks to monsoon Yala, expect the heaviest of rainfall between June and September.
Travel Tip: If you’re looking for the perfect off-the-beaten track experience then head north up along the west coast. The far north isn’t visited as frequently as the towns and cities south of the capital Colombo, and it’s evident when you go. This region is full of coconut plantations and gorgeous lagoons with lots of sunshine.
Best Time to Visit the Cultural Triangle – Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Minneriya National Park
Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle lies within a dry zone. Rain does fall in November and December but other than those months it remains rain-free for the rest of the year. June and July does get quite hot but other than that visits should be comfortable enough.
Travel Tip: The Cultural Triangle includes five of the eight UNESCO sites found on the island of Sri Lanka. These are the cave monastery of Dambulla, the sacred hill capital of Kandy, the sacred city of Anuradhapura, the ancient city of Sigiriya and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.