When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

Oct 29, 2023 • 6 min read

woman taking a picture of her friends at the iconic Nine Arch Bridge

From finding the sweet spot between the monsoons, to experiencing the liveliest cultural festivals, here are the best times to visit Sri Lanka © Cavan Images / Getty Images

If anywhere deserves the title of a true year-round destination, it’s Sri Lanka .

Like neighboring Maldives , its proximity to the equator ensures pleasantly warm, stable temperatures whatever the season. Sri Lanka's annual dual monsoons mean that while one side of the country is taking a soaking, the other is primed for afternoons on the beach. 

On top of this is a calendar chock-full of festivals and holidays, offering a unique cultural highlight for visitors almost every month.

So whether you’re looking for the best time to hit the beach , spot wild elephants in a national park , hike to the summit of Adam’s Peak, or simply avoid the tourist crowds, here’s our guide to the best time to visit Sri Lanka.

Surfer stands on the sand at Narigama beach in Hikkaduwa during sunset, with a board under his arm.

December to March is the best time to hit the beach

Sri Lanka’s high season coincides with the coming of the best weather in the south and west of the country, meaning popular resorts like Hikkaduwa and Mirissa are at their most idyllic, but also busiest. However, the Maha monsoon season (October to January) keeps the East , the North, and the  Ancient Cities  wet. 

Sri Lanka is a year-round wildlife-watching destination but generally, the best times to spot elephants, leopards and buffalo align with the main November-to-April tourist season. All the big parks are open and the dry conditions mean that animals start to gather around water holes, making them easier to spot (especially between February and early April).

By December, high season is in full swing, with bathers on beaches along the south and west coast jostling for towel space. The Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season, when pilgrims of all faiths (and the odd tourist) climb the sacred summit near Ella , starts in December and lasts until mid-April.

The end of the month also sees the arrival of Christmas, which is celebrated enthusiastically by Sri Lanka’s Christian community. Followers of other faiths also join in secular events over the holidays – expect over-the-top decorations aplenty.

January sees the peak of the tourist season in Sri Lanka. Crowds may be at their largest, but fine weather in the south and west makes it an appealing time to visit the country. Additionally, many popular towns host major events during the first month of the year.

This includes Duruthu Perahera in  Colombo , a lavish festival of lights, dances, and parades to celebrate the first of Buddha’s visits to Sri Lanka. Elsewhere, Galle 's somewhat more sedate annual literary festival takes over the city's Unesco-protected fort.

Visitor numbers are still high in February, with wintering Europeans baking themselves on the beaches in the dry winter weather. This is a busy month for Sri Lankans, with Independence Day early in the month, commemorated with festivals, parades, fireworks, and sporting events across the nation.

Visitor numbers decline but the festival of Maha Sivarathri in early March (or late February) brings a flurry of activity, with Hindus commemorating the marriage of Shiva to Parvati with all-night vigils and more. It’s the most important day for Shaivites, who comprise the majority of Sri Lanka’s Hindus.

Two women hikers wearing backpacks on vacation at Sigiriya (Lion Rock) in central Sri Lanka

September to October and April are the best times for exploring the whole country

Squeezed between the two main monsoons, Sri Lanka’s two shoulder seasons offer the best weather right across the country, with fewer crowds and lower prices. April, however, does coincide with Sinhala and Tamil New Year, which can cause transport troubles as people move around the country.

This is a good time for trekking in the Hill Country or climbing Sigiriya , with the weather mostly dry but not as hot as in the height of summer.

September, and sometimes August, also sees 200 or more elephants group together for several weeks in one spot in Minneriya National Park . The event, known as "The Gathering" where baby elephants can be spotted too, is considered one of Asia’s great wildlife spectacles.

October can be a bit unpredictable, with the Yala monsoon fading and conditions building towards the Maha monsoon. In many areas, thunderstorms arrive in the afternoons, and rain is common, but there's still good surfing on the east coast. Make sure you add a raincoat to your list of things to pack if you're visiting in October.

Warm and dry across the majority of the country, and outside the prime tourist period, April is a great month to be in Sri Lanka. Although Christians comprise only six percent of Sri Lanka’s population, Christian festivals – including Easter, which usually falls in April – are still celebrated with gusto (don’t be surprised if you see the Easter bunny adorning a few shop windows).

A more significant event in April is Aurudu (New Year), with New Year’s Eve (April 13) and New Year’s Day (April 14) nonreligious holidays. Over the days before and after, buses and trains are jammed as people flee from big cities to home villages. 

Ramadan also tends to fall in April or May, with some Muslim-owned businesses closing during daylight hours.

A troupe of male dancers in costume and make up perform together in a row, clapping their hands agains a wooden paddle

May to August is the b est time to avoid the crowds

Low season in Sri Lanka starts with the coming of the Yala monsoon in May, which pounds the west and south, as well as the Hill Country, through August.

This is the best time for trips to Jaffna in the North or the chilled-out resorts along the east coast, like Arugam Bay , known for their laid-back surf scene. Accommodation prices during this period are generally lower and crowds are thinner.

Despite the Yala monsoon, many must-see festivals take place during this period. Among the best of them is Vesak Poya, a two-day festival in May where colored lights adorn every Buddhist home, shop, and temple. There's also the vibrant Esala Perahera in  Kandy , where thousands of dancers and drummers form a giant procession through the town.

The ongoing monsoon means tourist crowds are scarce through most of the country in June, with the exception of the east coast beaches that avoid the rain. Meanwhile, another major Buddhist event, the Poson Poya, gets underway.

The celebration of the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka sees festivities take place in the temples of Anuradhapura , while, nearby, thousands of white-clad pilgrims ascend the calf-busting 1843 steps to Mihintale’s Dagoba.

For fans of cultural festivals, who aren’t easily disheartened by the odd downpour, July marks a good time to be in Sri Lanka. The key focal point for the country’s Buddhists this month is Esala Perahera, which begins at the end of July and lasts for 10 days.

The Kandy Esala Perahera is legendary, but smaller parades are held across Sri Lanka. Many celebrations feature dancers, drummers, and stilt-walkers who practice all year for the occasion.

Another large-scale procession takes place in Colombo as part of the Hindu celebrations of Aadi Vel, which sees the gilded chariot of Murugan (Skanda), the Hindu god of war, ceremonially hauled through the city’s streets.

August marks the last month of low season, with the rains of the Yala monsoon slowly beginning to ease. To maximize the chance of avoiding the rain, visitors should head north to Jaffna, which plays host to the enormous and spectacular Nallur Festival each August.

The event climaxes on day 24 with parades of juggernaut floats and gruesome displays of self-mutilation by entranced devotees.

Poya (full moon) days

It is worth noting that every poya (full moon) day is a holiday in Sri Lanka, and buses, trains, and accommodation fill up, especially if the full moon falls on a Friday or Monday. No alcohol is supposed to be sold on poya days and many bars close (though some hotels discreetly provide cold beer "under the table").

This article was first published March 2021 and updated October 2023

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When to go to Sri Lanka

When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is a year-round holiday destination thanks to its combination of weather systems ensuring that one or several regions, as well as a section of coastline, is statistically always expecting sunshine.

Whilst the best time to go to Sri Lanka is between December and mid-April , which is considered to be the countrywide peak season, the traditional summer holiday months are also favourable on the east coast which is at its peak from May to September.

Temperatures are fairly constant year round, with coastal regions enjoying average temperatures of 25-30°C and the highlands 15-18°C on average. If you’re travelling during the summer months (May to September) you’ll want to head towards the east coast and northern regions for dry, sunny weather, as the west and south west coasts experience rain at this time. On the flip side, the west and south west enjoy favourable weather conditions during the winter months ( October to February ) when the monsoon season hits the east and north.

Sri Lanka weather & when to go

Pick a month below, weather overview.

Unlike many other Asian destinations, Sri Lanka can lay genuine claim to being a year-round holiday destination. You just have to know which side of the island to focus on in any given month, and this is never more important than when planning your beach destination.

When should you travel to Sri Lanka?

The period from December to mid-April is considered the peak season for overall weather and therefore overall visitor numbers. Whilst there is good reason for this, there are equal benefits to travelling outside of this period, with the shoulder season often providing the best of both worlds; namely great weather and a lower visitor numbers.

Summer holiday is also a popular time with the east coast expecting plenty good weather and sunshine whilst the south-west monsoon leaves much of the south and west coast with high rainfall and winds.

When is the best beach weather in Sri Lanka

The easiest way to understand the seasons of Sri Lanka’s beaches is to divide the coast into three sections:

The south-west (the section south of Negombo & Colombo) and the entire south coast. 

Peak season: December to March Shoulder season / mid-season: October, November and April Monsoon season: May to September

The entire east coast

Peak season: April to September Shoulder season / mid-season: October Monsoon season: November to March

The central and northern section of the west coast (from Negombo northwards)

Peak season: February to October (but high winds/big seas from June to September) Shoulder season/ mid-season: October Monsoon season: November to January

Sri Lanka’s weather by region

Unquestionably, the starting point when planning your trip in Sri Lanka is understanding the two monsoon seasons.

Colombo & South-West Coast

Bentota, colombo, negombo, kalpitiya.

The south-western monsoon brings rain to the south-west of Sri Lanka between May and September , while the dry season in this region runs from December to March .

With the west coast’s weather governed by the south-western monsoon, the best weather is expected between late November and April. Average temperatures throughout rarely drop much below 30 °C, but at certain times high rainfall and stormy conditions mean that your idyllic beach plans are best made elsewhere.

Rainfall is at its highest between June and September, although August is often an exception with much lower rainfall.

The South Coast

Galle, weligama, mirissa, tangalle, yala national park.

The beaches along the south coast, from Galle as far east as Mawella and Hambantota are expecting their best weather between late November and April. Further east, beyond Yala NP , the weather can also be influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, with its higher rainfall from October to January, and dryer weather from May to September. As with much of Sri Lanka, September & October can also see heavier rain, although by November blue skies are expected once again, with good weather expected through till May.

Central & Northern sections of the West Coast

Kalipiya, puttalam, mannar.

This section of coastline gets very different weather to beaches and towns further south (below Negombo) as, put in really simple terms, it only gets caught on the fringes of the south-west monsoon. So whilst during the summer months between June and October the winds and sea can both be high, it’s unusual for there to be rainfall. This makes beaches such as Kalpitiya very popular with windsurfers and kite-surfers or more intrepid beach goers looking who cherish time on the sands without the crowds.

Passekudah, Trincomalee, Arugam Bay, Batticaloa, Nilaveli, Kuchchaveli

Sri Lanka’s east coast comes into its own while the rest of the island is experiencing monsoonal rains. Influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, the best weather is from April to September, with the monsoon running from October until January.

Presently the infrastructure and resort development are minimal, but things are changing fast, with a host of luxury hotels planned in the coming years. If you are happy with more basic beach accommodation, the east coast's summer offers a truly exceptional opportunity to enjoy some of Asia’s least developed beaches.

North-East Coast

Jaffna, mullativu.

In the north and eastern coastal regions of the country, the weather is influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, which brings wind and rain between October and January , and drier weather between May and September .

There is also an inter-monsoonal period during October and the first half of November, when rain and thunderstorms can occur across the island. This clears up as December nears, with conditions getting balmier by the day during the second half of November.

The Cultural Triangle

Dambulla, anuradhapura, sigiriya, minneriya national park.

Many of Sri Lanka’s cultural highlights, including no less than five UNESCO sites, including Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Sigiriya , are located within this ‘dry zone’. Aside from a high rainfall in November and December, conditions remain fairly arid throughout the year, although visitors during June and July may experience the hot, strong winds that help keep the south-western monsoon at bay.

Kandy & Tea Country

Kandy, ella, nuwara eliya, haputale, hatton, adam's peak.

Kandy sits at a far lower altitude than the 'Tea Country' and because of this can expect to enjoy higher temperatures and lower rainfall than in the hills to the south. Your journey from Kandy to the Cultural Triangle climbs an elevation of 700 metres, so you feel a drop in temperature as you climb. The weather in the Tea Country is influenced by both monsoons, the result of which is a climate somewhat reminiscent of a Scottish autumn for much of the year. Sitting at nearly 2,000 metres above sea level, the region is much cooler than elsewhere in Sri Lanka.  December marks the beginning of the Adam's Peak pilgrimage season, which runs throughout the dry season until May.  

What to expect in Sri Lanka?

Whilst planning any holiday around the seasons, it’s important to remember that the world’s weather has a funny habit of not sticking to script, and this is never truer than in Sri Lanka. You will often be blessed with clear blue skies in what should be rainy season, or with torrential downpours in the middle of the dry season. Therefore you would do well to consider a whole host of other elements (ie seasonal airfares, school holidays etc) in addition to the weather when making your plans.

In general when it does rain, it’s unusual for the rain to last all day, with downpours tending to be short and sharp, often with a number of inches falling in just a matter of minutes. In extreme cases this can lead to localised flooding, which when severe can require last minute alterations to your travel plans... one of the highlights of travelling in Asia!

Relative humidity in Sri Lanka typically ranges from 60% - 90% and is generally higher in the south-west and mountainous areas, although it is also effected by seasonal patterns and rainfall. While Colombo can experience year-round daytime humidity in excess of 70% (rising to approximately 90% during the monsoon season), humidity in the Cultural Triangle drops as low as 60% during the monsoon month of March, and peaks at around 80% during the November and December rains. In the highlands, Kandy's daytime humidity usually ranges between 70% and 80% throughout the year.

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The Best Times to Visit Sri Lanka

By Sophie Prideaux

Spectacular view of the Lion rock surrounded by green rich vegetation. Picture taken from Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya...

While it’s a popular holiday destination year-round, deciding on the best time to visit Sri Lanka can depend on several factors, from the areas you plan to visit to the activities you want to enjoy. The country’s position in the Indian Ocean means it experiences several different weather systems, so travelers seeking sunny climes should be able to find what they are looking for at most times of year.

Sri Lanka’s weather

Sri Lanka’s climate is tropical, which means it experiences distinct wet and dry seasons. However, temperatures stay hot and humid throughout the year, and, even during rainy season, there is often still a good amount of sunshine each day, especially in the country’s coastal areas.

Nine Arch Bridge in Demodara Sri Lanka

Nine Arch Bridge in Demodara, Sri Lanka

When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

Like all tropical countries, Sri Lanka’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always wise to expect the unexpected and prepare for all eventualities. However, generally speaking, the best weather in Sri Lanka is experienced in the period between December and mid-April. These months are considered peak season, and as such, visitor numbers spike, which means prices can go up as well.

The country’s most unpredictable weather is experienced during its two monsoon seasons—the south-west (yala) monsoon, which hits the south and south and west coasts between May and August, and the north-east (maha) which affects the east coast and cultural triangle of Dambulla, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and Polonnaruwa between November and January. An inter-monsoon period also occurs in October, which brings heavy rainfall to the whole island.

However, to really understand the best time to plan your visit, you need to take into account how the different areas of the country experience each season.

North-east coast

In the north-east coastal areas of Jaffna and Mullaitivu, conditions are influenced by the north-east monsoon, which brings heavy rains between October and December. The driest conditions are enjoyed between May and September, although the summer months are more likely to bring cloudy, overcast conditions. For the best of the weather here, March to May offers average temperatures sitting around the mid-twenties and low levels of rainfall, averaging 1.45 inches per day.

Best month: April

The east coastal regions of Passikudah, Trincomalee, Arugam Bay, Batticaloa, Nilaveli and Kuchchaveli experience the full force of the north-eastern monsoon, so the months between October and December are best avoided. However, while the rest of the country experiences rains from the south-west monsoon between May and September, these are the months when the east coast comes into its own. During these months, there is plenty of sunshine and humidity levels drop to around 60%—which is comparable with western Europe. These months bring very little rain and average temperatures sit in the mid-30s, making it a good summer holiday destination.

Best month: August

North west coast

Areas of the north-west coast such as Kalipiya, Puttalam, and Mannar escape the brunt of the south-west monsoon, but still feel its effects during the summer months, when high winds occur. Much of the rain here is brought about by the north-east monsoon between October and December, although it does enjoy some partial protection from neighboring India . The best of the weather here is enjoyed between January and March, when temperatures rise to an average of 87°F and the average rainfall is around 1.5 inches per day.

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Best month: February

The Cultural Triangle

Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites including Dambulla, Anuradhapura, and Sigiriya, is dry for much of the year, only experiencing rainfall between October and December. For the rest of the year, conditions here are generally hot and dry, with plenty of sunshine and less humidity than other parts of the county. May and April are particularly hot, with average temperatures sitting around 90°F. February and March are slightly cooler, averaging around 84°F—slightly more favorable for exploring these cultural sites.

Best month: March

Sri Lanka's Tea Country

Sri Lanka's Tea Country

Tea Country

Sri Lanka’s Tea Country sits at an altitude of around 6,500 feet above sea level, so naturally experiences much cooler temperatures than other parts of the country, which is great for those hoping to hike Adam’s Peak. The hiking season begins in December and runs until May, when this region experiences the driest conditions. In nearby Kandy, which sits at a lower altitude, temperatures are hotter, averaging in the low-eighties during these months.

Best month: January

South-west coast

As expected, the weather on Sri Lanka’s south-west coast, home to capital Colombo in the west, is dictated by the south-western monsoon, which brings heavy rains between May and September. The dry season here runs from December to March, when temperatures stay in the early-eighties and there is often plenty of sunshine to be found. However, this is also one of Sri Lanka’s busiest spots, so during peak season, expect it to be crowded, especially in January, when the Duruthu Perahera Festival takes place.

Galle Sri Lanka

Galle, Sri Lanka

South coast

Many of Sri Lanka’s best beaches are found on the south coast, in Galle, Mirissa, Unawatuna, and Mawella, so many travelers want to factor a visit south into their itineraries. This region often experiences heavy rain during October, with the best of the beach weather often occurring between late November and April. During the early months of the year, temperatures sit in the mid- to-late-sixties, and rainfall is at its lowest.

Where to stay in Sri Lanka

When it comes to places to stay, there are myriad options. There are plenty of heritage homes and hotels, often sporting the tropical modernist look spearheaded by star Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. But things are changing and the past few years have seen a handful of new hotels crop up in Sri Lanka, pushing the boundaries of hospitality. Find our guide to the best places to stay in Sri Lanka here .

A version of this article originally appeared on Condé Nast Traveller ME .


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Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka

Best time to visit sri lanka.

Truckloads of friendliness, chests laden with golden warmth and pockets full of sunny charm are some of the virtues that set Sri Lanka apart. This tropical abode boasts immense history, culture, spirituality, biodiversity and adventure – in equal splendour. From the balmy coasts to the buoyant beaches, bountiful hills, blanketed plantations and beckoning forests, this diverse topography is a traveller’s dream come true. 

The nation experiences the distinct seasons of dry and wet. In understanding Sri Lanka’s climate, one would have to familiarise themselves with its monsoon periods - south western monsoon and north eastern monsoon. The former brings rain to the south western region of Sri Lanka, between the months of May and November, and remains dry from December to April. The latter brings rain to the north and eastern coastal regions of Sri Lanka, between the months of October and January, and remains dry from May and September. 

When it comes to the best time to visit Sri Lanka, one would have to consider a host of things. Luckily, we’ve put together this easy guide to help you make your decision seamlessly. Take a look at the break-up of each season and all it has to offer.

Peak Season – For all you culture connoisseurs out there, the curry coast of Sri Lanka is especially sweet during the months of December to April! This dry period witnesses an influx of travellers who tour the heritage ruins, ornate temples, colonial churches and magnificent nature nooks, with comfort and ease.

Shoulder Season – September to November

Off Season – May to August

Sri Lanka in Summer (December-April)

Temperature: The air temperature during the dry season fluctuates between 22°C and 32°C. 

Weather: During the months of December to April, most of the island country experiences a beautiful hot and dry climate. With ample sunshine, clear blue skies and lush green landscapes, this period is considered to the best climate to visit Sri Lanka in. With that being said, from October to January, the East and North cities remain wet due to the Maha Monsoon period.

Significance: This is the perfect time to engage in exploration and sightseeing. In fact, the best thing to do is hit the gorgeous south and west coast beaches for some good old relaxation and fun. Furthermore, one can visit the cultural spots. From fascinating ancient ruins to exquisite temples and churches, there’s much to glimpse! Festivals such as Duruthu Perahera (Full moon day) and Thai Pongal (harvest) are particularly splendid to witness. 

Why you should visit now: The month of April is graced with long, sun-kissed days. Although the climatic conditions are variable, majority of the nation witnesses warm and dry weather during this time. The atmosphere is conducive for outdoor adventures, without the worry of showers.

Things to know before the visit: December to April is peak season, with throngs of tourists flooding the shores of Sri Lanka. So, expect big crowds, lengthy queues and significantly slower service. Make your travel and hotel bookings well in advance to avoid any last-minute hindrances. Take into account factors such as seasonal airfares and school holidays. 

Tips: Like with other South Asian nations, Sri Lanka experiences warm to scorching weather. So, pack a variety of light cotton clothing that is comfortable to the skin. Throw in a hat/cap, sunglasses and SP+ 30 Sunscreen. Stay hydrated through the day and consume frequent, well-balanced meals. 

Sri Lanka in Monsoon (May-November)

Temperature: The air temperature during the wet season fluctuates between 23°C and 31°C. 

Weather: Sri Lanka during monsoon is an unpredictable affair. The months of May to June experience the South-West monsoon wind, which endows the regions of Colombo and Galle with sharp showers of quick rain. The longer monsoon period begins in October and results in strong and sporadic rainfall. This is deemed as the North-East monsoon season, which affects part of the country. 

Significance: Although it may not be prudent to go on outdoor excursions, amidst unrelenting showers, it may be possible to thrown in some sightseeing during these months. For instance, during days of moderate rainfall or drizzle, one can visit the delightful national parks and go on easy hiking trails to cascading waterfalls. The stunning sceneries will be worth all the effort!

Why you should visit now: From the mystical rock-cut architecture to the picturesque beaches, exotic forests and manicured plantations, landscapes shine brilliantly during the monsoon season. For those seeking unique experiences, this might be the best season to visit Sri Lanka in. From the sights to the sounds and smells, it is nothing short of breath-taking. 

Things to know before the visit: The wet season is signified as low season. During this time, you’ll find fewer travellers traversing the region. Hotels and resorts will look to entice customers with amazing deals and discounts, so make sure to optimise on this! This is a lovely time to enjoy the peace and serenity. 

Tips: Sri Lanka’s distinct monsoon seasons (Yala and Maha) require appropriate attire. Make sure you pack an umbrella, windcheater, gumboots or rain sandals. Throw in some mosquito repellent, for all those hikes and forest visits. Make sure your electronic gadgets are waterproof or sheltered in plastic bags. 

The weather of Sri Lanka in monsoon differs from that in summer. So, have you decided on what’s your best time to visit? Look through our Sri Lankan Tour Packages and start planning your trip to this wonderful place!

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Best time to visit Sri Lanka

The best time to visit Sri Lanka is between November and April in the south-west and February to September in the north-east. Alternatively, don’t worry about the weather and just bring an umbrella. Crowds disappear with the clouds and Sri Lankans will be glad to greet you during these quieter times. Read our handy guide to work out when to go to Sri Lanka.

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good time to travel to sri lanka

A month by month guide on when to go to Sri Lanka

January in sri lanka, february in sri lanka, march in sri lanka, april in sri lanka, may in sri lanka, june in sri lanka, july in sri lanka, august in sri lanka, september in sri lanka, october in sri lanka, november in sri lanka, december in sri lanka.

good time to travel to sri lanka

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  • Best time to visit Sri Lanka
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The best time to visit Sri Lanka is from December to March, as these months experience the lowest rainfall and most sunshine out of the year. This is also the country’s high season, so accommodation will be more expensive. But what Sri Lanka lacks in size it makes up for with a climate that's generally good all year round (with a few exceptions). On any given day in Sri Lanka, from the north to the south and the east to the west, you’ll encounter biblical rains, idyllic sunshine and everything in between.

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When is the best time to visit Kandy, Colombo and Galle?

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The best time to visit the south and west of Sri Lanka, as well as the hilly interior, is from December to March. This period experiences the lowest rainfall and most sunshine of the year, but is also the country’s high season, so accommodation will be more expensive. Sri Lanka’s east and north experience the full force of the Maha monsoon during this period, which hits hardest over November and December.

When is the best time to visit the east coast?

A tableful of traditional Sri Lankan food on coloured plates

From May to August the Yala monsoon brings heavy rain to Sri Lanka’s classic tourist trail in the south and west of the country. On the other side of the country, however, the sun is shining and the surf’s up at beautiful beaches like Arugam Bay.

Best for: lounging on the beach along the country’s coastlines and spotting wildlife in national parks

January is one of the best times to visit Sri Lanka as the weather is pretty much perfect everywhere you go – think sunny days and warm temperatures. While there are fluctuations in temperature (the central regions of Kandy and other tea-producing areas are going to be cooler than the coast), you can expect average temperatures of around 30°C (86°F). 

And with warm weather comes the opportunity to turn on ‘relax mode’ and hit the beaches of Mirissa and Galle or search for animals in Udawalawe National Park and Minneriya National Park as they look for water after the wild weather patterns of the north-eastern monsoon season.  

A group of travellers riding bikes around a temple in Sri Lanka

Best for: trekking mountain ranges and visiting lesser-known temples

The weather in Sri Lanka in February is among some of the best with relatively dry conditions expected country-wide. Average temperatures of 30°C+ (86°F) are experienced in Colombo (as well as in the Cultural Triangle region of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy), while mountainous areas can dip to as low as 21°C (70°F). 

But, with temperatures that good, it makes sense that February in Sri Lanka is among one of the busiest times to visit so you can expect large crowds at popular sites such as Sigiriya and Galle Fort. So, if you’re looking for some peace and quiet, try lounging out in the country’s northeast (which rarely gets busy) or visiting less popular temples like the Mihintale temple.

Best for: Relaxing on the beaches of Negombo and history buffin’ it through Polonnaruwa

While the weather in Sri Lanka in March is good enough to carry ‘best time to visit’ status, there aren’t as many families around as school is back in term in both the UK and Australia , making it a great time to explore the island’s beauty in relative peace. Again, the weather conditions during this month are relatively dry, although Sri Lanka’s weather can be unpredictable at times so you can’t completely rule out freak thunderstorms or brief, yet unexpected, rain showers.

Best for: pilgrimagin’ to Adam’s Peak or trekking through Horton Plains National Park

The weather in April in Sri Lanka is good without being the best – think comfortable temperatures and the chance of rainfall if you’re heading to the western and southern coasts or to the more central Tea Country. Having said that, there are still some areas that experience temperatures in the mid 30°C’s (95°F) and plenty of sunshine so you can get that much-needed vitamin C.

 But bigger cities such as Colombo and Kandy are starting to get humid and muggy so if you’re not looking to sweat for 8 hours of the day (who is?), then head to the mountainous Central Highlands region to cool off. Or you can challenge yourself on a pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak or an equally as beautiful trek in Horton Plains National Park.

A group of people exploring the palace ruins of Sigiriya

Best for: exploring World Heritage listed sites

May is well and truly in Sri Lanka’s ‘shoulder season’ weather-wise, meaning temperatures are mild and pretty consistent in northern and eastern Sri Lanka – think the Cultural Triangle and hill country. The same can’t be said for Colombo and other southern parts of the country with the arrival of the southwest monsoon season (expect to see several hours of heavy rain per day during the month).

Don’t let that deter you from experiencing the best of the country’s southern beaches though, some of these thunderstorms will pass quickly leaving you plenty of time to enjoy a quick dip in the Indian Ocean. If they don’t, swimming in the ocean while it’s raining promises to add plenty of fun memories to your adventure-filled trip.

Best for: whale watching in Trincomalee and national park visits

The southwest monsoon is in full swing in June in Sri Lanka so try and avoid Colombo and other neighbouring cities unless you want a really damp and humid holiday. The southern parts and central mountainous regions of the country are also experiencing infrequent rainfall, which may disrupt your travel plans if you want to spend long periods of time outside.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. June is the perfect time to explore the country’s northern and eastern coastal areas such as Trincomalee and Passekudah and enjoy temperatures of up to 30°C (86°F). Alternatively, it’s still hot and dry in the Cultural Triangle region, although wind speeds can increase during this time.

Two female travellers paddleboarding on blue water in Sri Lanka

Best for: cultural attractions, swimming and other water-based activities

Similar to the weather conditions in May and June, the northern and eastern areas of Sri Lanka experience warm and comfortable weather with average temperatures of 32°C (90°F), while the southwestern parts of the country are in the middle of their monsoon season. This doesn’t mean that you still can’t enjoy a trip to Colombo in July, but the chance of thunderstorms and rainfall is high, and so high are the mugginess and humidity levels.

Whale watching is a popular activity along the northern coasts during this time, as well as swimming, snorkelling and other water-based activities. July is also a good time to explore various cultural attractions in cities like Batticaloa and Kataragama.

Best for: temple festivals in both Kandy and Jaffna

The southwest monsoon season is nearing its end in August so you can expect to see travellers returning to Colombo and other surrounding cities as the month wears on, temperatures remain at a steady 30°C (86°F) and rainfall decreases. August is still the time best time to explore some of the lesser-known cities of Sri Lanka such as Jaffna, and while you’re there, why not take part in the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil Festival with its dance and drum-filled celebrations?


Best for: scenic train rides and local market visits.

There’s never a bad time to visit Sri Lanka but if there was, September would be one of the months to reconsider travelling thanks to the increasing likelihood of encountering cyclones. While weather conditions are becoming more moderate along the southern and western coasts with the ending of the southwest monsoon season, the east coast is saying goodbye to its favourable weather with rainfall set to increase towards the end of the month.

Surprise, surprise the Cultural Triangle region still experiences warm and dry weather with plenty of sunshine but if your heart is set on relaxing in Sri Lanka’s coastal cities, September is not the month to do it as swimming isn’t advised due to rough sea conditions.

Best for: Diwali celebrations

October is one of the wettest months of the year in Sri Lanka so if you’re hoping for blue skies and sunny conditions, you might be out of luck. However, while most of the island can expect heavy rainfall and thunderstorms due to the inter-monsoon and the northeastern monsoon, the Cultural Triangle cities still experience hot and dry weather.

As October is considered the low season to visit Sri Lanka, there’ll be fewer tourists at popular attractions and accommodation prices will be lower. But the Hindu festival, Diwali, occurs in late October to early November and attracts thousands of participants each year, so expect a lot of revelry and celebration, particularly in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.  

A local female worker picking tea leaves in the misty mountains of Sri Lanka

Best for: Tea factory visits, monastery tours and wandering around pottery workshops

The weather in November starts to get better in some regions across the island as the southwest monsoon winds decrease, however, the usually dry cities in the Cultural Triangle start to experience colder temperatures and an increased chance of rainfall. This remains the same for the mountainous regions of the island, as well as along the north and east coasts.

If you want to avoid most of the crowds that come with the start of peak season (December) but still want to get the best weather conditions possible, try travelling towards the end of the month. Lines at popular tourist attractions will be shorter, accommodation will be cheaper and rainfall becomes less likely. Sounds like a win/win to us.

Best for: Christmas celebrations and pilgrimage visits to Adam’s Peak

The beginning of the high season is finally here and with it brings cool and dry weather in all of the popular destinations such as Colombo and Kandy, as well as well-known beach spots like Unawatuna Beach, Mirissa Beach and Tallala Beach. But when the sun’s out, so are the tourists, so make sure you book your accommodation and activities well in advance to avoid disappointment.

While the rest of the country’s enjoying reasonably good weather, the northeastern monsoon is still wreaking havoc on Sri Lanka’s northeastern half so it’s best to stay away from cities such as Jaffna and Kilinochchi. 

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The weather in Sri Lanka is rather complicated for such a small country, due to the fact that the island is affected by two separate monsoons. On the bright side, this means that there is usually good weather somewhere on the island at most times of the year.

Sri Lanka weather

When is the best month to visit sri lanka, visiting sri lanka in winter, when to visit sri lanka in spring, when to visit sri lanka in summer, when to visit sri lanka in the fall, average temperature and rainfall, festivals and public holidays in sri lanka.

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When thinking about the best time to travel to Sri Lanka, it’s worth bearing in mind that the basic weather pattern in Sri Lanka, as described below, can vary significantly from year to year. It's also a fact that global warming has disrupted these already complex weather patterns.

When are the monsoons in Sri Lanka?

Unsurprisingly, the rainfall pattern will probably be one of the most important factors in your decision of when to go to Sri Lanka.

The main southwest (“Yala”) monsoon brings rain to the west and southwest coasts and the hill country from April or May to September and is wettest from April to June.

The less severe northeast (“Maha”) monsoon hits the east coast from November to March and is wettest from November to December.

There’s also a inter-monsoonal period of unsettled weather preceding the Maha monsoon in October and November. During this time heavy rainfall and thunderstorms can occur anywhere across the island.

Average temperatures in Sri Lanka

The country’s position close to the Equator means that at least the temperature in Sri Lanka remains fairly constant year-round. Coastal and lowland areas enjoy average daytime temperatures of around 26–30°C. During the hottest part of the day, they can often climb up well into the 30°Cs. Temperatures decrease with altitude, reducing to a temperate 18–22°C in Kandy . In Nuwara Eliya and the highest parts of the island, on average it's a pleasantly mild 14–17°C. Nights in the hills can be quite chilly, with temperatures sometimes falling close to freezing. Humidity is often another high everywhere. It can rise to a sweltering 90% at times in the southwest, and averages 60 to 80% across the rest of the island.

In a nutshell, the variations in the weather patterns mean that the best time to visit Sri Lanka is intertwined with where on the island you want to go:

If you’re heading to the west, or south coasts and the hill country, then you’re best off going between December and March.

If you’re intending to make your way to the east coast and the north you’ll find the best time of year to visit Sri Lankais from April or May to September.

Visiting Sri Lanka in December – February

The north of the island and the eastern coast are pretty wet at this time of year. So it’s not the best time to visit Jaffna , coastal Trincomalee or historic Batticaloa , or go surfing at Arugam Bay . Catch some waves instead at Weligama on the south coast, or chill out on splendid beaches at Unawatuna Bay and Mirissa . It’s also a good time for whale watching off the southern coast. Visit the atmospheric colonial fort town of Galle , particularly lively during the Galle Literary Festival in late January or early February. It’s also a good time to visit Kandy and the hill country , such as Horton Plains National Park, and climb Adam’s Peak . Christmas is a busy time so be sure to book ahead.

Visiting Sri Lanka in March – May

March is still lovely weather in the south and southwest but by April there are signs of the monsoon. It’s still a good time for whale watching though off the south coast. Head to the lesser visited north Sri Lanka, such as the vibrant city of Jaffna, the eastern coast and the Cultural Triangle .

The south gets very humid in May, so for cooler temperatures head for the hill country. The most important Buddhist festival in May is

Vesak Poya – celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

Visiting Sri Lanka in June – August

The hill country is pleasant, with cooler temperatures, although you can’t rule out the odd rain shower. It’s the ideal time to get outdoors in the north – on the Jaffna Peninsula and nearby smattering of islands , and discover Tamil culture in Jaffna . The lovely beaches on the east coast also beckon. Don’t miss the Kandy ’s Esala Poya Perahera – Sri Lanka’s most extravagant festival, in July or August.

Visiting Sri Lanka in September – November

The northern and eastern sides of the island still experience favourable weather conditions in September. October to November falls between the main monsoons and the weather becomes a little unpredictable across the island – wherever you are, there's a chance of showers.

We’ve put together an average temperature and rainfall chart. This should give you a rough idea of what to expect of the weather in Sri Lanka in any given month. We’ve looked at three different areas across the country to give an overall picture and help you to decide when is the best time to visit Sri Lanka. We've focused on Colombo , the capital, on the west coast of the island; Nuwara Eliya in the tea country hills of central Sri Lanka; and Trincomalee on the northeast coast.


With no fewer than 25 public holidays, and four major religions – each with its own roster of festivals – the calendar is pretty chocker. You may want to include one or more of these festivals in your itinerary – or perhaps ensure the dates of your trip fall between them, as things can seem to grind to a halt during these events.

Virtually all the festivals are religious in nature and follow the lunar calendar, (an extra month is added every two or three years into the Buddhist lunar calendar to keep the solar and lunar calendars in alignment). As a result, most festival dates vary somewhat from year to year. Muslim festivals also follow a lunar calendar but without the corrective months, so the dates of these festivals gradually move backwards.

The island’s most important Buddhist festivals are traditionally celebrated with enormous peraheras, or parades, with scores of fabulously accoutred elephants accompanied by drummers and dancers. People often travel on poya days, so transport and accommodation tend to be busy; there’s also (in theory) a ban on the sale of alcohol, although tourist hotels and guesthouses will usually serve you.

Sri Lanka’s main Hindu festivals rival the island’s Buddhist celebrations in colour – in addition to the ones listed below, there are numerous other local temple festivals particularly in the north. Sri Lanka’s Muslim festivals are more modest affairs, generally involving only the Muslim community itself, with special prayers at the mosque. The three main celebrations (all of which are public holidays) are the Milad un-Nabi, celebrating the Prophet’s birthday; Id ul-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan; and Id ul-Allah, marking the beginning of pilgrimages to Mecca.

Sri Lanka festivals

Duruthu Poya Marks the first of the Buddha’s three legendary visits to Sri Lanka, and celebrated with a spectacular perahera (parade) at the Raja Maha Vihara in the Colombo suburb of Kelaniya. The Duruthu poya also marks the beginning of the three-month pilgrimage season to Adam’s Peak.

Thai Pongol Hindu festival, honouring the sun god Surya, Indra (the bringer of rains) and the cow, in no particular order. It’s marked by ceremonies at Hindu temples, after which the first grains of the new paddy harvest are ceremonially cooked in milk in a special pot – the direction in which the liquid spills when it boils over is thought to indicate good or bad luck in the coming year. (Jan 14/15)

Galle Literary Festival Eminent local and international wordsmiths and culture vultures descend on Galle. (late Jan/early Feb)

Navam Poya Commemorates the Buddha’s announcement, at the age of 80, of his own impending death, celebrated with a major perahera at the Gangaramaya temple in Colombo. Although this dates only from 1979, it has become one of the island’s biggest festivals, featuring a procession of some fifty elephants.

Independence Day Celebrates Sri Lanka’s independence on February 4, 1948, with parades, dances and games.

Maha Sivarathri Hindu festival dedicated to Shiva, during which devotees perform a one-day fast and an all-night vigil. (Feb/March)

Medin Poya Marks the Buddha’s first visit to his father’s palace following his enlightenment.

Good Friday An Easter Passion play is performed on the island of Duwa, near Negombo. (March/April)

Galle/Jaffna Music Festival Three-day music festival held in Galle and Jaffna on alternate years and featuring an impressive line-up of local and international folk musicians, dancers and other performers.

Bak Poya Celebrates the Buddha’s second visit to Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese and Tamil New Year Coinciding with the start of the southwest monsoon and the end of the harvest season, the Buddhist and Hindu New Year is a family festival during which presents are exchanged and the traditional kiribath (rice cooked with milk and cut into diamond shapes) is prepared. Businesses close, rituals are performed, new clothes are worn and horoscopes are cast. April 13 is New Year’s Eve; April 14 is New Year’s Day.

Labour Day The traditional May Day bank holiday. (May 1)

Vesak Poya The most important of the Buddhist poyas, this is a threefold celebration commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, all of which are traditionally thought to have happened on the day of the Vesak Poya. In addition, the last of the Buddha’s three alleged visits to Sri Lanka is claimed to have been on a Vesak poya day. Lamps are lit in front of houses, and pandals (platforms decorated with scenes from the life of the Buddha) are erected throughout the country. Buses and cars are decorated with streamers, and free food (from rice and curry to Vesak sweetmeats) is distributed in roadside booths (dansal). Meanwhile, devout Buddhists visit temples, meditate and fast. The day after the Vesak Poya is also a public holiday. Vesak also marks the end of the Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season. The sale of alcohol, meat and fish in public restaurants is prohibited for a six-day period around the poya day, though hotels and guesthouses may be able to circumvent this when serving their own guests.

Poson Poya Second only in importance to Vesak, Poson Poya commemorates the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Mahinda, marked by mass pilgrimages to Anuradhapura, while thousands of white-robed pilgrims climb to the summit of Mihintale.

Esala Poya Celebrates the Buddha’s first sermon and the arrival of the Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka. The lunar month of Esala is the season of festivals, most notably the great Esala Perahera in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s most extravagant festival. There are also festivals at Kataragama, Dondra and Bellanwila (a southern Colombo suburb) and a big seven-day celebration at Unawatuna, during which thousands descend on the village and beach.

Kataragama Festival Festival at Kataragama during which Hindu devotees fire-walk and indulge in various forms of ritual self-mutilation, piercing their skin with hooks and weights, and driving skewers through their cheeks and tongues.

Hikkaduwa Beach Festival Three-day beach bash with international DJs. (July/Aug)

Vel Colombo’s most important Hindu festival, dedicated to Skanda/Kataragama and featuring two exuberant processions during which the god’s chariot and vel (spear) are carried across the city from the Pettah to temples in Wellawatta and Bambalapitiya. (July/Aug)

Nikini Poya Marks the retreat of the Bhikkhus following the Buddha’s death, commemorated by a period of fasting and of retreat for the monastic communities.

Binara Poya Commemorates the Buddha’s journey to heaven to preach to his mother and other deities.

Dussehra Also known as Durga Puja, this Hindu festival honours Durga and also commemorates the day of Rama’s victory over Ravana. (Sept/Oct)

Vap Poya Marks the Buddha’s return to earth and the end of the Buddhist period of fasting.

Deepavali The Hindu Festival of Lights (equivalent to North India’s Diwali), commemorating the return from exile of Rama, hero of the Ramayana (holy scripture), with the lighting of lamps in Tamil households, symbolic of the triumph of good over evil, and the wearing of new clothes. (late Oct/early Nov)

World Spice Food Festival Ten days of culinary events at assorted venues around Colombo. (late Oct/early Nov)

Il Poya Commemorates the Buddha’s ordination of sixty disciples.

Unduvap Poya Celebrates the arrival of the Bo tree sapling in Anuradhapura, brought by Ashoka’s daughter, Sangamitta.

Christmas (25 Dec)

Christian New Year’s Eve (31 Dec)

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written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 26.04.2021


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When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka?

  • Month-by-month

The best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on which part of the country you’re going to. It’s a year-round destination with consistent warmth and lots of sunshine, with temperatures averaging between 31°C at their highest and 22°C at their lowest. It’s normally hotter in coastal areas and the lowlands than it is in areas with higher altitude. Showers can occur at any time.

The southwest coast is best between December and April, before their monsoon season starts, while the east coast and the north is less humid between May and September, when their monsoon season is over.

The central hills remain cooler all year round and we’d only recommend avoiding them in October and November, when the rainfall is less predictable.

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Month-by-month guide for travelling in Sri Lanka

Galle, Sri Lanka

Visiting Sri Lanka in January - March

January to March is a beautiful time to be in the central hills or southwest Sri Lanka, as days are sunny and dry and the sea is usually calm. Galle Literary Festival takes place annually in late January or early February.

Events & Festivals

  • Marine life (November to April): Head to the south coast during these months to try spotting many dolphin species, turtles, tuna, and even flying fish. You may also see blue, sperm, fin and Bryde's whales on a whale watching trip.

Tamil tea picker, Pedro tea plantation, near Nuwara Eliya

Visiting Sri Lanka in April

April brings the start of the southwest monsoon, so the best place to be is in the north of the country, Cultural Triangle or on the eastern coast. The south remains warm and sunny, but showers increase and the seas aren't so calm. The 14th April is Sinhalese and Tamil New Year.

Pigeon Island Excursion, Jungle Beach, Trincomalee

Visiting Sri Lanka in May - June

Whilst the south is humid and hot, the central hills are cooler but experience showers through May and June. The north and east is much more pleasant. In May, the Vesak Poya celebrates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

The east coast beaches

Visiting Sri Lanka in July

As the school holidays begin, it's a good time to explore the cultural cities and wildlife of the north as well as the beautiful stretches of beach on the east coast. It's important to plan in advance to ensure we can secure your first choice accommodation.

  • Kandy Perahera (July or August): This is a fun spectacle, with colourful processions and traditional dancing taking over the city to celebrate the famous Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, housed at the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

The Naguleshwaram Temple

Visiting Sri Lanka in August - September

Weather continues to be at its best in the north and east of Sri Lanka between August and September. The Kandy Perahera is an elaborate festival and procession that celebrates the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha. The music, singing and dancing brings everyone together annually either in July or August, on the full moon 'Poya' day. 

Macaques are a regular sighting throughout Sri Lanka

Visiting Sri Lanka in October - November

October and November continue to be warm and sunny all across Sri Lanka, but between monsoons the weather is much less predictable and showers can occur frequently. However, it really does vary from year to year, so it's impossible to forecast.

Mother and baby elephants in the wild

Visiting Sri Lanka in December

Whilst the eastern coast and north starts to experience more rain, the south and west is beautifully warm and dry. Christmas and New Year are very popular times to travel, so it's important to plan well in advance.

Sri Lanka Climate Guide

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Trip ideas and travel guides for exploring Sri Lanka

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  1. What Is the Traditional Clothing Worn in Sri Lanka?

    Sri Lanka doesn’t have an official national costume. However, the sarong and sari are popular items of attire that appear across ethnic groups and regions, linking together the diverse people.

  2. Where Do Peacocks Live?

    Wild peafowl live in several locations; the blue peacock species lives in India and Sri Lanka, the green peacock inhabits the regions of Java and Myanmar and the elusive Congo peacock lives in rainforests throughout Africa.

  3. What Are Some Examples of Ethnography?

    Examples of ethnographic research subjects are found across an array of cultural, geographic, ethnic, political and identitarian boundaries from the homeless population in Chicago to Italian investment bankers or Sri Lanka female migrant wo...

  4. The best time to visit Sri Lanka

    September to October and April are the best times for exploring the whole country. Squeezed between the two main monsoons, Sri Lanka's two shoulder seasons

  5. Best time to visit Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka's east coast comes into its own while the rest of the island is experiencing monsoonal rains. Influenced by the north-eastern monsoon, the best

  6. The Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka

    However, generally speaking, the best weather in Sri Lanka is experienced in the period between December and mid-April. These months are

  7. Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka

    Weather: During the months of December to April, most of the island country experiences a beautiful hot and dry climate. With ample sunshine, clear blue skies

  8. Best time to visit Sri Lanka

    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

  9. Best time to visit Sri Lanka

    The Best time to visit Sri Lanka is from December to March which experiences the lowest rainfall and most sunshine of the year. This is also the country's high

  10. The Best Time of Year to Visit Sri Lanka

    The Best Time of Year to Visit Sri Lanka · January to March. The weather in Sri Lanka is generally wonderful between January and March, making it a great time

  11. Best time to visit Sri Lanka

    The northern and eastern sides of the island still experience favourable weather conditions in September. October to November falls between the main monsoons

  12. Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka

    The southwest coast is best between December and April, before their monsoon season starts, while the east coast and the north is less humid between May and

  13. Best Time and Season to Visit Sri Lanka: Complete Guide

    January to April is a great time to visit the southern and western parts of the country, while May to September is a good time to head to the

  14. When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka has a tropical climate with high temperates throughout the year, as with most tropical destinations there are both dry and rainy seasons