When is the best time to visit Sri Lanka? Let’s dissect! Sri Lanka is a fascinating, dreamy country to visit. This is an island nation of jungles, beaches as good for surfing as they are lazing around on, some awesomely delicious food, and a roster of mad festivals to keep your schedule packed with things to do.
It’s also affected by not one, but two monsoon seasons, so knowing the best time to visit Sri Lanka is definitely helpful. That’s where we come in, with this in-depth, month-by-month breakdown of Sri Lanka’s weather, as well as a seasonal guide to the Sri Lankan festivals that you should know about!
When is the Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka Weather in January
January in Sri Lanka is hot – 27°C in the capital, Colombo, sort of hot. The average temperature across the island is 31°C, and the sea itself has a temperature of 28°C. Pretty much the whole country is basking in sunshine, with high humidity to boot, though we’d say it’s a good time to visit Sri Lanka. Head inland to Kandy for cooler temperatures; nearby Nuwara Eliya is 20°C, for example. It’s an area that sees a little rain too, even though the country is not yet in monsoon season (that’s later, from April to June).
Sri Lanka Weather in February
This is an excellent time of year to visit Sri Lanka in general. It’s between two different rainy seasons, so you can expect dry days and high temperatures – the average daily nationwide being 27°C, with highs hovering around the 31°C mark. Humidity levels can be pretty high, but not so high that you’re going to be super uncomfortable. February is an awesome time of year to hit the beaches of Sri Lanka, like those at Negombo or Unawatuna, or explore the national parks, such as Yala National Park.
Sri Lanka Weather in March
A very popular time to go to Sri Lanka, March sees some pretty fantastic weather, we have to say. With nine hours of sunshine per day, it’s the last month before rainy season starts – and it’s also the peak season for visitors. Humidity levels, however, begin to soar towards the end of the month as temperatures hit 30°C across the island. Another great month for hitting the beach, the sea is a pretty blissful 29°C. Kite surfing is good at this time of year, particularly on the northwest beaches of Kalpitiya. Want to escape the heat? Kandy is still pretty cool by comparison.
Sri Lanka Weather in April
The last month of “prime” tourist season, April is when Sri Lanka’s monsoon season starts, but it’s still a great time of year to visit Sri Lanka. Settling in towards the end of the month, rain increases and is pretty much a daily feature till June. The first areas of Sri Lanka to see the increase in rain are the southern and western coasts. Kandy gets temperatures around the mid-twenties and is prime for trekking: try out trails in the Knuckles Mountain Range. Most of April is generally pretty warm and sunny, with temperatures in the early 30s and around eight hours of sunshine per day.
Sri Lanka Weather in May
Monsoon season is here. It comes in from the Bay of Bengal and hits the west and south coast; these are the areas that will be affected first. However, there is still intermittent sunshine between the showers. Swimming in the sea in the affected areas is probably not a good idea. On the other side of the mountains on the east coast, things are different; it’s about 29°C and mostly sunny, with a few showers that won’t last all day. Colombo, being in the southwest, will be pretty rainy, but hotel prices will be much lower at this time of year; it’s the best time to visit Sri Lanka if you like deals!
Sri Lanka Weather in June
The summer monsoon is still looming over the island. The south, west, and central tea country around Kandy see an increase in rainfall during June. If you’re in these regions, expect tropical downpours, usually in the afternoon. Temperatures across Sri Lanka are about 28°C on average, but it will still be cooler up in the hills. It’s not all rain though. In the north and east on the opposite side of the island, days are dry and bright. Head to Nilaveli or the Arugam Bay area for days on the beach.
Sri Lanka Weather in July
At the start of July, the monsoon is still affecting the southern and western parts of Sri Lanka, but by the middle of the month, clearer days increase, and there will be less chance of rainfall. You should still be prepared for quick downpours, however. Temperatures for the whole of the island are on average 30°C. Northern and eastern areas, like the beachside locales of Passekudah and Trincomali, are good for beachgoers, with plenty of sunshine. Cheaper hotel rates are still in place across the island, too – good if you’re on a budget.
Sri Lanka Weather in August
August is an awesome time to visit Sri Lanka. Room rates are still cheap, but it’s now much drier than the previous monsoon-influenced months. Even the south and western areas see a lot less rain and are now welcoming sunny days. In the northern “Cultural Triangle,” the temperatures are 32°C; there’s no rainfall and barely any wind. Across the island nation, the temperature is around 28 to 30°C on average. August is full of sunshine and lands between the summer monsoon and the upcoming second monsoon (yes, that’s a thing), which is due in September…
Sri Lanka Weather in September
It’s time for another monsoon season to rear its head in September! About half the month, from the middle onwards, is rainy; in the north, you can even get tropical storms – think high winds and intense rain that rips through coastal areas. Most of September is marked by high temperatures and high humidity, which can make it pretty uncomfortable. Swimming in the sea, especially on the south and west coasts, can be dangerous due to currents. Yala National Park is also closed in September. It’s no surprise that September gets fewer visitors than other months.
Sri Lanka Weather in October
The summer monsoon brought in bad weather from the southwest; now the northeast monsoon is bringing heavy downfalls in the north and east of Sri Lanka. It tends to affect more of the country than the summer monsoon, with high rainfall across the board; it’s the rainiest month for Colombo, for instance. Temperatures are also still very high (around 30°C) with soaring humidity making it feel hotter. Swimming is still not recommended. Cyclones can occur in October too, which – if you hadn’t guessed already – is one of Sri Lanka’s wettest months, with 19 days of rainfall occurring.
Sri Lanka Weather in November
It’s still rainy. The north and east coast sees a lot of rain, but as November (the second wettest month of the year) continues, things do start to improve in certain parts of the country. The southern coast sees better weather than much of the rest of the country; Kandy sees high rainfall, and so does the “Cultural Triangle.” In spite of the rain, the temperatures are still high, with the average being something like 29°C for most of the month. By the end of November, however, things start to improve as the high season for visitors inches closer.
Sri Lanka Weather in December
December is a good time of year to visit Sri Lanka, especially the west and southern coasts. The north and east are still getting lots of rainfall (thanks to that northeast monsoon still in play), but elsewhere, there’s lots of sunshine and dry days, as the beaches become a good idea once again. Beaches such as Bentota and Galle are prime for beach days. Sea temperatures are 28°C, while the actual temperature hovers in the early thirties. Because of the sunny weather and the Holiday Season in December, tourists flock to Sri Lanka at this time of year. It’s a great month to visit Sri Lanka.
Festivals in Sri Lanka
In March, get prepared for Mendin Poya, a festival that marks Gautama Buddha’s return to his homeland to preach to his father. In the capital of Colombo, the festivities will be in full swing for this festival.
Avurudu (Sinhala & Tamil New Year) occurs either in March or April – it’s based on the lunar calendar. You can expect lots of games (one of which is basically a huge pillow fight), celebrations, firecrackers, and burning of sacred oils. It’s one of the biggest events in all of Sri Lanka; shops will be closed as people flock to the streets in new clothes to celebrate and eat traditional food. All singing, all dancing – it’s one of the top festivals to see in Sri Lanka.
The Vesak festival – or Poya (full moon festival) – in May is a celebration of Buddha’s life and death. There are a few different choices of where to see this festival, but if you’re in Colombo, you should head to Bhauddoloka Mawath – it’s the street to see this festival play out.
In early June, there’s Poson Poya, which commemorates the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC by Arhantha Mahinda. Expect processions and celebrations, particularly in Anuradhapura, or in Mihintale, where thousands of pilgrims dressed in white climb up to the supposed meeting place of Mahinda and the King Devanampiyatissa. In terms of Poya, this one is second in importance only to Vesak.
For Sri Lanka’s Muslim population, there’s Id ul-Fitr. This June celebration marks the end of the fasting that was Ramadan, and people return to their hometowns for feasting and festivities.
In July (or August), there’s Adi-Vel, celebrating the Hindu god of war. At its best in Colombo and Jaffna, different versions of the chariot of Murugan (aka Skanda, the god of war), are paraded through the street.
Esala Perahera is a festival that takes place in August in the Kandy region. Honoring Kandy’s Sacred Tooth relic, this is a 10 to 15-day extravaganza of whip dances, processions, insane illuminations, and even lavishly adorned elephants.
Coinciding with Esala Perahera is the festival of Kataragama Esala; held in Kataragama, South Sri Lanka, this one is all about self-mutilation and skin-piercing, in what are pretty gruesome acts of penance to Hindu deities. This festival isn’t for you if you’re at all squeamish!
Though there aren’t too many fall festivals in Sri Lanka, it’s important to note that the Poya – full moon festivals – happen every single full moon. You’ve heard of the full moon parties of Thailand, right? Well, Poya aren’t those. Poya celebrates Uposatha, a monthly Buddhist observance of fasting and abstinence from meat and alcohol. Businesses often close on the Poya days.
Bottom line: festivities every 28 days. In fall, there’s Binara Poya (September), Vap Poya (October), and Il Poya (November).
For non-Poya events, there’s Id ul-Adha. It’s a three-day celebration for Muslims embarking on Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and it takes place (mostly) in September. But it’s mainly an in-house, family affair.
Deepavali is the Hindu festival of light which takes place in October. As the name suggests, you’ll see a lot of oil lamps and other light sources (obviously), all in celebration of the return of Rama from rescuing Sita in the Hindu epic the Ramayana. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is honored on the third day of the festival.
In December, you can see the celebrations for Unduvap Poya. Another of Sri Lanka’s full moon festivals, this one commemorates Sangamitta, daughter of Emperor Ashoka, bringing back a cutting of the sacred bodhi tree (where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment) in 288 BC. You can still see the tree she brought back in Anuradhapura, thought to be one of the oldest trees planted by a human in the world. The celebrations bring out thousands of worshippers in their finery.
Also in December, there’s the Adam’s Peak Pilgrimage. Adam’s Peak, near Ella, is known for a mysterious “footprint” located at the top of the 7,359ft mountain. Buddhists say it’s Buddha’s footprint; Christian and Islamic tradition calls it Adam’s footprint (hence Adam’s Peak).
Speaking of Christians, you can expect Christmas decorations and seasonal feasting across Sri Lanka come December 25. Though mainly celebrated as a Christian holiday by the actual Christian population in Colombo, outside of the capital it is popular to “celebrate” – probably because of globalization and Hollywood.
Plan and Pack for Sri Lanka
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem around the world so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps here is perfectly safe to drink. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well.
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
A cover-up is one of those beach vacation clothes you should always travel within your luggage. When packing for a day at the beach, make sure you don’t forget one. Not only do they look cute, but they will also protect you from the suns harsh rays.
Many establishments don’t allow beachgoers to wear just a swimsuit, so this is where the cover-up is essential. Most of my cover-ups come from Pitusa.
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to Sri Lanka then good walking shoes should be your top concern.
No matter what you will need a beach bag when heading to the beach. This is to throw in anything like towels, a book, a speaker, sunglasses, snacks, and sunscreen. As full-time travelers, we often use our daypacks for trips to the beach since a tote is unnecessary.
However, a classic tote that everyone has in their closet is a great option for those on short trips or live close to the beach. They also travel well as they can fold flat and lie in your luggage. For family beach goers I recommend a large yet durable beach tote like this one.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Sri Lanka. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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