Best Time To Visit Sri Lanka

Complete guide to consider on best time to visit Sri Lanka. It includes weather patterns in detail, events you must know & even the times you should avoid

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Sri Lanka is considered a year round destination where anyone can travel around the country, anytime of the year. Whatever the time you visit Sri Lanka, you can easily stay for more than 10 nights (10 nights stay is the average time spend by all the tourists to Sri Lanka) of fully active travel itinerary by selecting your favorite spots to visit. However, there are few considerations you MUST take into account prior to making the decision of the best time to visit this beautiful island Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is considered a year round destination where anyone can travel around the country, anytime of the year. Whatever the time you visit Sri Lanka, you can easily stay for more than 10 nights (10 nights stay is the average time spend by all the tourists to Sri Lanka) of fully active travel itinerary by selecting your favorite spots to visit. However, there are few considerations you MUST take into account prior to making the decision of the best time to visit this beautiful island Sri Lanka.

When it comes to the best time to visit a country, the weather is the most crucial factor to consider. If you have done a little bit of research on Sri Lanka, you might have found that Sri Lanka has two main rainy seasons. 

SEASON PERIOD AFFECTED AREAS AREAS TO TRAVEL
South West Monsoon
May to September
Matara, Galle, Bentota, Kalutara, Colombo, Negombo, Deniyaya, Matugama, Kitulgala
Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee, Pasikuda, Arugambay, Yala, Ella, Kandy, Udawalawe, Nuwaraeliya
North East Monsoon
December to February
Trincomalee, Passikuda, Galoya, Arugambay
Galle, Bentota, Yala, Udawalawe, Ella, Kandy Sigiriya, Kalpitiya, Kitulgala,

Following are some insights on Sri Lankan weather.

01. South West Monsoon Season

This is the heaviest rainfall Sri Lanka gets. Because of this reason, the area covered from this rainy season belongs to the wet zone of Sri Lanka. During the period from the end of April to the end of June, an ample rain can be expected in the areas mentioned above. But during the month of July to mid September, it will be a considerably dry season overall but you may get occasional rain in some  part of the areas mentioned. However, I should emphasise that this rain will not affect the day today lives or activities of anyone in the country. Therefore, I would suggest if someone is planning to visit Sri Lanka during May to July please avoid south and south west part of the country (areas mentioned above) while it is open to travel from July onwards. Please refer below notes, if you are a beach lover. 

02. North East monsoon

North East monsoon season only lasts for 3 months mainly in the areas mentioned above. This is the main water source to the north and north-central dry zone where the ancient civilization of Sri Lanka was. The first kingdom of Sri Lanka started nearly 2300 years ago in Anuradhapura and shifted to other areas thereafter to Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunegala which were spanning to be the kingdom for more than 15 centuries. All the cultural and heritage hotspots are located in this area and it receives a limited amount of rain throughout the year. Therefore, you would notice that there are hundreds of man made water tanks located in the north, east and north central provinces. 

Therefore, if you are a fan of culture and heritage and tropical nature and wildlife, Sri Lanka is open for you almost all the time. 

03. Inter Monsoon Seasons

Apart from the two monsoon seasons, Sri Lanka has two inter-monsoon season bridging the gap between two major monsoon seasons. Normally, this inter-monsoon rain does not last throughout the day but starts in the evening with thunderstorms. Inter-monsoon can affect the entire country but mainly the wet zone such as south, south west and south and west part of the central highlands.

04. Floods & Landslides

Floods and landslides has becoming more common during the era which climate change terribly hit the world. Historical weather patterns are now being changed and unexpected weather calamities are happening. 

Sri Lanka cannot escape the effect of climate change as a tropical island country. The diverse weather cannot be predicted but there are few instances that we could avoid such situations. 

  • Please avoid visiting areas which will be affected by highest rainfall during the monsoon rains. Normally, the month of May, it can be Galle, Matara, Rathnapura, Matugama, Aluthgama & South-west parts of the highlands such as Kitulgala, Watawala & Ginigathhena.
  • There are few roads which can be affected by the landslides. That is mainly the Hatton - Colombo road mainly and other subsidiary roads around the area.
  • Please avoid the central highland trains during heavy rains.

If you would like to read about all the beaches please read about Sri Lankan Beaches here.

If you are a person, who would love to have a few leisure days at a sunny and sandy beach where you can surf or take a dip in Sri Lanka, it is better to select the right beach area depending on your time of visit to Sri Lanka. Best time to visit Sri Lanka matters on the quality of your beach stay.

Please follow the chart below.

PERIOD BEST BEACH AREAS BEST BEACHES
December to April
South Coast South West Coast West Coast
Tangalle, Dickwella, Mirissa, Weligama, Unawatuna, Balapitiya, Kosgoda, Bentota, Induruwa, Waskaduwa, Negombo, Waikkala, Kalpitiya, Mannar
March to November
East Coast South East Coast North East Coast
Trincomalee, Nilaveli, Passikuda, Arugambay, Batticaloa Yala

Majority of Sri Lankans (Sinhalese & Tamils) celebrate their traditional new year in the month of April, particularly for 2 days although it will take a festive vibe for almost 10 days. Moreover, a semester break is given to schools for 3 good weeks and most of the government and private sector organisations will have at least a week holiday except essential jobs. Since there are a number of traditional events, most of the families will keep to their homes to celebrate the new year, partying and visiting relatives and city of Colombo can be deserted without people who travel to it daily from outside. 

Be prepared when travelling in New Year in Sri Lanka.

03. School Holidays in Sri Lanka

Holidays abroad is not very popular in Sri Lanka mainly due to the economy. Sri Lankan Rupee is weak and if one intends to travel abroad is required to spend extra in terms of currency value. Therefore, during the school holiday period, most Sri Lankans travel around the country. 

There are 3 major school holidays in Sri Lanka.

SEASON SEASON
New Year Holidays
1st two/ three weeks of the month of April
Mid Year Holidays
Month of August
Year End Holidays
Month of December
01. New Year Holidays

In a nutshell, Sri Lanka has two major seasons depending on the intensity of waves in the beaches. If you travel during the Europe Winter season, the southern beaches are ideal. However, most untouched beaches are located in the east coast and you can visit them almost 10 month of the year. But due to the reach time from Colombo to East coast, people only travel there during the summer time, normally during the June to September months.

  • Most of the public transport will not be available during these two days. (Most of the time, it is 13th and 14th of April)
  • Roadside shops and restaurants might not open on new Year's Day
  • During the first two weeks of the month, the main cities will be crowded as many people hit the streets for shopping prior to the new year.
  • All the tourists hotels will have special arrangements for these days. However, if you are staying in an accommodation of informal sector (home-stays or family guest houses), please discuss with them the arrangements.
  • Do not forget to taste some authentic, hand-made traditional new year sweets.

This is the longest and busiest school holidays in Sri Lanka. Due to the summer holidays in Europe, this is the congested tourist season in Sri Lanka. However, major tourists attractions such as Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Kandy will be busy especially during the weekends.

Please note that Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, specially Nuwaraeliya and surrounding area can be extremely busy with locals and do not forget that there are lots of events happening in little England Sri Lanka; Nuwaraeliya.

Visit the Sri Lanka Tailormade Holiday page to receive a free personalised travel plan to Sri Lanka.

02. Mid Year Holidays

Due to the urbanized lifestyle, it is a new trend that Sri Lankans started travelling during the new year holidays. Therefore, some of the tourist hotels will be occupied by locals than normal during this period. 

Most importantly, during the Sinhala and Tamil new year period, there are new year festivals, celebrations and fun events available in your hotels and even in public places. Make Sure when you are visiting Sri Lanka during the festival season, to participate in some of these fun events and experience the friendly Sri Lankan culture.

03. Year End Holidays

Most of the time, this holiday will spans for a month or more. Since it is the end of the year, local people will travel around the country. Therefore, typical local attractions can be busy. Since people get bonuses and other allowances, people do shop a lot during this month. Hence it is advised to avoid main cities when you are travelling. Colombo and suburban areas might be congested with heavy traffic jams. 

Every country has its own culture and identity. This reflects from traditional events they have. Sri Lanka also has few annual events which reflects its traditional identity. Most of these events attract huge local crowd hence it is advised to avoid the entire area if you do not wish to watch or participate the events.

01. Kandy Perahara

Arguably, the most attractive traditional cultural event in Sri Lanka. Kandy Perahara is a procession with a large number of traditional dancers and tamed elephants who showcases the tooth relic around the city of Kandy. Normally, Kandy Perahara takes place at the end of the month of July or beginning of August. The dates will be decided by a committee around the month of March. Kandy Perahara will be touring for 14 nights from night to dawn. 

During the Perahara period, the hotels in Kandy has a tight occupancy due to the high demand from foreign tourists. Most of the hotels have extra supplement charge during this period. Therefore, it is advisable to reserve the hotels in advance if you wish to witness this glamorous event. 

02. Other Processions

While, the Kandy Perahera is the biggest procession in Sri Lanka, there are few other processions organised by several Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka which are equally beautiful and attractive. Dates and areas of them are listed below. The dates of these festivals are not fixed since it is decided by organising committees of each event.

  • Gangaramaya Procession, Colombo - Month of February each year
  • Bellanwila Procession, Colombo - Month of August
  • Kataragama Procession, Kataragama (South-West) - Month of July
03. The Gathering - The Largest Elephant Gathering in Asia

Sri Lanka is famed to have the highest density of elephants in the World. Travelers from the countries which do not have elephants, would love to enjoy elephants while they are visiting Sri Lanka. Almost all the designated national parks have wild elephants but if you wish to watch the largest elephant herd, you should not miss the elephant gathering in Minneriya and Kawdulla national parks each year from the month July to the month of November.

04. Whale watching

Not only the biggest animal on land but also the biggest animal on earth could be witnessed while you are travelling in beautiful Sri Lanka. 

Mirissa

Mirissa is the best place to watch whales in Sri Lanka. Due to the weather in the area, generally the best time for whale watching is from the month of December to April during the year. 

Trincomalee

Trincomalee is the other location to watch whales in Sri Lanka. If you cannot visit December to April in Sir Lanka and you are eager to watch whales, please select a date from June to September and visit Trincomalee.

Kalpitiya

Kalpitiya is a beautiful beach location in north west coast of Sri Lanka not very far from the capital. However, Kalpitiya is not ideal for whale watching but one of the best places for Dolphin watching in Sri Lanka from the month of December to March.

05. Adam’s Peak season

Adams’s peak is the most famous and historical pilgrimage in Sri Lanka. This will take around 4-6 hours to climb and less time to come down. Tourists can take it as a trek from less crowded routes from Rathnapura than the main route. The pilgrimage season starts on the Full moon poya day of December and ends from the month of May. 

This pilgrimage is popular among locals of all ages and full moon days of the months and long weekends can be crowded with many locals. Weekends also can be busy. (Read More)

05. Closures of National Parks

Due to the large number of visitations and continuous dry weather lasting in the area, have lead to yearly scheduled closure for Yala National park, the most popular national park in Sri Lanka. 

If you are a fan of tropical wildlife and prefer visiting Yala, reconsider travelling from 1st of September to 31st of October (2 months) each year. 

However, this closure is applicable to the main gate and one part of the national park. Few other blocks of the park is open as normal for the visitors.

Wildlife department of Sri Lanka decides to close the Wilpattuwa National Park time to time due to the long dry seasons. But those are not pre-scheduled. Look out for updated information from online sources or from your travel agent for the best time to visit Sri Lanka if you are a fan of tropical wildlife. 

06. Times Crowded With Locals

Best time to visit Sri Lanka has positive and negative relationship with locals’ event calendar. On one hand, local events can help visitors to experience the spirit of Sri Lanka while on the other hand, congested road conditions can negatively affect the overall travel experience.

01. Full Moon Poya Days

Full moon day of each month is a public holiday in Sri Lanka which has a religious significance to Buddhism. If one of the days you travel in Sri Lanka lies on a Full Moon Poya day, make sure to avoid Buddhist temples, especially the main Buddhist cities such as Kandy & Anuradhapura which are likely to be crowded.

02. Big Matches of City Schools and Cricket Matches

You might already know that Sri Lanka is a country of Cricket. 

It is a recent trend that students of schools are parading around the roads prior to their annual cricket matches with their brother schools. This can happen in major cities such as Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Kurunegala, Matara etc. 

Normally, the cricket big match season lies between the month of February to March. These are not harmful but can create large crowds and traffic jams on the road. If possible avoid these areas to save your time. Locals can always help you on this.

07. Most Expensive periods to Travel

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Sri Lanka is becoming a year round destination. However, the seasonality factor still plays a crucial role. 

Let me give you the below scale in order to understand the prices of the hotels in Sri Lanka.

As an idea, the price is always a crucial factor, but the cheapest times may not be the best time to visit Sri Lanka if you consider the other factors too.

1 = Lowest Price

10 = Highest Price

** Please note that from 20th December to 10th January of each year the price is equal to 10 of the below price scale
Hotel prices range by months- Sri Lanka

08. Be Adventuristic

Most of the well concerned factors to decide the best time to visit Sri Lanka is descriptively discussed above. The information is provided for you to make the decision depending on your requirement. 

However, if you are a person who would like to experience the real Sri Lanka, feel free to use the information and try something different. Example, one of the local adventuristic things is to climb the Adam’s peak during the off season. It can be rainy and windy but you will get a different experience. If you are capable to spend a day during the VESAK POYA DAY (The main full moon day in May on when lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and demise occurred) in Anuradhapura, you could experience the rituals and other behaviours of Sri Lankan Buddhists.

Again, the information are provided for you to make the decision, but we are more than  happy to assist you on making the decision on best time to visit Sri Lanka or any other thing related to Sri Lankan Travel. So feel free to comment below or reach us via email or WhatsApp.

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