The best time to visit Sri Lanka depends on which side of the island you have in mind. With two distinct monsoon seasons affecting different sides of the island at different times of year, Sri Lanka’s weather patterns are complex – though surprisingly predictable – and if you time your visit well you can be confident of experiencing sunny skies and mostly dry days.
The Weather & Climate in Sri Lanka
December to March is considered the optimum period for travelling to Sri Lanka, being the driest months on the popular west and south coasts, in the Cultural Triangle and the Hill Country. It is also the best time to see marine wildlife in Sri Lanka with many kinds of whales visible off the south coast near Mirissa, including the blue whale, the world's largest.
If you are looking to visit Sri Lanka over Christmas and New Years, we recommend booking as far in advance as possible. The dry and warm climate at this time of year makes the festive period the country's most popular time for overseas visitors and the best hotels get booked up in advance.
The weather in April and around Easter in Sri Lanka is a little wetter as the monsoon begins to move in to the south-west of the island. The waves start to get bigger and it's not the best time to relax on the beach here but it's still an excellent time to spot marine wildlife - whales, fish and turtles. The hill country and cultural triangle still enjoy warm and dry weather and you might want to consider visiting the east coast of Sri Lanka for some beach-time depending on how late in the month you are visiting.
May to September is the best time to visit the lesser-visited but equally beautiful east coast, when many of the beaches on the opposite side of the island are experiencing the monsoon. The Hill Country can see some rain but temperatures are still warm. During the school summer holidays, the best places to visit are the North and East including the Cultural Triangle - you can stay in Dambulla and visit many of Sri Lanka's popular highlights from here.
The weather in October and November remains warm throughout the country but it can get a lot wetter. There may still be some showers on the south west coast and the north and east coasts may see the first showers of their monsoon season. The hill country around Ella can also get a little wet. As we head into November and the end of the year, the chance of rain in the south and east diminishes as the monsoon season ends. The beaches begin to look their best in time for peak season.
Temperatures are high throughout the year, staying close to an average of 27 degrees Celsius, and often rising to above 30.
The Best Time for Wildlife in Sri Lanka
One of the best reasons to visit Sri Lanka is for it's incredible range of land and marine wildlife. It boasts some of the best wildlife viewing in Asia and there are wildlife opportunities year round.
With December being peak season to travel to Sri Lanka, particularly over the Christmas period, we would not recommend travelling if wildlife watching and safaris are your main priority. The large numbers of tourists and jeeps on the road can drive the wildlife further into the bush making them difficult to spot. If you can be flexible on dates, consider travelling between January and March when there aren't as many visitors.
January to March are some of the best times to visit Sri Lanka for wildlife. As the weather gets hotter, the watering holes dry up meaning animals have to travel further to drink. These means there are fewer places to spot wildlife increasing your chances considerably. January to March is also the best time for whale watching in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world for whale watching and you can spot blue, humpback or sperm whales from Mirissa harbour.
Wildlife can also be spotted between April and June. It is perhaps the best time to visit Sri Lanka for wildlife as with less tourists, there is more to see. During these months, leopards and elephants might bathe in the sunshine with limited places to cool off.
Between July and September, the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world can be seen in Minneriya National Park. They come out in huge numbers at sunset to drink, play and mate. It's also a fantastic time to visit Yala National Park and spot leopards and bears. The weather in drier so it's a good opportunity to camp out under the stars.
Whilst October and November are not the best time to travel to Sri Lanka, if you are a twitcher or a fan of birdlife, it's an excellent time to visit Uda Walawe National Park to see migrating birds.