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 the 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 Year, 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 into the southwest 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.
The beautiful east coast is however best visited from May to September 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 southwest 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 pleasant throughout the year, staying close to an average of 27 degrees Celsius, but can rise above 30 on the coast and in the cities.
The Best Time for Wildlife in Sri Lanka
One of the best reasons to visit Sri Lanka is for its incredible range of land and marine wildlife. It boasts some of the best wildlife viewings in Asia and there are wildlife opportunities year-round.
Although November and December is the peak season for travel to Sri Lanka, particularly over the Christmas period; for wildlife enthusiasts, we would recommend travelling between January and March. As the weather begins to warm, watering holes within the jungle begin to dry up and animals tend to venture further into the open in search of water, increasing the chances of spotting wildlife considerably. Visitor numbers also begin to drop around this time, meaning fewer jeeps in the parks so you can enjoy a richer safari experience. So if you can be flexible on dates, consider travelling a little later.
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 fewer 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 is 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.