Discover the best time to travel to Sri Lanka depending on your specific interests including advice on where and when to travel for wildlife spotting, cultural sights and Sri Lanka's lively festivals. For those travelling with children we look at which regions are best for visiting in the school holidays.
The elephant gathering at Minneriya National Park is one of the wildlife highlights of the country and takes place in August and September when the dry season parches the lowlands, forcing the elephants to move on in search of food and water. For many, seeing leopards in the wild in Yala National Park is a true wildlife highlight and the optimum time for a leopard safari is between March and October. Off the deep south coast in Mirissa and Dondra Point, as well as Kalpitiya in the northwest, blue whales and sperm whales can be seen between November and April, whilst off the east coast near Trincomalee the ideal time to view whales is between May and August. Keen birders should aim for travel between November and April when there is less rainfall and migrants boost the bird population.
The area known as the Cultural Triangle is located to the north of the island, the location of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This whole area is home to scores of temples and ruins. The sacred city of Anuradhapura, hidden away in the jungle, is famous for its enormous dagobas, ancient architectural feats of their time only surpassed in scale by the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. June to September is the best time for visiting the Cultural Triangle with minimal rainfall, although the incredible sights of this region can be enjoyed year round.
A highlight of many an itinerary to Sri Lanka, the Esala Perahera festival, honouring the sacred tooth relic of the buddha, takes place in Kandy at the end of July/early August and lasts around ten days – this is an exceptionally busy time to visit and accommodation can be sold out far in advance so we recommend planning well in advance if this is something you wish to see. Sri Lanka’s Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations also take place in April, and these traditional events are when Sri Lankans usually return home to see their families - and they can be lively affairs.
For beach lovers, Sri Lanka's best beaches can be found on the southern and western coastlines of the country which are best visited January to March when there is plenty of sunshine and minimal rainfall. Swimming in the sea outside of these months on the south and west coasts is not advised. The east coast of Sri Lanka is best enjoyed from June to September, although the beaches tend to be less developed with fewer facilities in this part of the country.
Sri Lanka in the School Holidays
For those travelling with school age children Sri Lanka is an excellent destination with good seasons for travel conveniently coinciding with school holidays. The Easter holiday break is the perfect time to visit the south and western part of the country; perfect for a combined wildlife and beach holiday. For those looking to travel in the summer holidays an east coast wildlife and culture holiday is ideal, including the famous elephant gathering in Minneriya National Park, exploring the Cultural Triangle and hitting the beach.
When to go to Sri Lanka if you want to experience...
- Swimming with Sea Turtles: Best when the waters are cam, from November to April in Hikkadura it is possible to swim with these incredible creatures.
- Bird Watching: A great time is the northeast monsoon, migratory waterfowl flock to the lagoons in Yala (Nov-Jan). December is National Bird Watching Month.
- Tea Plantations: The dry season from December – April is the best time to enjoy scenic walks and cycle trails in the region.
- Adam’s Peak: February to April is the best time as it is dry, it does get very busy during the pilgrimage season in January and February.
- Wildlife Photography: Can be best in the wet season from November – January in Yala with seasonal flowers and lush vegetation.