Destinations

When to go to Sri Lanka

The best time to go to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is often described as a year-round destination. With separate distinct weather systems that affect the climate dramatically from coast to coast, it is fair to say that at most times of the year you can find one corner or another to curl up in or explore.

In summary, the best time to go to Sri Lanka is ...

  • December to March provides the best time to visit for the most popular beach destinations on the west and southern coast, wildlife spotting such as seeing leopards in Yala National Park, and cultural attractions in the centre of the island.
  • July and August are the best times to visit for east coast beaches and to see the famous elephant gathering in Minneriya National Park.
  • February through to April provide the best times to visit for snorkelling with blue whales, a unique trip that is almost exclusively accessible to Natural World Safaris
With distinct weather patterns and a variety of different wildlife experiences dictated by the month of travel, please get in touch to receive a selection of bespoke itineraries.

When to go

Click on a month to gain an overview of Sri Lanka's weather patterns. This is a guide for the country as a whole, indicating good times to plan a holiday, taking into account popular places to visit, wildlife encounters and overall weather. 

When to avoid

While Sri Lanka is a year round destination, October is the least favourable month to travel. It is one of the wettest months of the year country-wide and cyclones can occur across the country. The weather starts to improve again towards the end of November.

When to go to Sri Lanka by Interest

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.

Wildlife

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.

Culture

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.

Festivals

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.

Beaches

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.

Sri Lanka's Climate

Learn more about the climate of Sri Lanka, the different seasons and weather patterns including the monsoon seasons and weather charts for key locations within Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has two main monsoon seasons. The southwestern areas of the island have the more traditional tropical monsoon season, in that it rains from May to August and is dry between December and March.  However, the northern and the eastern areas of the island are affected by the monsoon between October and January, tending to be at their driest between May and September. The result is that rainfall can be somewhat unpredictable throughout the year in Sri Lanka, and you may experience tropical downpours in the dry season and glorious weather in the wet season! 

The peak season for tourism is usually from December to March, when visitors tend to escape the cold.

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