In recent years, Sri Lanka has emerged as one of the best tourist destinations in Asia, because this small island nation off the southern edge of India has an incredible wealth of diversity.
You can explore biodiverse forests and wetlands, go on safari in search of elephants or leopards, or whale watching along the extensive coastline.
There are glorious beaches, colonial ruins and ancient cities waiting to be explored.
But it’s important to know the best time to visit Sri Lanka because while the country’s southern location near the equator ensures that it enjoys warm temperatures all year round, you need to be wary of the monsoons.
Different parts of the country are hit at different times of the war by prevailing monsoons that bring with them wind and rain.
The north and eastern coast is hit between November and March, while the south and west coast are hit between April and September.
Luckily though, that means that there’s always a great place to visit any time of the year in Sri Lanka. To help you plan your trip, here’s our month by month breakdown on the best time to visit Sri Lanka.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Sri Lanka (Travel Guide)
Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka: Month by Month Breakdown
January in Sri Lanka
January is a great time to be in the southwest of Sri Lanka because this part of the country is dry and the weather is wonderfully pleasant – it’s not humid and it’s not too hot.
The days are remarkably sunny and there are few clouds in the sky, but of course, with optimal temperatures, comes peak tourist season.
Those temperatures range between 20 and 30 degrees depending on your location, which draws in many winter sun-seekers from across the northern hemisphere too.
January might be the best time to visit Sri Lanka, but everyone else will have the same idea too, especially in the southwest which is the tourist hot spot.
Yaks National Park is one d the most popular destinations in January, and it’s worth the higher costs and busier tracks because you’ll be able to see a wealth of wildlife in the wilderness.
The animals are easy to spot in the dry season, and you’ll be able to find elephants, leopards and perhaps even a sloth.
February in Sri Lanka
February is also the best time to visit Sri Lanka to explore the south and west coasts too, but these sides of the island are rain-free.
The north and east coasts, on the other hand, are right now being lashed with heavy rain and storms from the prevailing monsoon.
February is busy in the south though, but the weather is beautiful. Head to Marissa, along the coast, where you can enjoy fantastic white sand beaches and sit under swaying palm trees in a tropical idyll.
Mirissa is a great destination for whale watching and dolphin spotting and February is the perfect time to be there.
This is the middle of the whale watching season here, which runs from November through to April, and concludes with the dry season.
March in Sri Lanka
March is the last month of the dry season in the southwest before the monsoon winds arrive bringing with them rainstorms for the next half of the year.
This is your last opportunity to enjoy the southwest at its best because the weather is hot but the humidity has yet to arrive.
Again, head to Mirissa for the whale and dolphin tours, or explore Yala National Park to see the flora and fauna.
While Yala might be dry, and the scenery isn’t that great to look at, the wildlife is easy to spot because of the lack of greenery.
As watering holes empty, the animals will congregate around particular areas where they can find water and hence they’ll be easier to find when on safari.
April in Sri Lanka
April is still a good time to visit the southwest beaches, even as the monsoon begins to arrive along the coast.
It’s still sunny and temperatures are climbing ever higher, so you can spend your days lazing on the beaches.
It’s a good time for wildlife spotting too, so head to the national parks for some safari adventures.
Temperatures can be high in April though, so you might want to consider heading inland and into the more mountainous regions.
This is the best time to visit Sri Lanka to see iconic highland destinations such as Ella or Kandy and to rise the famous picturesque terrain into the Central Highlands.
At higher elevations, you’ll escape the worst of the April heat, and did some great hiking spots and tea plantations to visit.
May in Sri Lanka
May is when the southwest monsoon really begins to hit home and this is a month when the low season begins in Sri Lanka.
But while the tourist destinations in the south and west might be rainy and wet, it’s a different story in the north.
In fact, this is the best time to visit Sri Lanka to explore the northeast coast, where you’ll find a dry climate and hot and sunny days as the monsoon ended weeks ago here.
Visit Trincomalee to enjoy the beaches of the east coast and to see the whales as they migrate here.
If you want to escape the heat, then head into the highlands, although be prepared for a few rain showers here too.
June in Sri Lanka
June is still low season across Sri Lanka because the monsoon is ravaging the south and west and temperatures across the country are at their highest.
If you visit in June, you’ll get some bargains on flights and accommodation, but you’ll want to stay as far north as you can to escape the rains and the heat.
July in Sri Lanka
The low season trend continues through July, as the rain cause havoc along the southwest coastlines.
Again, head north and get off the beaten track as you’ll find a wealth of intriguing destinations to discover in the dry and sunny parts of the country.
Explore ancient cities or go whale watching along the coast and see a part of Sri Lanka that few tourists ever make the effort to visit, at a time when there are few tourists anywhere in the country.
August in Sri Lanka
August is still low season across Sri Lanka however the extremely high summer temperatures are starting to lower and actually, the monsoon in the southwest begins to calm down.
While there will be rain, it’s not quite so fierce, and the northeast still remains totally dry.
This is a great month for safari, because in Minneriya National Park the animals are all gathered at the watering holes, and it’s a famed time to see the herds of elephants as they move across the plains.
In Yala National Park in the youth, the lighter rains make the park more accessible while the flora is at its most extant and green, after the heavy monsoons.
It’s a lovely time to explore this part of Sri Lanka, as most tourists will only ever experience safaris in the dry season.
September in Sri Lanka
The east coast is on top form in September, because while the southwest still experiences rainfall and the north is beginning to be hit by the monsoon too, places like Trincomalee and Arugam Bay at their best.
The sun is out in force here and you can explore the long coastline and enjoy the spectacular beaches.
You’ll even catch the whales in action too, so take a tour out in search of these beautiful marine mammals.
The east coast is still developing in terms of tourism, but now is the best time to visit Sri Lanka to see this part of the country while it’s still rustic and authentic.
October in Sri Lanka
The southwest monsoon will be ending now, so it’s a good time to visit the more touristy parts of Sri Lanka before the high season crowds arrive.
The weather is still hot and muggy but it’s mostly dry, and you’ll see Yala National Park as it’s resplendent with green scenery.
The east coast is also beautiful in October and it’s the last chance to experience the beaches before the northeast monsoon hits.
November in Sri Lanka
November is the tentative start to the high season in Sri Lanka because temperatures are lower and the climate is cooler.
The southwest is now dry and sunny and attracting tourists, but it’s still a good time to explore before the December rush begins during the Christmas holidays.
December in Sri Lanka
December is peak season in Sri Lanka, because Christmas and New Year holidays bring in travelers and vacation-goers from across the world, especially those looking for winter sun.
This is the best time to visit Sri Lanka to explore the southwest coast, as temperatures are hovering between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius.
It’s incredibly dry and sunny and the perfect time to be relaxing on the beaches.
Along the southwest coast, you’ll find whales and dolphins and it’s a great time to take a boat tour.
Equally, you can just take the chance to relax and unwind in the glorious weather as you spend Christmas Day in the sunshine.
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2 thoughts on “Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka: Month by Month Breakdown”
This is a very helpful guide. I would love to visit Sri Lanka (once all this craziness is over) and had no idea when to go. It seems there’s really pros/cons to every month, but I think August would be a perfect time for me to visit because I’d looove to see animals at the watering hole! Thanks for the guide!
Glad to hear you found our information helpful for planning your trip to Sri Lanka! You’re exactly right, the best time really depends on what your travel goals are. August is a great time for viewing wildlife! Hoping you can go this year(fingers crossed). Cheers.