RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL GUIDE: SRI LANKA
Discover how to travel responsibly and ethically in Sri Lanka. Prepare for your Sri Lanka holiday with our responsible travel guide.
Sunshine and consistently warm temperatures make Sri Lanka a popular destination throughout the year.
A tropical country close to the equator, Sri Lanka also has two monsoon seasons affecting different coasts at different times of the year.
The northeast monsoon season affects the east coast between the months of October and January, whereas the southwest monsoon affects the west and south coasts of Sri Lanka from May to July.
Also, being an island country, the climate in Sri Lanka changes dramatically from one place to another. This means that you can find good weather somewhere in the country at any given time.
The southwest coast and central hills are best visited from December to April, and better weather can be experienced in the northern region during British summertime (May to September).
When there isn’t a monsoon period, in the months of October to November, the weather is unsettled that can result in sporadic rainfall and thunderstorms anywhere on the island. Whenever you decide to go, be prepared with rain gear and sun lotion just in case.
January is a great month to visit Sri Lanka offering wildlife sightseeing opportunities and o plenty of sunshine on the beaches. Sri Lanka has warm temperatures throughout the island, with daytime highs of around 30°c.
The beaches on both the sides of the island receive plenty of sunshine and minimal rainfall. In the east, Yala and Wilpattu Nationals parks become hot and dry, making it perfect for wildlife sightseeing as the animals gather around water reservoirs.
The central hill area plantations, especially around Nuwara Eliya, remains cool due to the high altitude and low rainfall. Even the Cultural Triangle area is likely to receive little rainfall and so is a good place to explore.
In the south, dolphins, blue whales and sperm whales can be spotted off the coast near Mirissa and Kalpitiya beaches.
You might even see a few flying fish jumping out of the water as they migrate to warmer waters. The full moon day of January marks the first visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka which is celebrated with a procession in Colombo.
February is another good time to visit Sri Lanka as the good weather of January continues throughout February with dry conditions in Uda Walawe and Wilpattu National Parks creating good opportunities for wildlife spotting.
February also offers the best chance of spotting leopards basking in the sun at Yala National Park. The Cultural Triangle continues to experience warm and dry weather in February, and the early mornings are great for climbing up Sigiriya rock.
The temperatures around Nuwara Eliya remain cooler, but predominantly dry due to the higher altitude. It is also a good month for trekking the beautiful forest trails along the ‘Knuckles Mountain’ range near Kandy.
The south and west coast are brimming with sunshine and enjoying high temperatures of up to 31°c.
Even on the north and eastern coasts, less rainfall is expected in February than other months, making this the perfect time for visiting beaches anywhere in Sri Lanka.
Along with Uda Walawe and Wilpattu, the national parks of Yala, Sinharaja and Bundala offer excellent conditions for spotting elephants, buffalo and countless bird species.
Predominantly a dry month, March is the best month to explore the whole island of Sri Lanka as it has the best weather across every region. With on average 9 hours of sun every day, and temperatures hovering around 30-32°c, Sri Lanka looks beautiful.
Temperatures continue to rise along the south and west coast with a little rainfall in the later stages of the month as monsoon season approaches.
However, the rains usually bring the temperatures down by a few degrees and the short showers are warm and pleasant. The North and east coast areas should remain dry.
Wildlife spotting remains easier in March, and marine life in the south coast is abundant. Take a boat out for the chance to see a few different whale species along with dolphins, turtles and a few flying fish.
The tea plantations around Nuwara Eliya are at their peak as the higher altitude keeps the temperatures around a cool 25°c. The March winds also mark the start of the season for kitesurfing on the northwest beach of Kalpitiya.
April is one of the hottest months in Sri Lanka as coasts on all sides of the island enjoy plenty of sunshine; perfect for a beach holiday. The north and east coasts remain warm throughout the month, however, the beaches on the south and west coasts start to experience the monsoon rains in the later part of April.
While it is still possible to travel there, the heavy downpours may delay transportation. If you head to the eastern coasts, you should be able to find clear skies and sunshine.
In the cultural triangle area, temperatures rise to highs of 32°c, and the region doesn’t see much rainfall in April.
It’s wise to do sightseeing in the early mornings before it gets too hot and it’s advisable to avoid climbing Sigiriya Rock in the afternoon, and instead, plan to go early in the morning to avoid the heat.
Kandy and the nearby area also sees very little rainfall, making April an idea month for hiking the Knuckle mountain range.
The full moon in April marks the last chance to climb the pilgrim trail to Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada). Sinhalese and Tamil new year, generally known as Aluth Avurudda, is celebrated on the 14th of April and most cities will have a festive atmosphere and parades.
May is a good time to visit Sri Lanka, although you might run into some rain. A lot of sunshine is expected on the northeastern side of the island, but the southwest monsoons are starting to hit the island from the Indian Ocean.
Between the daily downpours you may still get sunshine, but expect cloudy and wet days with high humidity. The tea plantations in the middle of the country will be wet and misty, restricting the beautiful views of the region.
The rainfall and clouds might drop the temperature making it colder in the centre and southwest of Sri Lanka.
Over the central mountains, the east coast has the best beach weather with sunshine and very little chance of rain.
Expect temperatures around 30°c under the strong sun, and both the Cultural Triangle area and Kandy will also be hot and dry. The full moon in May is an important Buddhist holiday marking Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.
Plan your trip a little carefully in June, to avoid the southwest monsoons hitting the island. The tea plantation area, as well as the south and west coasts of Sri Lanka, are under the influence of heavy monsoons, though the rainfall is not as bad as in the previous month.
There should be a few days without rain, but expect the region to be overcast, humid and quite hot (around 30°c). The tea plantations in the central area of the island are also wet and overcast, with low hanging mist all day.
This severely restricts the usually impressive views over the region, and the moisture in the area will make the average temperatures of 24°c feel chilly.
On the north and east coasts of Sri Lanka, the weather remains dry and bright for beachgoers. While there might be an occasional shower, this region will usually have seven hours of sun a day.
The Cultural Triangle area also experience higher temperatures and minimum rainfall in June, making June a good time to visit the northeast and central parts of Sri Lanka.
July sees the end of the southwest monsoon season, with the region becoming drier and clearer. Weather across the south and west coasts start to clear up, with sunnier days, and only a small chance of rain at the end of the month.
If the monsoons do still linger, then the rain will come in short and sharp showers, as opposed to the longer downpours in the previous months.
The north and east side of Sri Lanka is still warm, dry and sunny, with the best beaches in July being around the cities of Trincomalee and Passekudah.
The whole of Sri Lanka experiences pleasant weather in July, although the culture triangle region is the warmest, with highs of 30°c.The higher elevation of the tea plantation region means temperatures average around a cooler 25°c.
Head to Colombo for the Hindu festival of Vel Adi to honour the War God Skanda, with the streets filled with bright clothes and parades.
August is a good month to visit Sri Lanka, as it is a dry month between the two monsoon seasons.
The southern and eastern beaches become sunny again, although there might be occasional rainfall and swimming isn’t recommended.
Good weather is expected in the north and along the east coast so if you are looking for guaranteed sun, head to this region. Temperatures range from 25-30°c across the country, and remain higher on the coasts and cooler up in the hills and tea plantations.
Further north in the Cultural Triangle, temperatures remain at a high around 30c, with little wind, making the midday heat feel even stronger than usual.
Plan to do sightseeing or climb Sigiriya rock in the early morning to avoid the heat.
August is a month of religious celebrations in several parts of the country; don’t miss the colourful processions and traditional dancing for Esala Perahera - the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha.
September is not a good time to visit Sri Lanka as cyclones start to hit the island, becoming a more common occurrence towards the end of the month.
With the cyclones come heavy rain and high winds. Sri Lanka's interior remains hot and humid with some rainfall, although the temperatures around the tea plantations will be cooler, around 25-27°c.
The eastern coast offers the best chance for good weather in September, with chances of sunshine and clear days.
Expect some rain towards the end of the month, but if you are visiting Sri Lanka, it's better to spend more time on the east coast to experience the beautiful beaches in the sun.
In the last few years, Yala National Park has closed sections off from the public for renovations and conservation, so if you plan on visiting Yala check for any potential closures in advance.
October is not a great month to visit Sri Lanka as you will run into monsoons across the country.
There is a clash between drying winds from the southwest and the monsoons arriving from the northeast, meaning sporadic rainfall across the country, high winds and even the occasional cyclone.
While it is still possible to explore the country, it is not as enjoyable as other drier months, and it will be harder to spot wildlife, as they retreat into the denser areas of jungle to protect themselves from the rain and wind.
Rainfall is present on all coasts in Sri Lanka, and swimming is not recommended as the water will be choppy.
The north and eastern beaches will also start to see more rain as their monsoon season kicks in, with overcast days and longer downpours.
In the tea plantation areas there is also a lot of rainfall, which brings tea picking to a stop, but make the fields a brighter shade of green.
In the Cultural Triangle, there is less rain, with only a little expected toward the end of the month, but the weather will be dry and hot. It will be hard to escape the rain in October.
November is one of the wettest months of the year, and not the best month to visit Sri Lanka.
The northeast monsoon season is in full swing, making the north and east coasts wet and overcast.
If you are looking for beaches, then head to the south or western coasts towards the end of the month, where the sunnier days will still feature some shorter downpours.
These are the drier coasts of Sri Lanka in November, and you can enjoy an average of 7 hours of sunshine on a dry day.
Some thunderstorms will be common across the country, although it is still possible to travel and sightsee.
Temperatures will be around 28-30°c, with the Cultural Triangle in the north being a little cooler.
You can still visit most of the temples and climb Sigiriya rock on a dry day, but the views won’t be as impressive as on a clear sunny day.
December is good for Sri Lanka’s south and western coasts, which will be sunny and dry. Temperatures will average around 28°c and there will be around 7 hours of sunshine a day.
The monsoons start to hit the north and east coasts of Sri Lanka, and if you decide to travel to the Cultural Triangle, pack for rain and colder evenings.
Kandy and the tea plantations will also be cooler thanks to the elevation, but the areas will be lush and green thanks for the previous months of rain.
The full moon in December marks the beginning of the Adam's Peak (Sri Pada) pilgrimage season, which runs until May.
December might not be the best time to climb it, but a lot of local people start to make the nighttime pilgrimage, so the atmosphere is special.
Sri Lanka is a popular destination for Christmas and New Year holidays, and the limited accommodation gets filled quickly so book in advance if possible.