Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka by Month
Keen to book that trip to Sri Lanka but not sure when or where to go? Here we’ve looked at what each month of the year has to offer across the country so you can take advantage of the best weather conditions.
During the first month of the year, the monsoon continues in the northeast of Sri Lanka. January is therefore a great time to explore the southwest of the country, perhaps sightseeing in cities such as Colombo and Galle or hitting the beaches of Bentota, Tangalle and Weligama. The beaches all along the southern and western coasts experience minimal rainfall, hot temperatures and plenty of sunshine, so January is the perfect month for some relaxation.
The central regions of the Cultural Triangle and Sri Lanka’s Hill Country are likely to be receiving a little rainfall, with cooler temperatures in high altitude areas. If you’re looking to do a wildlife safari in Yala National Park or Wilpattu National Park, these areas will be very hot. However, sightings can be good as animals gather around water holes.
The good weather continues across the southwest of Sri Lanka in February, with minimal rainfall, high temperatures and the coastlines basked in sunshine.
This is a great month to combine some beachside relaxation with a wildlife safari. National Parks such as Wilpattu, Udawalawe and Yala are dry and offer good sightings as animals gather around water holes. You have a great chance of spotting leopards in Yala National Park, as they like to bask in the bright sun.
Temperatures remain cooler in the Hill Country, however Sri Lanka’s central regions are reasonably dry. Visitors can enjoy pleasant sightseeing of the Sigiriya rock fortress and other UNESCO-listed attractions of the Cultural Triangle.
With the best weather across the entire country, March is considered the best month to travel to Sri Lanka. It’s mainly hot and dry, with little rainfall, so no matter what you’re looking to do in Sri Lanka – you’ll have the weather to do it.
The beaches of the southwest are still perfect for sunbathing, while rain showers are few and far between in the northeast as the monsoon season has come to an end. Temperatures are rising and the beaches in this region are getting ready for visitors. Kalpitiya, in the northwest, also sees the start of its kite surfing season.
In terms of scenery, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and the surrounding tea regions are at their most spectacular in March. And conditions are great for exploring Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and the other sights of the famous Cultural Triangle.
Wildlife sightings in Sri Lanka’s national parks are also wonderful in March. Plenty of leopards can be spotted out enjoying the sunshine in Yala National Park and you’ll be able to see plenty of elephants in Udawalawe. All things considered, March really is a fantastic time to visit, bringing you the very best of Sri Lanka.
While the beginning of April is similar to March, as it nears May the monsoon rains begin to fall in Sri Lanka’s southwest. Beachgoers should then turn their sights towards the east coast to enjoy blue skies and plenty of sunshine. Top spots include Arugam Bay, Uppuveli, Nilaveli, Passekudah and Kalkudah beaches.
April is still a great month for exploring the sights of the Cultural Triangle or for taking a wildlife safari. You’ll likely spot leopards in Yala National Park and Udawalawe is good for elephants, buffalo and crocodiles.
Rainfall in the hill country surrounding Kandy and Nuwara Eliya is well below the monthly average and, as temperatures are still very pleasant, this can be a great time to do some trekking. Same as March, April is a great month to experience wildlife, beach and culture all in one trip.
In May the monsoon is in full swing in the southwest of the country, with rains not only affecting the coast but much of the hill country as well. For this reason, it's also the low season in Sri Lanka, so you won’t encounter as many other travelers if you choose to travel this month. Although note that this is the gentler of Sri Lanka’s two monsoons, with short showers that tend to disappear quite quickly.
If you’re looking to hit Sri Lanka's beaches, we recommend heading to the northeast, where beaches such as Trincomalee enjoy consistently high temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Wildlife lovers can still head to Yala National Park, located in the southeast, to track leopards and elephants.
The south-west monsoon is still underway in Sri Lanka, making June a rainy month on these coasts and inland. Although some days can still be dry, you’ll need to pack for wet weather if you’re planning to travel Sri Lanka this month.
Similarly to May, if you’re looking for some beachside relaxation, it’s best to head to Trincomalee or Arugam Bay in the northeastern parts of the country. And if you’re keen to go on safari, Yala National Park is the place to go. The Cultural Triangle is still pleasant to visit in June, so stick to the north, east and center of the country if travelling this month.
As the monsoon begins to ease off in the southwest of Sri Lanka, there's a slight improvement in weather conditions. Although it becomes drier, this region is still subject to odd showers and it’s difficult to predict when the rains will end.
Despite this, temperatures remain high across the country at roughly 29-30°C, with the Cultural Triangle hotter than the coast. The beaches of the north and east coasts continue to enjoy blue skies and plenty of sunshine, so this is where to head if you’re looking for sun, sea and sand.
July also sees the start of a unique phenomenon in Minneriya National Park, with hundreds of elephants found at the Minneriya Tank. Known as ‘The Gathering’, this is the largest meeting of Asian elephants anywhere in the world.
August is an inter-monsoon month so, whilst the southwest still experiences the odd shower here and there, the weather is generally good across Sri Lanka and temperatures average around 29°C.
Beaches in the northeast continue to be hot and dry. However, on the south and west coasts it’s best to stay on the sand as swimming in the sea is often not recommended. If travelling in this region, August is a good time to explore the cities of Colombo and Galle.
The Cultural Triangle experiences high temperatures and minimal rainfall, while the hill country remains cooler than the rest of Sri Lanka with chilly nights. Elephants are still gathering in Minneriya National Park, so wildlife lovers still have the chance to witness this incredible spectacle.
Another inter-monsoon month, September sees the last rain showers in the southeast. Simultaneously, the northeast experiences its final weeks of sunshine before the monsoon creeps in. For this reason, this month is considered a shoulder season and, if you’re lucky, can be a fantastic time to travel.
Sri Lanka’s interior is hot and humid, with a high chance of rainfall – although downpours are typically short and quickly disappear to reveal the sunshine again. September is also the final month to witness ‘The Gathering’ of elephants in Minneriya National Park. Due to the heat and aridity, Yala National Park is often closed for the month to allow wildlife to roam freely for water.
The northeast monsoon begins to blow in October. As the heavier of Sri Lanka’s two monsoons, this monsoon brings heavy rain and strong winds – often impacting the whole country rather than just the northwest. The weather can be highly unpredictable, with the chance of cyclones too, so travelers may be lucky and have sunshine for their trip or it could rain every day.
As this is not the best time to visit Sri Lanka, prices are often cheaper. So if you’re not fazed by the bad weather, you could bag yourself some bargains. Bird watchers can also head to Udawalawe National Park as this is a good time to spot migratory species.
The northeast monsoon continues throughout November, making this one of the wettest months to travel in Sri Lanka. There is potential for high winds and rain across the country, although the south and west coasts generally see less rainfall, particularly towards the end of the month.
If you’re after guaranteed sun, November is not the time to visit Sri Lanka. Rainfall is also high in the hill country and the Cultural Triangle. Touring of these sites is still possible, however, if you’re visiting Sri Lanka in November, it’s best to stick to cities such as Colombo and Galle to discover their architecture, museums and eateries.
December sees dry season officially return to Sri Lanka’s southwest, so if you’re looking to soak up the sun you can expect bright skies and high temperatures in beach areas such as Negombo, Mirissa and Bentota.
The Cultural Triangle and Sri Lanka’s hill country still experience heavy rainfall in December. However, this can be an exceptionally beautiful time to visit Ella and the surrounding tea plantations as the landscape is at its most lush and green. Wildlife parks are good to visit at this time, however it can be harder spot animals amongst the foliage.
The excellent beach weather in the southwest, combined with the stunning central landscapes and the Christmas holidays mean that December is the start of peak season in Sri Lanka. Expect high prices and you may wish to book your accommodation in advance.
For further help planning your trip to Sri Lanka, take a look at our Travel Guide resources:
Best Places to Visit - Sri Lanka's top archaeological sites, beaches and reserves
Best Time to Visit - climate and seasons in Sri Lanka
Tourist Visas - know what visas you need before you travel
Top Travel Tips - useful information on Sri Lankan food and transport
Traveler Reviews - see what our travelers say about our Sri Lanka tours
The Cultural Triangle - our guide to the best sites, when to visit and handy tips
Wildlife in Sri Lanka - the island's most popular animals and where to find them
Sri Lanka's Best Beaches - top 10 beaches and recommended accommodation