The weather in Sri Lanka’s is rather complicated for such a small country. This is due to the fact that the island is affected by two separate monsoons, the presence of which will play a factor in deciding when to go to. On the bright side, this means that there is usually good weather somewhere on the island at most times of the year.
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When thinking about the best time to visit Sri Lanka, it’s worth bearing in mind that the basic pattern for weather in Sri Lanka as described below can vary significantly from year to year. It's also a fact that global warming has disrupted these already complex weather patterns.
Weather in Sri Lanka
Unsurprisingly, the rainfall pattern will be one of the most important factors in your decision of when to go to Sri Lanka.
The main southwest (“Yala”) monsoon brings rain to the west and southwest coasts and hill country from April/May to September (wettest from April to June).
The less severe northeast (“Maha”) monsoon hits the east coast from November to March (wettest from November to December).
There’s also a inter-monsoonal period of unsettled weather preceding the Maha monsoon in October and November. During this time heavy rainfall and thunderstorms can occur anywhere across the island.
When to go to Sri Lanka
The country’s position close to the Equator means that at least one aspect of the weather in Sri Lanka, the temperature, remains fairly constant year-round. Coastal and lowland areas enjoy average daytime temperatures of around 26–30°C. During the hottest part of the day, they can often climb up well into the 30°Cs. Temperatures decrease with altitude, reducing to a temperate 18–22°C in Kandy. In Nuwara Eliya and the highest parts of the island, on average it's a pleasantly mild 14–17°C. Nights in the hills can be quite chilly, with temperatures sometimes falling close to freezing. Humidity is often another high everywhere. It can rise to a sweltering 90% at times in the southwest, and averages 60 to 80% across the rest of the island.
In practical terms, these weather patterns mean that that when to go to Sri Lanka depends on your route. If you're heading to the west and south coasts and hill country, December to March is the best time to visit Sri Lanka. If you plan on seeing the east coast, you'll get the best weather from April/May to September.
Average temperature and rainfall
We’ve put together an average temperature and rainfall chart. This should give you a rough idea of what to expect of the weather in Sri Lanka in any given month. We’ve looked at three different areas across the country to give an overall picture and help you to decide when's the best time to visit Sri Lanka for your travel plans. We've focused on Colombo, the capital, on the west coast of the island; Nuwara Eliya in the tea country hills of central Sri Lanka; and Trincomalee on the northeast coast.
The best time to visit Sri Lanka
In a nutshell, all this variation means that the best time to visit Sri Lanka is utterly intertwined with where on the island you want to go:
Heading to the west and south coasts and hill country? Best time to visit: December to March.
Making your way to the east coast? Best time to visit: April/May to September.