Seasons & climate

The weather in Sri Lanka is almost always sunny, with the possibility of sudden thundershowers. By and large, the country has tropical weather all year round, with temperatures hovering between 28-32 C (82-89 F), except for the central highlands, with cooler temperatures of 15-18 C (60-64 F).

Sri Lanka has a complex weather system that is largely determined by two monsoons – the southwest (or yala) monsoon and the northeast (or maha) monsoon. Interseasonal rains between the two bring showers to most parts of the island.

Month-by-month

On the west coast, humidity can soar uncomfortably during the buildup to the monsoon in late March and April when blue skies can suddenly turn dark and brooding, bringing short spells of rain. Bring rain gear just in case.

The wettest months on the western and southern coasts are between May and early September. Availability is better and crowds are likely to be thin, but the ocean is rough and unsuitable for swimming. It’s worth packing an umbrella or raincoat – and be prepared for short but intense bursts of rain.

The southwest monsoon also brings rain to hill country, with an elevated risk of landslides, but again, crowds are much thinner. The busiest time of year to visit hill country is during Avurudu (or Sri Lankan New Year), in mid-April.

Off-season on the west coast corresponds with peak season along the east coast. If you’re looking for lazy days on the beach and manageable crowds, it’s worth travelling to this part of the country between May and September.

Jaffna, in the island’s arid zone, is dry and sunny for most of the year. The heat can be brutal in April, May, August and September, and the coolest time to visit is between October and January, when the northeast monsoon brings rain to the north and east coasts, and the Cultural Triangle.

Islandwide, December to late January sees the lowest temperatures, averaging around 27 C along the coast (80 F), dropping to around 18 C (64 F) in the hills.

During peak season from December to March, prices are many times higher and availability of rooms is limited, particularly along the popular beaches of the western and southern coasts and in Nuwara Eliya and the surrounding areas. If you intend to visit the country during this time, make sure you plan well in advance to get the best deals.

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