Though Sri Lanka has a tropical climate, temperatures vary throughout the country. The mountainous areas in central Sri Lanka are often much colder, and on average are about 15 degrees Celsius. In contrast, the north-eastern coast, the hottest part of the country, has an average temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius. Temperatures on the coastline of the south-western half of the country, for instance Colombo, vary minutely, averaging 27-29 all year round.
Sri Lanka has two distinct monsoon seasons: the Yala monsoon and the Maha monsoon. The wet season brought by the Yala monsoon winds lasts from May to July and affects the south-western half of the country. The Maha monsoon wind brings rains to the north-eastern half from October to January. The eastern beaches are therefore in season when the southern beaches are not – see our ‘Sri Lanka Classic with Eastern Beach’ for an ideal holiday during this time.
The inter-monsoon period between August and September is generally relatively dry throughout the country, though the north and east can be extremely hot during this time. While there will be summer storms during this period, they are usually short and sharp and in the evenings rather than the day. Our family holidays are generally designed for this period.
Sri Lanka is therefore a year-round destination because half of it is always in season. Moreover, the monsoon rains are not sharply defined and even when it is very wet and the rains extremely heavy, they usually last only a few hours at a time leaving the rest of the day to be hot and sunny. This is not always the case of course and it has been known to rain heavily all day during the so called ‘dry season’!
Just to further complicate the picture, in recent years, the monsoon rains have become much harder to predict. We are happy too recommend any of our ‘classic Sri Lanka Holidays’ at any time of year, and we will never guarantee a rain free trip – at any time of year.
It’s also worth noting that the sea on the south and west coasts is generally calm and flat for swimming during the months of January to March only. This is also the period for Whale Watching in Sri Lanka. Outside of this period (and sometimes within it) currents and strong waves make it necessary to exercise extreme caution when swimming in the sea. There are some sheltered bays which are an exception to this rule but advice must be taken locally. The sea on the east coast by contrast is generally good for swimming between May and September which is also when the surfing scene moves from the south west (Hikkaduwa) to Arugum Bay in the east.
Finally, the vast majority of visitors to Sri Lanka come between December and April. As the monsoon periods are not defined we think this is unfortunate – there is much to be gained from visiting during the European summer months – better value hotel rooms, less fellow tourists spoiling picture perfect views and a greatly improved chance of spotting the elusive leopard!