When to go to Sri Lanka? What are the best months to take full advantage of this country of undisputed wealth? We explain how to choose the best time to go to Sri Lanka, depending on the weather, regions, or national and religious holidays.
When to go to Sri Lanka: The weather
The weather in Sri Lanka is rather complex for such a small country. That said, the weather is generally good, almost everywhere on the island, almost all year round. When considering the best time to visit Sri Lanka, it should be kept in mind that weather conditions can vary significantly from year to year. It is also undeniable that global warming has disrupted these already complex weather patterns. Generally speaking, the best time to go to Sri Lanka is from January to March for most of the country. The north and north-east of the country are more visited in spring and summer. The month of March is, in general, the ideal month to visit the entire country. You should also know that the temperature is almost constantly around 27°C on the coast, both in the air and in the water.
South West Sri Lanka
The main southwest monsoon (called ‘Yala’) brings rain to the west and southwest coasts and the hills, between the months of April-May to September (September is the wettest month). The southwest coast includes the major cities of Kandy, Colombo and Galle. To get there and make the most of dry, sunny weather, choose the months of January and February.
North East Sri Lanka
The north and east coasts of Sri Lanka experience the monsoon, during the Maha season which lasts from November to March. If you want to visit the cities of Batticaloa, Trinquemalay or Jaffnaand avoid torrential rains, so favor the months of march to december. Note that there is an inter-monsoon period, preceding the Maha monsoon in October and November. During this period, heavy rainfall and thunderstorms can occur anywhere on the island.
Central Sri Lanka
Temperatures decrease with altitude and often reach 18 and 22°C in the hills. To Nuwara Eliya or Haputale, famous for their tea plantations, and in the higher parts of the island, the average temperature is 14-17°C. Nights in the hills can be quite cool and rainy so bring warm clothes. The best months to go there are still the months of march to septemberand the month of december.
Sri Lanka’s coastal areas, such as Galle, Weligama or Matara, enjoy average temperatures of 26 to 30°C during the day. These are cities with significant rainfall, even in the driest month. Precipitation in these cities is much higher in summer than it is in winter. Prefer the months of January, February, March and July to go there.
When to go to Sri Lanka: In summary
In practical terms, the best time to go to Sri Lanka actually depends on your itinerary. If you’re heading for the West and South coasts and in the center, towards the hills, December to March is the best time to travel to Sri Lanka. If you plan to stay on the East Coast (Yala, Arugam Bay, Kalmunai…), favor the months ofApril-May to September.
The best season to know when to go to Sri Lanka is between the months of January and April. It is at this time that the rainfall is lowest and the most sunshine.
When to go to Sri Lanka: National and religious holidays
In addition to the weather, a country’s holidays may or may not affect your stay. To know when to go to Sri Lanka, also try to take into account the holidays. Indeed, some national or religious holidays slow down the country’s activity. This is the case, for example, with the tea plantations: If you go there during Duruthu Perahera in January (which celebrates the first of the three visits of the Buddha to Sri Lanka), you are likely to see very few workers at work. Also, New Year’s Eve (April 13) and New Year’s Day (April 14) are both public holidays. Between the old and the new year, activities cease and the buses and trains are crowded. So plan your visits accordingly so as not to miss anything of the beauty of the country. Sri Lanka has a large number of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim festivals. The date of most festivals, fixed according to the lunar calendar, varies every year.
Conversely, some cities deserve to be visited during a national or religious holiday. This is the case, for example, of Colombo, which sparkles with a thousand colors at nightfall, during Vesak Poya. This two-day festival, in May, commemorates the birth, awakening and death of the Buddha. The wide-ranging festivities include the lighting of paper lanterns and colored lamps in front of every house, shop and Buddhist temple.
Also, during Sri Lanka’s Independence Day on February 4, festivities, parades, fireworks and sports competitions take place in the country’s major cities, such as Colombo, Kandy and Galle.
At the end of February or the beginning of March, Maha Sivarathri commemorates the marriage of Shiva and Parvati with a night watch and other rituals in just about every temple in the cities. It is the most important festival for Shaivites, the majority of Sri Lankan Hindus, and therefore an event that will dazzle you during a trip to Sri Lanka.
In June, Anuradhapura and Mihintale celebrate Poson Poya (introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Mahinda). The festivities take place in famous temples and thousands of pilgrims dressed in white climb the 1,843 steps to the highest temple. A show that will amaze you.
How about discovering Sri Lanka like a local?
One of the 14 lesser known and hardly shared realities of living in Sri Lanka is the localism that a minority of the country’s population exerts .
Although it is a barely perceptible behavior that occurs in silence , it usually appears in situations of conflict between foreigners and local populations. Another of the 14 realities of living in Sri Lanka that very few will tell you is that a very small part of the population tends to reject foreigners. Do not forget that Sri Lanka was a colony of world powers (Portugal, Holland and England) for more than 400 years so localism is not out of place and it is understandable.
The local word for the Caucasian foreigner is sudu , which in Sinhalese means white and need not be derogatory . When they referred to me as sudu I used to reply with a smile mama sudu neha, mama yaluwa (I’m not white, I’m your friend). In fact, I humorously introduced myself from time to time as Sudu to make them laugh.
The problem with localism, beyond being a sociological phenomenon resulting from colonization, is that it can become a territorial tool to keep foreigners at bay. When this happens, according to my experience it is not a single person but a group of locals putting pressure to achieve a goal. Since the issue of localism is something delicate and it is something sociological that will depend a lot on your integration into the host culture , I prefer to reserve my more personal observations and not cross a certain line.
However, I was encouraged to share this brief section with a Master’s Thesis that I found on the Internet from a professional who worked for 6 months on the south coast of Sri Lanka. The theme of his project is the development of the tourism industry in the south of the country and foreign investment in small businesses. One of the issues that the project deals with is answering the question of whether or not there is localism in Sri Lanka along with other very interesting questions. This Master’s Thesis is based on surveys carried out on foreign entrepreneurs (anonymous, based on hypotheses supported by responses through the scientific method).
The conclusions of this project seemed to me as surprising as they were precise, according to the situations that I myself experienced or knew at the hands of other foreigners.
Now coming back to the matter, what can you do about it? From my experience, he shows real interest and enthusiasm for the local culture, its language and its people. During my three years in Sri Lanka I met a large number of foreigners who made no effort to integrate with the local community . I would say it was a group of white people talking and doing white things in Sri Lanka.
You do not need to be bilingual or fluent. By speaking some basics and showing interest you will earn smiles and respect, because as I have already said, foreigners living in the Pearl of the Indian Ocean do not speak it. You will show such unusual interest in the local population that you will inevitably win at least their attention.
On the other hand, if you want to avoid localism in your business in Sri Lanka, I recommend that you take social initiatives . Whether it’s making donations to the temple, contributing supplies to local schools, hosting English classes at your facility, or employing your local neighbors, being an active member in your neighborhood can go a long way. As I mentioned in the section on garbage collection, our neighbors benefited from our action. That added to employing a neighbor for specific jobs or inviting them to a snack on specific dates, ensured us a good relationship with the neighborhood and we did not have a single problem. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many foreigners .
Despite being a country open to the world, in Sri Lanka a great traditionalism is perceived in its day to day .
Beyond its palpable spirituality and presence of Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions or the heritage of the caste system, one of the realities of living in Sri Lanka is that you will observe gendered behaviors that will stand out to you a lot. And this is what I want to comment on in this section through an introduction to the unfortunate dichotomy of genres beyond talking to you about religiosity or taboo topics.
Generally, women have a secondary role in society, especially in rural and less developed areas, and this is reflected in my opinion in their shyness, in the lesser incorporation into the world of work compared to men, and in the power that men have in society. On the contrary and stereotyping, the man tends to machismo although you will find mother, grandmothers and local daughters who are authentic warriors😀
Although it is not the common rule, if you have traveled to Sri Lanka or already live there and you are a woman, you may have encountered unpleasant situations . These situations, beyond the profound lack of respect and lack of values, ethics and education, come from a deeper problem that is, in my opinion, a consequence of traditionalism rooted in local society . In my experiences, some local tried to flirt with my partner in front of me without shame. It is true that it could be something specific but it is not like that since I corroborated this with a multitude of foreigners (both travelers and residents) and I was by no means the only one to whom it had happened.
Since this issue is sensitive and I hope I have expressed myself clearly despite the brevity of this, I will leave here the general idea of how traditionalism affects both genders and how you can come to perceive it when living in Sri Lanka.
The point of this section is not to present you with a complete menu with the usual dishes of the country, nor is it to delve into one of the realities of living in Sri Lanka that you have probably read about elsewhere: the food is very spicy . This is not something new and yes, the food is very spicy. I got used to it to the point that today I love spicy food and years before I lived in Sri Lanka I avoided it.
The island diet is rich in nutrients and rice is the main dish. Its gastronomy based mostly on curries and carbohydrates is ideal.
Do you want to live in Sri Lanka with children who don’t usually eat vegetables? The way of presenting vegetable curries in Sri Lanka is unique and it is not surprising that the local children are well used to eating everything.
Unfortunately, local food can be boring. During my first two months I did not like local food , especially curries like dhal or coconut sambal. I didn’t find anything special about them. Years later, I would give anything to be at the Milano restaurant (in Dewata very close to Galle) and be able to delight myself with some of my favorite dishes. I got into the habit of eating big bowls of rice and curries for breakfast after surfing at Dewata or after a gym session. An ideal diet if you want to exercise due to the high caloric intake.
After numerous conversations with foreigners living in Sri Lanka, many agreed with me on this love-hate relationship with the country’s food . Everyone loves it, although not everyone gets used to a high level of spiciness. For this reason and if this is your case, try to ask that they not put spicy in your meals. This does not mean that it will stop being spicy, just that it will be slightly less spicy.
On the other hand, you will also find a wide variety of rotis filled with ingredients (vegetables, chicken, fish) and a good offer of seafood and fish.
The Sri Lankan diet is ideal for vegetarians and vegans and the flavors of its cuisine will awaken your senses. Possibly gastronomy can get boring as I did for a brief period until I learned to appreciate it, but it is more likely that after a while on the island you will fall in love with it and even miss it at the end of your experience.
Finally, and if Sri Lankan food does not conquer you, which is difficult, you will find a good offer of international gastronomy, especially in the most developed and tourist areas.