What you need to know if you plan to visit Sri Lanka during monsoon season

Apr 20, 2017

Sri Lankan weather is unpredictable even to its residents, and especially so with changing global weather patterns. One thing’s for sure though, whatever time of year you go, you’ll be smitten by this magical isle with its lush jungles, twinkling seas and magnificent ancient cities.

When is monsoon season in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is governed by two monsoons: Yala and Maha. Yala affects the southwest and Hill Country from around April to August. Maha brings rains to the northeast and Cultural Triangle from October to March. The monsoons in Sri Lanka, however, are not cut and dry (excuse the pun) and there is even an inter-monsoonal period affecting the whole island during October and November.

What should visitors expect weather-wise?

During the south-west monsoon season, in areas such as Colombo and Galle, most days will just see short, heavy bursts of rain followed by sunny skies. The northeast monsoon, in places such as Trincomalee and Arugam Bay, can be more or less severe but often confines its worst to November and December.

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What remains open and what closes?

Some surf spots, such as Arugam Bay, wind down significantly off-season, but you’ll always be able to find somewhere to stay and places to eat. Elsewhere, most businesses should remain open year-round. Always check opening hours of attractions in case they are operating a reduced service. If you are going for the wildlife, bear in mind the impact of the seasons on the animals. For instance, June to September is considered the optimum time to visit Yala National Park.

Are there any special festivals?

Kandy Esala Perahera, which takes place for 10 auspicious days in July or August, is an ancient Buddhist ritual appealing to the gods for rainfall. The spectacular Festival of the Tooth involves vivid processions of elephants, dancers and performers in dazzling ceremonial dress.

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Is transport affected?

Many visitors choose to have a driver in Sri Lanka, as an alternative to navigating the slow-moving public transport network. Local buses and tuk tuks will run unless their route is affected by flash floods.

How about accommodation?

If you travel to Sri Lanka between December and March, traditionally its driest season, expect minimum stay durations in hotels and up to a 25 per cent increase in room rates. It is often cheaper to travel outside of this time period.

How should visitors better prepare for this seasonal monsoon?

Weather in Sri Lanka can change quickly so come prepared. A lightweight rain jacket is essential, as is a warm mid-layer if you are planning on visiting upland areas, which can get cold, particularly at night. Sri Lanka can get very humid around its beautiful coastline, especially if a storm is brewing. If you need some respite, take a trip to the cooler Hill Country.

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Singapore Airlines flies once daily non-stop from Singapore to Colombo. Singapore Airlines’ regional wing SilkAir flies 3 times weekly from Singapore to Colombo.