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World Travel Guide > Guides > Asia > Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka Weather, climate and geography

Weather and climate

Best time to visit

The western and southern areas experience their monsoon season during May to September while the northern and eastern areas are affected by the monsoon between October to January. The island is certainly a year-round destination as while one area is might be off-limits due to poor weather, the other region is likely to be experiencing good conditions.

The recommended time for a Sri Lankan getaway is during either coast's dry season - April to November for the eastern coast and December to March for the west coast and central highlands. Christmas and the New Year are particularly popular times to go to Sri Lanka, while July and August represent festival season on the island – if travelling during either time it is recommended to book well in advance to guarantee accommodation.

Generally speaking, upland areas of Sri Lanka are cooler and more temperate, with a yearly average around 16-20ºC (60-68ºF), and coastal areas are warmer with average temperatures around 27ºC (80ºF). The March-June season experiences slightly higher temperatures of up to 33ºC (92ºF), while the temperatures in November-January are a few degrees lower at around 24ºC (75ºF) at the coast. Humidity is typically rather high in Sri Lanka, averaging out at around 80% year-round. As the nation is located in the tropics, the weather can be severely affected by El Niño. Though this irregular phenomenon only occurs around every three to seven years, it can impact an area's weather for an extended length of time, raising the possibility of severe floods and storms.

Required clothing

The weather in Sri Lanka can be unpredictable during any season so depending on where in the country you're going, it's best to take layers. The central highlands can be significantly cooler throughout the year, so you'll need warmer clothes here. Lightweight rainwear is also recommended any time of year.

Geography

Sri Lanka is an island off the southeast coast of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is separated from India by the Indian Ocean, in which lies the chain of islands called Adam's Bridge. Sri Lanka has an irregular surface with low-lying coastal plains running inland from the northern and eastern shores. The central and southern areas slope into the hills and mountains ranges of the Central Highlands. The highest peak is Pidurutalagala, which reaches an altitude of 2,524m (8,281ft).

The country’s coast consistx mainly of beaches and bays, with rocky cliffs in the northeast and southwest. Due to the southwestern location of the mountain range, precipitation is heavily weighted towards this area, with the the northern and eastern parts fall in the rain shadow of the Central Highlands. The wettest parts of the country in the south and west receive around 4,000mm of rainfall annually. There are two major national parks, in the northwest and southeast, designated as such to protect the immense biodiversity of the country’s wildlife.