December is the beginning of Sri Lanka’s high season. The main tourist areas in the southwest will be cool and dry, and Buddhist pilgrims start flocking to the summit of Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak. This is a great month to visit Colombo, Kandy, and the island’s most developed beaches.

Weather

The weather in Sri Lanka is broadly defined by its two separate monsoon seasons, although the climate can still be rather unpredictable at any given time. In December, the Northeastern monsoon brings wet and stormy weather to the island’s northeastern half. However, the southwest of the island is just beginning its dry season. 

In December, Colombo experiences highs of around 88°F and lows of 75°F, with a few days of rain during the month. Temperatures in Kandy are slightly cooler, with highs around 82°F. In tea country, the weather tends to be damp and much colder than the rest of the island year-round. Lows at the hill station of Nuwara Eliya in December can drop to 52°F. Trincomalee, in Sri Lanka’s northeast, experiences highs of around 82°F in December, with an average of 15 rainy days expected during the month.

Although the Cultural Triangle region (Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, etc.) is located in the so-called “dry zone”, it still receives most of its rain at this time of year.

Crowds & Costs

December means good weather in some of Sri Lanka’s most popular beach areas, so prices and visitor numbers start to climb during this month. Many tourists from the Northern Hemisphere will have winter vacations at this time, and tourists from the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying their summer break from school. Well-traveled attractions like Galle Fort can be particularly crowded, so it’s a good idea to make arrangements in advance whenever possible.

Where to Go

December is a great month to explore the urban attractions of Colombo and the important religious sites of Kandy.

It’s also a good time to enjoy reasonable temperatures at the popular beaches in southwestern Sri Lanka. Unawatuna Beach is popular with visitors to the nearby city of Galle, Talalla Beach is known for its quiet atmosphere, and Mirissa Beach is a common choice for those looking for amenities without overcrowding. 

Weather in Sri Lanka’s mountainous central region is fairly consistent year-round, making this an appealing time to visit hill stations like Ella and Nuwara Eliya. This region is known as the Central Highlands, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

For more information, see Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka.

What to Do

Those who enjoy hiking can spend a night climbing Adam’s Peak this month. Also known as Sri Pada, this mountain is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Devotees believe that the footprint of Lord Buddha can be found at the summit. The mountain takes about five hours to climb, with most pilgrims choosing to ascend overnight and watch the sunrise at the end of their trek. Bright lights and kiosks serving refreshments liven up the route. The pilgrimage season traditionally starts on the full moon in December, and ends on the full moon in April. 

Visitors to Sri Lanka in December can also check out the impressive Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, explore Colombo’s food and nightlife scene, see the Dutch colonial town at Galle Fort, or be awed by the incredible 165-foot high Buddha statue near the town of Dikwella.

Events in December

With a number of religions practiced among the population, there are festivals and holidays year-round in Sri Lanka, including in December.

The Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season begins on the full moon, which is an important day for Sri Lankan Buddhists. Known as Unduvap Poya, the last full moon of the year commemorates the arrival in Sri Lanka of Sangamitta Theri, the eldest daughter of Emperor Ashoka. She’s celebrated for bringing a sapling of the sacred Bodhi Tree from India and planting it in Anuradhapura.  

In addition, Sri Lanka’s Catholic communities celebrate Christmas on December 25th. These communities live mostly in the Colombo region. Christmas has also been widely adopted as a secular holiday, with traditions such as Christmas trees imported from Western countries.

Traveling to Sri Lanka in December? Check out these great itineraries.

Southern Sri Lanka: Active Adventure - 10 Days
Explore Sri Lanka’s natural wonders with this 10-day tour, which gives you ample time to see some of the island’s beaches and beautiful mountain towns. 

Best of Sri Lanka’s Wildlife - 7 Days
Have you always dreamed of seeing a majestic leopard in the wild? On this tour, you’ll have the opportunity to do just that. You may also see elephants, sloth bears, flamingos, and whales. 

More Helpful Information

November in Sri Lanka
January in Sri Lanka
Getting Around in Sri Lanka: All You Need to Know
Unique Ways to Experience Sri Lanka’s National Parks