The most important facet of Sri Lanka’s climate is its two separate monsoon seasons. In January, the Northeastern monsoon will be coming to an end, meaning that the island’s northeastern half will be wet and stormy. However, the southwest of the island will be in its dry season until March. Keep in mind that weather in Sri Lanka can be unpredictable—the dry season can still mean a bit of rain, while the weather may sometimes clear up during the monsoon.
Temperatures in most parts of Sri Lanka stay the same year-round. In January, Colombo experiences highs of around 88°F and lows of 74°F. Highs in Kandy are around 84°F, while in Nuwara Eliya, highs are at 68°F with lows at 50°F. Trincomalee in Sri Lanka’s northeast does experience slight variations in temperature, with hotter summers and cooler winters—highs in January are around 82°F, with some rain.
The Cultural Triangle region (Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, etc.) also experiences some temperature variation between summer and winter. Located in an area known as the “dry zone”, this region rarely receives rain, except in the months of November and December. By January, weather in the Cultural Triangle should be pleasant.
Crowds & Costs
The good beach weather in January attracts many tourists to Sri Lanka. Although winter vacations in the Northern Hemisphere will be over by mid-January, visitors from the Southern Hemisphere are still on summer break. Booking in advance is a good idea, especially in the island’s popular beach areas.
Where to Go
In January, you can take advantage of the good weather in the southern half of the island to do a thorough tour of Sri Lanka’s beaches and cultural attractions.
A circuit around southwestern Sri Lanka could start in Colombo, home to the country’s largest international airport, and a good place to get in and out. From Colombo, you can travel southwards to see the attractions of Galle and enjoy some of the island’s most developed beaches. Then, head north towards the Central Highlands, Kandy, and the Cultural Triangle.
For more information, see Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka.
What to Do
This is Adam’s Peak season, and those who enjoy hiking can climb this mountain in January. Adam’s Peak is also known as Sri Pada, and is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. During the pilgrimage season, from December to April, hordes of devotees ascend the mountain overnight to see the footprint of Lord Buddha at the summit.
January is also a great time to explore Colombo. The city is home to several interesting temples, and is blessed with a great variety of restaurants, bars, and cafés. Be sure to try some classic Sri Lankan foods, like hoppers and kottu roti—the best food in the country can be found in the capital.
In the Cultural Triangle, the incredible ruins at Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the rock fortress of Sigiriya, and the cave temples of Dambulla give visitors a fascinating insight into the island’s ancient heritage.
Events in January
Festivals and holidays take place in Sri Lanka throughout the year, including in January.
The full moon of every month in Sri Lanka is known as a Poya day. Practicing Buddhists visit a temple on these days, and shops are often closed. January’s Poya is known as Duruthu Poya, which marks the first of Lord Buddha’s three visits to Sri Lanka.
A Hindu festival known as Thai Pongal also takes place in January. This harvest festival is celebrated by Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. It is dedicated to the Sun God, and is celebrated by eating a sweetened rice dish called pongal.
There’s also another celebration during this month—the Galle Literary Festival. At this festival, visitors can get to know the work of Sri Lankan and international authors. Events include writing workshops, debates, and panel discussions.
Traveling to Sri Lanka in January? Check out these great itineraries.
Highlights of Sri Lanka - 12 Days This itinerary takes visitors through some of the highlights of southwestern Sri Lanka, including the Cultural Triangle, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Galle.
Authentic Encounters & Adventures in Sri Lanka - 14 Days On this exciting tour, visitors will explore Negombo, Sigiriya, Kandy, Ella, and more. The itinerary includes hiking, nature, beaches, and urban sightseeing.