At this point, the Southwest monsoon will be bringing rainstorms to southern and western Sri Lanka. It’s still possible to travel in these areas during the monsoon; the rain typically doesn’t last all day, although sudden showers might put a damper on your beach time. The Northeast monsoon, however, will have receded at this time, leaving parts of the island dry and pleasant (albeit a bit hot).
Sri Lanka’s hottest areas are its coasts, which experience weather in the 90s Fahrenheit all year round. The mountainous region in the center of the country is significantly cooler, and the higher you go, the colder it gets.
In May, rainy Colombo experiences highs around 88°F and lows of 79°F, while in Kandy, highs are around 86°F. Nuwara Eliya is one of the island’s coolest places, with lows reaching 55°F. In Jaffna, where the monsoon is over, average highs are 91°F and lows are 81°F in May.
Crowds & Costs
Rainy weather in Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist areas makes May a shoulder season for the country. While visitors arrive year-round, the majority of tourists come from December to April, with some over the summer and few in October and November.
There is one event this month that may affect visitor numbers: International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, which is celebrated on May 1st. Since China, parts of India, and some European countries have a public holiday at this time, the number of tourists is likely to increase.
Where to Go
May’s weather makes it a good month to explore the north and east of the country. Visitors looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience should check out the cultural attractions of Jaffna and the untouched beaches near Trincomalee. May is also a good time to visit Kandy and Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands, as well as the Cultural Triangle, which will be dry at this time.
For more information, see Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka.
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What to Do
If the weather is still reasonable at the beginning of May, it could be a good last chance to climb Adam’s Peak before the season ends. Adam’s Peak, also known as Sri Pada, is a mountain that is sacred to Sri Lankan Buddhists. During the dry season, large numbers of pilgrims ascend the mountain to see the footprint at the top, which is thought to belong to the Buddha. The Adam’s Peak pilgrimage period is considered to be over on either April or May’s Poya day (full moon day). Pilgrims rarely ascend outside of these times, as climbing during the monsoon can be slippery and dangerous.
Meanwhile, the high season for visiting Yala National Park is just beginning. This park in the southeast of the island is famous for its leopards, but it’s also home to elephants, wild boars, crocodiles, and birds. The dry weather in this part of Sri Lanka attracts animals to the park’s many watering holes, making them easier to spot. To visit Yala, you can base yourself in one of the neighboring towns, like Tissamaharama or the spiritual center of Kataragama.
Those who want to explore the north and east coasts can use this time to see Trincomalee and Jaffna’s Hindu temples and historic forts, as well as some of the island’s most tranquil beaches.
Events in May
There are many holidays and events year-round in Sri Lanka, including in May.
May’s Poya day is known as Vesak Poya, and is widely celebrated by Buddhists in Sri Lanka and all over the world. Vesak Poya commemorates the Buddha’s birthday, and is celebrated with religious ceremonies and vendors distributing free food on the streets. Houses and public places are decorated, and the sale of alcohol and meat is prohibited. Colombo gets very crowded during Vesak Poya.
International Workers’ Day is also celebrated in Sri Lanka. On May 1st, government buildings and some shops are closed, and there are sometimes demonstrations in Colombo.
Traveling to Sri Lanka in May? Check out these great itineraries.
Cultural Triangle and the East Coast of Sri Lanka - 13 Days
Take advantage of the nice weather in these areas to see Sri Lanka’s top cultural attractions and relax on the quiet beach at Pasikudah.
Sri Lanka from North to South - 15 Days
Get a thorough look at Sri Lanka from top to bottom, as you experience the island’s natural beauty, cultural attractions, and golden-sand beaches.