October and November are part of the inter-monsoon period, between the Southwest and Northeast monsoons. While the island experiences less overall precipitation during this time, the rain is more widespread and occurs evenly across different areas. Thunderstorms, strong winds, and flooding are common.
Temperatures across most of Sri Lanka remain consistent throughout the year, and October is no exception. Colombo experiences highs around 86°F and lows of 77°F during this month; in Kandy, average highs are around 84°F. The hill station of Nuwara Eliya offers some of the country’s coolest temperatures. In October, lows can reach 54°F.
At this point, the dry season in northeastern Sri Lanka will be over, and the rains will cause temperatures to cool slightly around Jaffna and Trincomalee. While the Cultural Triangle is located in an area known as the “dry zone”, it does still get some rain. October through December are the wettest months, and cities like Anuradhapura can expect an average of about 10 inches of rain per month at this time.
Crowds & Costs
In general, October is a quiet month in Sri Lanka due to the weather. In many countries, travelers won’t have a vacation at this time. One notable exception, however, is China—the country has a “Golden Week” vacation following Chinese National Day on October 1st. Sri Lanka is popular with Chinese visitors (the highest number of tourists in the country come from China and India), so there may be a bump in traveler numbers around the beginning of the month.
Where to Go
To get the best weather, travelers can seek out the north and east parts of the island around the beginning of October, when the dry season will be coming to an end. This is a good opportunity to see the attractions of the Cultural Triangle before the rains set in.
Visitors can also plan their trip around the Diwali holiday. More commonly known as Deepavali in Sri Lanka, this is one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year. With dates calculated according to a lunisolar calendar, Deepavali takes place at a slightly different time each year, but usually happens around the end of October or beginning of November. The best places to celebrate are the majority-Tamil areas in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.
For more information, see Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka.
What to Do
Visitors looking to explore Tamil culture around the Deepavali celebrations can head north to Jaffna, which is home to a number of Hindu temples. The most important of these is the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil. The temple is dedicated to the god Murugan (also known as Kartikeya or Skanda), one of the most important deities in Sri Lanka. Tamil temples are notable for their gopurams, or tall entrance towers covered with colorful carvings.
Travelers may also enjoy visiting the Cultural Triangle in early October. The main attractions in this area are the Dambulla cave temple complex, the rock fortress of Sigiriya, and the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Each of these monumental sites requires at least a full day to experience fully (with the exception of the Dambulla complex, which is smaller and can be seen in a few hours). Anuradhapura is so large that you can easily spend two days exploring the ruins.
Events in October
Visitors who come to Sri Lanka for Deepavali can expect to see houses and temples illuminated by oil lamps, enjoy fireworks displays, and try traditional sweets and snacks. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is a focal point of this holiday. Devotees make offerings to her, and buy new clothing and gifts for family and friends.
There is also a Poya day (full moon day) celebration in October. October’s Poya is called the Vap Poya. Vap Poya celebrates the sowing of new seeds, and the offering of robes (Katina Cheevara) to Buddhist monks. The holiday is observed in Buddhist temples around Sri Lanka.
Traveling to Sri Lanka in October? Check out these great itineraries.
Sri Lanka from North to South - 15 Days
Explore the cultural riches and natural wonders of Sri Lanka with this thorough itinerary that covers cities, history, and wildlife.
Cultural Triangle and the East Coast of Sri Lanka - 13 Days
See the attractions of the Cultural Triangle and the tranquil towns of Sri Lanka’s east coast with this two-week tour.