Sri Lanka's climate can vary significantly from one region to another, so it's essential to understand the weather conditions in different areas of the country, especially in May:
Western Coastal Areas (Colombo, Negombo, Kalutara)
Temperature: Warm at around 30°C (86°F).
Rainfall: Start of the southwestern monsoon season with heavy rainfall and high humidity.
Hill Country (Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Kandy)
Temperature: Cooler, around 20-25°C (68-77°F) due to higher elevation.
Rainfall: Beginning of the southwest monsoon season, bringing more rain.
Eastern Coastal Areas (Arugam Bay, Trincomalee, Batticaloa)
Temperature: Warm, about 30°C (86°F).
Rainfall: Less rainfall compared to the southwest, making it a better choice for drier conditions.
Northern and Central Plains (Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya)
Temperature: Warm to hot, around 30-35°C (86-95°F).
Rainfall: Occasional showers in May.
The off-season weather in May means you can find some great travel deals with lower flight and accommodation prices. Many hotels offer discounts to attract visitors during this time. However, it's essential to be prepared for potential transportation disruptions due to heavy rain, which might affect your travel plans.
Things to Do in Sri Lanka in May:
1. Visit Yala National Park
During May, some places that you should visit are the Yala national park as it would be a treasure trove for photographers as the animals in the park start to appear at the watering hole and the chances of seeing the Sri Lankan leopard are higher. This park is also famous for its beach and its fishing villages. Yala national park is found in Hambantota, Sri Lanka and is managed by the department of wildlife conservation. The park closes each year for maintenance for September.
2. Vesak Poya
Not only is Sri Lanka is famous for its destinations, but it is also renowned for its festivals such as Vesak Poya which commemorate the three crucial milestones in buddha's life which are: his birth, enlightenment, and nirvana. Vesak poya is considered to be one of the most important Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka and celebrated in the first week of May.
The celebrations begin on the full moon day and continue for a week where it fills every home, street and shop with the magical and colourful lanterns which are called Vesak Kudu, which is said to be depicting the light of buddha. Well-lit pandals illuminate places like Colombo and Kandy which have artwork from the jataka stories, whereas the villagers and townspeople light up their homes with clay diyas for the Vesak in Sri Lanka. The festival occurs on a full moon day during May and is celebrated across the island with the grander celebrations happening in the capital city of Colombo.
The festival brings along many cultural events which showcase Buddhist history about the three stages of 'buddha's life. The festival engulfs the entire country with joy and is the best possible time to experience the Buddhist culture. Vesak day is also the most significant Buddhist festival celebration in southeast Asia.
3. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
The temple of the sacred tooth relic is a historic Buddhist temple in the heart of Kandy city. It is unique as it houses the relic of the tooth of the buddha and is vibrant during the Vesak festival in May. Kandy is considered to be the last capital of the Sri Lankan monarchy and is a world heritage site, mainly due to the existence of the temple. Rituals are performed thrice daily: at dawn, at mid-noon and once at sunsets. Tourists generally visit on Wednesdays as there is a symbolic bath given to the relic with a herbal preparation as well.
4. Gangaramaya Temple
Timings: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM (Monday to Sunday)
Cost: LKR 100 /Person
5. The Pettah Floating Market
Is at w.E.Bastian Mawatha in pettah, a place in Colombo, and it consists of 90 + trade stalls, with most of the stalls established on boats on Beira lake which is a different experience for tourists. The market predominantly sells local handicrafts and local produce, so it becomes a great place to get souvenirs for loved ones back home. The market is in full swing in may due to the influx of tourists.
Timings: 8:00 AM to 10:30 PM Monday to Sunday
6. Bentota Resort Town
Bentota resort town is a town famous for its beaches, watersports and Ayurveda. Bentota is a coastal town in Sri Lanka, located in the Galle district and is only as large as '65km's. It is home to the Kasgoda turtle hatchery which is an avid tourist attraction amongst visitors who are animal lovers. The Galapatha raja maha vihara Buddhist temple contains stone inscriptions, stone carvings, pillars, ponds and troughs from the medieval period which are worth the visit. Bentota also has helicopter services to show tourists the town. It is an amazing place to visit in Sri Lanka in may for peaceful beaches and the Vesak festival.
7. Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Timings: 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM from Monday to Sunday
Cost: LKR 3000 per person
Transport in Sri Lanka in MayThe transport in Sri Lanka during the monsoon season generally ranges between buses and tuk-tuks as well as private cabs. They do function during monsoon unless their route is affected by flash floods. Since May is considered low-season in the rain-affected parts of Sri lanka, you can get incredibly beautiful and luxurious stays at 5-star hotels for cheaper rates. Generally, the prices drop down to 20-25% during the monsoon season.
If you plan on seeing the east coast, you'll get the best weather from April/May to September. If you are planning to visit Sri lanka and you're heading to the west and south coasts and hill country, December to March is the best time to visit Sri lanka.
Travelling to Sri lanka in may be hectic. Since you know the weather in Sri lanka is unpredictable, you will have to be prepared and carry what is required. You must take a lightweight rain jacket for travelling to monsoon-affected areas as many sights worth seeing might be affected by rain. It is essential to carry warm pieces of clothing if you are planning a trip to the upland areas, which can get very cold in the evening and night due to the monsoon winds.