Yala National Park

The Wildlife Haven of Sri Lanka

Yala National Park, located in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka, is the country’s most visited and second-largest national park. Renowned for its rich biodiversity and abundant wildlife, Yala offers visitors the chance to experience Sri Lanka’s natural beauty up close. The park is famous for its leopard population, but it is also home to a variety of other animals, including elephants, crocodiles, and numerous bird species. Yala’s diverse ecosystems, which include dry forests, grasslands, and wetlands, make it a must-visit destination for nature and wildlife enthusiasts.

Things to Do

Go on a Wildlife Safari

  • Leopard Spotting: Yala is known for having one of the highest leopard densities in the world. Join a guided safari tour to increase your chances of spotting these elusive big cats in their natural habitat.
  • Elephant Encounters: The park is home to a significant population of Sri Lankan elephants. Watch these majestic creatures as they roam the grasslands and bathe in the park’s waterholes.

Bird Watching

  • Avian Diversity: Yala is a bird watcher’s paradise, with over 200 species of birds, including resident and migratory species. Look out for colorful peacocks, eagles, and waterfowl during your safari.
  • Wetland Birds: The park’s wetlands and lagoons attract a variety of water birds, such as pelicans, storks, and herons. Bring your binoculars for a closer look at these beautiful creatures. 

Visit the Yala National Park Visitor Center

  • Educational Exhibits: The visitor center provides valuable information about the park’s history, wildlife, and conservation efforts. Interactive displays and educational exhibits offer insights into the park’s diverse ecosystems.
  • Ranger Talks: Attend ranger talks and presentations to learn more about the park’s flora and fauna and the ongoing conservation efforts to protect its wildlife.

Explore the Sithulpawwa Rock Temple

  • Ancient Buddhist Monastery: The Sithulpawwa Rock Temple, located within the park, is an ancient Buddhist monastery dating back over 2,000 years. The temple complex includes cave shrines, stupas, and rock inscriptions.
  • Panoramic Views: Climb to the top of the rock to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the park’s lush greenery.

Visit the Magul Maha Viharaya

  • Historical Significance: The Magul Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple believed to have been built by King Kavan Tissa. The temple complex includes a large stupa, stone pillars, and ancient ruins.

  • Cultural Heritage: Explore the temple’s intricate carvings and learn about its historical and cultural significance.



Take a Lagoon Boat Ride

  • Scenic Waterways: Explore the park’s scenic lagoons and waterways on a boat ride. The lagoons are home to a variety of aquatic birds and other wildlife, providing excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing.
  • Mangrove Forests: Navigate through the mangrove forests and observe the unique flora and fauna that thrive in these ecosystems.

Camp in the Wilderness

  • Overnight Camping: Experience the thrill of camping in the wilderness with an overnight stay in one of Yala’s designated camping sites. Enjoy the sounds of nature and the starry night sky as you camp under the open sky.
  • Guided Campfire Activities: Participate in guided campfire activities, including wildlife talks, storytelling, and traditional music, for a memorable camping experience.

Explore the Park’s Trails

  • Nature Walks: Take guided nature walks along the park’s trails to explore its diverse ecosystems up close. Learn about the park’s plant life, animal tracks, and natural features from experienced guides.
  • Photography Opportunities: The park’s scenic landscapes and abundant wildlife provide excellent opportunities for photography. Capture the beauty of Yala’s natural environment through your lens.

Visit the Palatupana Salterns

  • Salt Pans: The Palatupana Salterns, located near the park, are large salt pans used for salt production. The salt pans attract a variety of birds, making it a great spot for bird watching.
  • Unique Landscape: The salt pans create a unique and picturesque landscape, offering a different perspective of the area’s natural beauty.

Explore the Beach at Yala

  • Scenic Coastline: Yala National Park borders the Indian Ocean, offering visitors access to a pristine and secluded beach. Take a walk along the sandy shores and enjoy the stunning coastal views.
  • Relaxation Spot: The beach provides a peaceful spot for relaxation and reflection after a day of wildlife exploration.

Visit the Kataragama Shrine

  • Sacred Pilgrimage Site: The Kataragama Shrine, located near Yala, is a significant religious site for Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. The shrine is dedicated to the deity Kataragama and attracts pilgrims from all over Sri Lanka.
  • Cultural Experience: Experience the vibrant atmosphere of the shrine, especially during the annual Kataragama Esala Festival, which features colorful processions, traditional music, and religious ceremonies.

Explore the Bundala National Park

  • Bird Sanctuary: Bundala National Park, located near Yala, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve known for its rich birdlife. The park is home to a variety of bird species, including flamingos, pelicans, and spoonbills.
  • Wetland Ecosystems: Explore the park’s diverse wetland ecosystems, which include lagoons, marshes, and sand dunes. Bundala is also home to elephants, crocodiles, and other wildlife.

Visit the Kirinda Temple

  • Coastal Temple: The Kirinda Temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Indian Ocean. The temple offers stunning views of the coastline and the surrounding area.
  • Historical Legend: Learn about the legend of Queen Viharamahadevi, who is said to have been washed ashore at Kirinda after being sacrificed to calm the seas.

Take a Jeep Safari

  • Guided Tours: Join a guided jeep safari to explore the park’s diverse landscapes and spot wildlife. Experienced guides provide valuable insights into the park’s flora and fauna and help you track animals.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Jeep safaris offer the best chance to see a variety of wildlife, including leopards, elephants, sloth bears, and more. The safaris typically take place early in the morning or late in the afternoon when animals are most active.

Visit the Debarawewa Tank

  • Irrigation Reservoir: The Debarawewa Tank is an ancient irrigation reservoir located near Yala. The tank is a great spot for bird watching and offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

  • Cultural Significance: The tank is an important part of the region’s irrigation system and has historical significance in the area’s agricultural heritage.


Explore the Lunugamvehera National Park

  • Wildlife Sanctuary: Lunugamvehera National Park, located near Yala, is a wildlife sanctuary that serves as a corridor for elephants migrating between Yala and Udawalawe National Parks. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including elephants, leopards, and deer.
  • Scenic Landscapes: The park’s scenic landscapes include forests, grasslands, and reservoirs, providing a diverse environment for wildlife viewing.

Visit the Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya

  • Ancient Monastery: The Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist monastery located within Yala National Park. The monastery complex includes cave temples, stupas, and rock inscriptions.
  • Spiritual Atmosphere: The tranquil surroundings and ancient ruins create a peaceful atmosphere for meditation and reflection.

Take a Night Safari

  • Nocturnal Wildlife: Experience the park’s nocturnal wildlife with a night safari. Night safaris offer the chance to see animals that are active after dark, such as leopards, owls, and civets.
  • Guided Tours: Join a guided night safari with experienced guides who provide insights into the park’s nocturnal creatures and their behaviors.

Visit the Wirawila Tissa Sanctuary

  • Bird Watching: The Wirawila Tissa Sanctuary, located near Yala, is a bird watcher’s paradise. The sanctuary’s wetlands and reservoirs attract a variety of bird species, including migratory birds.

  • Scenic Views: Explore the sanctuary’s scenic landscapes and enjoy the tranquility of its natural environment.

Explore the Park’s Archaeological Sites

  • Ancient Ruins: Yala National Park is home to several archaeological sites, including ancient temples, rock inscriptions, and cave dwellings. These sites provide valuable insights into the region’s history and cultural heritage.
  • Historical Exploration: Take the time to explore these ancient ruins and learn about the historical significance of the area.

Practical Tips for Visiting Yala National Park

  • Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Yala National Park is during the dry season, from February to July, when wildlife is more easily spotted near water sources.
  • Transportation: Yala is accessible by road from major cities like Colombo and Galle. The nearest town is Tissamaharama, which serves as a gateway to the park.
  • Accommodation: Yala offers a range of accommodation options, from budget guesthouses to luxury safari lodges. Staying in a lodge near the park provides easy access to safari tours and other activities.


Yala National Park is a destination that offers a perfect blend of wildlife, nature, and adventure. Whether you’re spotting leopards on a safari, exploring ancient temples, or relaxing on a pristine beach, Yala promises a memorable and enriching travel experience. Plan your visit to this wildlife haven and discover the many treasures of Sri Lanka’s natural beauty.