National parks and reserves of Sri Lanka. Overview of the island's national parks

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Sri Lanka, with its tropical climate and diverse topography, has an amazing variety of species. To preserve this common human heritage, specially protected zones have been organized on the island. Below is an overview of the island's national parks that you can enjoy while traveling.

Overview of National Parks of Sri Lanka

Yala National Park

Yala is the most famous and most popular park in Sri Lanka. It has one of the highest leopard density levels in the world. It consists of five blocks.
25 individual leopards are estimated to reside in Block 1.
Yala received 350,000 visitors in 2013 and continues to grow, making it Sri Lanka's most popular national park.
There are a lot of elephants in Yala - about 300. However, they can be surprisingly difficult to spot, as they are scattered over a large area, unlike, for example, Udawalawe or Minneriya, where you can see many elephants in one place. Having gone on a half-day safari, you can never see either elephants or leopards. A full day safari gives you more chances.

  Advantages: there is a high chance of seeing leopards.
  Disadvantages: Yala is located quite far from all major settlements and popular tourist resorts. Animals are scattered over a vast territory and on a half-day trip there is a chance not to see anyone.
Best time to go: all year round
When is the best time to go: In Yala, the best safari is in the morning. Entrance to the park at 6:00-7:00. And this means that from remote hotels you will have to start at 3:00 or even earlier.
What animals can be seen: Elephants, leopards, peacocks, buffaloes, wild boars, spotted deer, sloth bear, monitor lizards, snakes, mongooses, monkeys, crocodiles


Udawalawe National Park

It is believed that Udawalawe is better than many African national parks for elephant watching.

There are over 250 resident elephants in the park, dozens of which are easy to spot due to the park's open savannah area, especially when the animals go to water.

Udawalawe Park is an ideal choice for a safari for those who stay on the southern coast of Sri Lanka - in resorts such as Unawatuna, Mirissa, Hikkaduwa.

  Advantages: close to the main popular resorts. Due to the compactness of the park, during the trip you are guaranteed to see animals
  Cons: few leopards
Best time to go: all year round
What animals can be seen: Elephants, deer, crocodiles, eagles, peacocks, rare birds. In total, the park is home to 39 mammal species, 21 fish species, 12 amphibian species, 33 reptile species, 184 birds (33 of which are migratory) and 135 butterfly species.

Jeep Safari

  • Jeep safari in one of the national parks of Sri Lanka
  • Hundreds of wild elephants, leopards, crocodiles
  • Private tour by comfortable car
  • English speaking driver
Safari tour
from 100 usd/pax
Detailed program
 Organizer  Organized by

Minneriya, Kaudulla and Hurulu Eco Park National Parks

Habarana Township is close to several large national parks such as Minneriya, Kaudulla and Hurulu Eco Park. Several hundred elephants live in these national parks, which go out to the lakes in the morning and in the evening to drink.
The largest concentration of elephants is observed between May and September and is the largest collection of elephants in the world.
During the rest of the year, the parks are still home to a huge number of elephants, which makes visiting these parks possible at any time of the year.
The question of choosing one of the three parks (Minneriya, Kaudulla and Khurula) is usually not worth it. Since elephants migrate from one park to another, so the jeep driver simply finds out by phone which park the elephants are in today and takes you there.

  Advantages: close proximity to Sigiriya and Dambulla. Transport accessibility from Negombo, Colombo, Chilaw and Trincomalee
  Cons: no leopards
Best time to go: all year round (but the best time is from May to September)
What animals can be seen: Elephants, giant squirrels, porcupines, sloth bears, buffaloes, lizards, monkeys, spotted deer, crocodiles. Of the birds here you can see peacocks, parrots, nightingales, talkers, storks, serpent eagles


Wilpattu National Park (Wilpattu)

Wilpattu is the largest national park in Sri Lanka and the second largest among leopards. Despite this, he is the least popular and well-known.

Visitor numbers remain low, making it attractive for the most authentic safari experience possible.

According to some statements, the park is the best place for watching leopards in Sri Lanka, however, the animals here are more shy than, for example, in Yala.

  Advantages: Easily accessible from Negombo, Colombo, Chilaw, Maravila, Trincomalee. The best place for watching leopards, along with Yala.
  Cons: Far from the main resorts of the southwest coast. Few elephants.
Best time to go: all year round
What animals can be seen: elephants, buffaloes, sloth bears, leopards, hornbills, ibises, pelicans, peacocks, stilts


The Sinharaja rainforest is the largest rainforest in South Asia and the only tropical tree massif in Sri Lanka. This is an ancient ecosystem preserved almost in its original form. The forest is famous for its rich flora and fauna, with a high concentration of endemics. This unique place is characterized by biodiversity, beautiful landscape, it traditionally attracts eco-tourists and naturalists from all over the world. The Sinharaja rainforest was included in the UNESCO list in 1989 as a unique natural site.

This is a great place for hiking, contemplative observation of nature.

  Pros: Close to major southwest coast resorts.
  Cons: Not suitable for safari, not everyone likes the walking format. There are leeches in the forest, you need to wear closed clothes.
Best time to go: all year round
What animals can be seen: monkeys, reptiles, many rare birds, insects

Caudulla is a great place for bird watching

Caudulla became a national park in 2002. Kaudulla is the national park of Sri Lanka, which is very popular with ornithologists from all over the world (over 160 species of birds live here). In addition to birds, a huge number of mammals live here. Tourists watch Sri Lankan leopards and elephants, deer and wild boars. The total area of the park is more than 6900 hectares.

  Pros: Paradise for ornithologists and bird lovers. Close to Sigiriya and Trincomalee.
  Cons: Far from the main resorts of the southwest coast.
Best time to go: all year round (preferably during the rainy season from November to March)
What animals can be seen: many species of birds, elephants, bears, leopards, deer, wild boars

Adam's Bridge - a unique marine reserve

Adam's Bridge (also Rama's Bridge, Ramasetu) is a 48 km long string of shoals and islets in the Indian Ocean, between India and Sri Lanka. Only the strait between Cape Ramnad and Rameswaram Island, the so-called Pamban Pass, is accessible to small craft. Parallel to the chain of the Bridge, there is a ferry railway crossing. According to ancient Arabic and Portuguese maps, Ramasetu connected Ceylon with the mainland until the end of the 15th century.

It is mentioned in the Indian epic "Ramayana", according to which it was built by order of Prince Rama. According to Muslim legend, along these shoals, Adam, heading to Eve in the area of \u200b\u200bthe modern city of Jeddah, crossed from Sri Lanka to the continent after being expelled from Paradise and falling to Sri Pada.

Adam's Bridge is one of two marine reserves in Sri Lanka. Adam's Bridge became a national park in 2015. The Indian section of Adam's Bridge is also part of the Marine National Park. There are rich ecosystems here, this is a resting place for birds during seasonal migration. Not far from the coast there are reefs where dolphins frolic, turtles and dugongs swim, and beaches with silky sand stretch nearby.

  Advantages: Seascapes, variety of birds
  Cons: Distance from major cities and resorts
Best time to go: January - September
What animals can be seen: a large number of birds, fish and marine mammals

Pigeon Island, Pigeon Island is an ideal place for diving and snorkeling

Pigeon Island consists of two islands - large and small. The large island is bordered by a coral reef, which is about 200 meters long and 100 meters wide. The small island is surrounded by rocky islands. The reef here is quite shallow, which makes it accessible not only for divers, but also for snorkelling. Here you can observe the rich fauna of tropical seas.

  Advantages: Close to Trincomalee. Many types of entertainment: boat trips, snorkeling, diving, beach holidays.
  Cons: Far from the main resorts of the southwest coast. Seasonality.
Best time to go: April to October
What animals can be seen: many types of fish, marine mammals

Horton Plateau (Horton Plains, Horton Plains)

One of the most beautiful world heritage sites is definitely the Horton Plains National Park in Sri Lanka. The most visited attraction of this national park is the End of the World, where the plateau of the park suddenly ends with a deep cliff of more than 800 meters. On clear days, you can see Adam's Peak from the observation deck.

Excursion with a visit to the Horton Plateau (optional):

Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella

  • Sigiriya Lion Rock, Buddha's Tooth Temple
  • Jeep Safari, Anuradhapura, Tea Plantations
  • Private tour by comfortable car
  • English speaking driver
from 180 usd/pax
Detailed program
 Organizer  Organized by

  Advantages: Relatively close to the main tourist routes. Waterfalls, beautiful scenery
  Cons: The national park is more suitable for admiring the scenery than for observing animals.
Best time to go: all year round
What animals can be seen: birds, small mammals


Bundalla is densely leafed forests and wetlands, sand dunes and clear springs. Thanks to this, Bundala boasts an incredible diversity of fauna. There are about two hundred species of birds, among which flamingos, herons and peacocks stand out. Many species of amphibians and mammals also live here. There is a chance to see elephants.

  Pros: Easily accessible from south coast resorts. Close to Yala.
  Cons: Relatively small. Suitable for hiking.
Best time to go: all year round
What animals can be seen: elephants, deer, crocodiles, flamingos, peacocks, herons (almost 200 species of birds in total!)

Kumana National Park

Kumana Park is located on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka and is a haven for migratory birds. More than 250 bird species have been recorded in the park. There are also jackals, wild cats, wild boars and elephants. Beautiful landscapes are complemented by rare species of butterflies. Kumana is located next to the Kataragama Hindu temple, which is regularly visited by pilgrims from all over the island.

  Benefits: Many kinds of birds
  Cons: Far from main resorts and major cities.
When to go: all year round, best from April to November
What animals can be seen: elephants, wild boars, 250 species of birds

Gal Oya National Park (Gal Oya)

The unique ecosystems of Gal Oya Park are supported by the Senanayake Samudraya reservoir. Essentially, it is a watershed with many wetlands, lakes, and lush forests. This park is a habitat for buffaloes, leopards, elephants. The national park is located in the eastern part of the island of Sri Lanka, 314 kilometers from Colombo. The park was created in 1954.

  Advantages: Rich flora and fauna.
  Cons: Far from main resorts and major cities.
When to go: all year round, best from November to March
What animals can be seen: elephants, leopards, wild boars, birds