Sri Lanka National Parks

Sri Lanka is home to some of the most beautiful and unexplored National Parks in this part of the world.

The island's isolation from the mainland, heavy rainfall from two annual monsoons and a wide range of altitudes gives Sri Lanka a biodiversity normally found across an entire continent.

Why visit Sri Lanka National Parks

  • See the magnificent leopard in Yala National Park
  • Uda Walawe National Park is the best place for Asian Elephant
  • Witness the elephant "gathering" at Minneriya National Park 
  • See the sloth bear at Wilpattu
  • Visit Gal Oya to watch wild elephants swim

Our travel experts suggestion

Get off the beaten track and visit remote National Parks such as Gal Oya, and Knuckles Range. Camp under canvas and get up close to nature. With the arrival of luxury tents, it is now worth spending more than just a night at some of these parks. With private bathrooms and delicious food set out under the trees, visitors have unlimited safaris in the park. The lucky few will find leopards but all will find families of elephants wandering freely in the scrub.


About Yala
One of the biggest and most illustrious parks in Sri Lanka, Yala can have a reputation for being too busy; however, you can avoid the crowds and still get a unique eco-friendly wildlife experience. Kulu Safaris makes avoiding the crowds a top priority and uses the north entrance of Yala block one instead of Kirinda. Kulu Safaris camp is not a luxury camp; however, offers a comfortable stay and excellent service. The naturalists here are some of the best available in the park. The park authorities have also recently trialled disconnecting mobile phone reception to avoid guides calling in sightings, which leads to crowding wildlife. This was partially successful and is likely to be fully implemented soon. For further crowd avoidance, consider travelling outside December, which is peak time. Yala does remain the best place, worldwide, to spot leopards. 

Notable inhabitants
Leopards, sloth bears, diverse birdlife, sambar deer, and mongoose.

Where to stay
Leopard Safaris and Noel Rodrigo's Leopard Trails offer superb luxury tented camping options with jeep safaris into the park included. This unique camping experience is hands-down the best way to see Yala. Staying on the border of the park and dining under the stars is an unforgettable experience. It’s great for anyone looking to add a little adventure to their trip.


About Minneriya
Minneriya is a usually visited during a tour of the cultural triangle as it's only a one to two hour drive from Sigiriya and Dambulla. Large numbers of Asian elephants can be found here at certain times of year during their migrations between the various parks. They are most numerous from July to October, peaking in August and September when water elsewhere dries up and as many as three hundred or more come to the tank’s ever-receding shores to drink, bathe and feed on the fresh grass that grows up from the lake bed as the waters retreat – as well as to socialize and search for mates. This annual event has been popularly dubbed “The Gathering”, the largest meeting of Asian elephants anywhere in the world. 

Notable inhabitants
You may also see spotted deer, sambur, and dozens of species of birds.

Where to stay
A visit to Minneriya can be made from the cultural triangle if staying at Heritance Kandalama, Ulagalla or Vil Uyana.

Uda Walawe

About Uda Walawe
With herds of elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and leopards, Uda Walawe is probably the best and most popular park in Sri Lanka and arguably rivals the savannah reserves of Africa. Due to its light vegetation, it is easy to spot and watch game.

Notable inhabitants
Elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and leopard.

Where to stay
Mahoora Tented Camp.


About the Knuckles
The Knuckles mountain range spreads across the districts of Matale and Kandy is is named after the appearance of its conical peaks which resemble a giant set of knuckles poking out of the ground. The area enjoys a high level of biodiversity, although for the larger part of the year the mountains are draped in thick clouds.

Notable inhabitants
You’re not likely to see leopards and elephants here – although they are around, the numbers are very small and the chances of a sighting are rare. The Knuckles is more about the smaller things: birdlife, lizards, butterflies, frogs, and loris.

Where to stay
Leopard Safaris currently offer camping in the Knuckles on request. This is a highly unique experience in one of Sri Lanka’s lesser visited areas and we cannot speak highly enough of it. The camp is presented perfectly, the food is exquisite, and the service is amazing, particularly if you consider that you’re up in the middle of nowhere in Sri Lanka’s mountains!


About Wilpattu
Once off-limits during the civil war, Wilpattu has been beautifully preserved, receives much less tourism than other parks and is actually Sri Lanka’s largest national park. Wilpattu is often compared to Yala given their similar size and diverse range of wildlife. However, Wilpattu is notably much greener than Yala with forests and lakes making up a large part of it. Given its landscape, it can be harder to spot larger wildlife. 

Notable Inhabitants
The many lakes and sand-rimmed water basins attract a wide range of aquatic birds. Wilpattu is also a great place for spotting leopards and sloth bears.

Where to stay
Similar to Yala, Leopard Safaris and Leopard Trails offer luxury tented camping options with jeep safaris into the park included.


About Gal Oya
The picturesque Gal Oya nature reserve doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. This beautiful national park is home to a large elephant heard that can often be seen swimming across the reservoir, best viewed by boat safari. In fact, Gal Oya is the only national park on the island where you can view elephants swimming by boat. It’s a breathtaking experience.

Notable inhabitants
Most people come to Gal Oya for the elephants, but there’s much more in the park. Expect a vast array of aquatic birdlife, wild boar, sambar and axis deer, among other things.

Where to stay
The Gal Oya Lodge is the definition of eco luxury at it’s best and is the place to stay when visiting Gal Oya. The lodge overlooks the stunning surroundings of the national park and is the ideal base to enjoy an elephant boat safari, take a walk through the forest with some of Sri Lanka’s indigenous people (the veddas), or just relax and soak up the tranquil beauty of this breathtaking part of the island.

WHEN TO GO to Sri Lanka National Parks

May to September – Yala National Park.
September  to October - Minneriya National Park for the Gathering

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