14 Amazing National Parks in Sri Lanka – A Detailed Guide

For adventure lovers and nature enthusiasts, this is your chance to get up close and personal with Sri Lanka’s greatest habitats: the wild!

These National Parks offer every type of opportunity, from adventurous hot air-balloon rides to ruins from ancient temple complexes.

And hospitality doesn’t get any better than the small communities surrounding these National Parks. No matter where you go, comfortable accommodations (from up-scale resorts to free camp sites) abound. As always, delicious Sri Lankan cuisine awaits.

1. Yala National Park

The graceful, beautiful leopard lives in Yala National Park in high numbers, so if you want to see one, this is the place to visit!

The park is made up of five sections, but only two are open to the public; Ruhuna National Park (referred to as Yala) and the most well known block, Kumana National Park (referred to as Yala East). These two sections of the park are divided by a river. Because of this, the park is treated  as if it were two separate parks.

Along the shores of Yala, you can find beautiful mangroves and coral reefs, as well as signs that the area has been inhabited for several millennia! Decrepit reservoirs and evidence of an agricultural civilization have been found. Various important archaeological sites make Yala National Park a cultural site as well.

Local resorts and hotels offer comfortable places to sleep and delicious, local cuisine. We can’t wait to see you at Yala National Park—on either side!

2. Minneriya National Park

The heart of the National Park is the Minneriya reservoir, which supports wildlife with grasses and shoots most of the year. It was built by King Mahasen in the 3rd century A.D.

Twenty four different species of mammals live here, including deer, elephants, endangered species such as the Sri Lankan leopard and the sloth bear, and two species of endemic monkeys.

This reservoir is also a paradise for birdwatchers! Over one hundred and sixty different species of birds (and many large water birds) make their home here. Some species include the lesser adjutant, the spot-billed pelican, the great white pelican, the ruddy turnstone, the grey heron and the painted stork. Many bird species endemic to Sri Lanka can also be found.

The nearby cities provide plenty of accommodation ranging from budget to world-class. And, as always, delicious Sri Lankan cuisine awaits! What are you waiting for? Head to Minneriya today!

3. Udawalawe National Park

Are you thirsty for a taste of Africa while visiting Sri Lanka? Udawalawe is the place for you!

The Udawalawe National Park was established in 1972 and extends to 30,821 hectares. Before becoming a National Park, the area was used for chena farming. The farmers have since moved on.

The Udawalawe National Park has often been compared to the savannah reserves of Africa, due to the sprawling grasslands with herds of elephants, water buffalo, leopards, and sambar deer. Udawalawe Reservoir is located in the center of the park, and is fed by the Walawe Ganga River. Most tourists flock to the park to see the elephants herds of over one hundred. The elephants remain in the park because of a fence that keeps them protected inside. Many species of large water birds frequent the park, making it a popular bird watching location.

4. Willpattu National Park

Have you ever wanted to see a leopard? Or the elusive sloth bear? Wilpattu National Park protects these animals and more!

The name Wilpattu comes from the words Willu-Pattu, which means the Land of the Lakes. Sixty lakes and reservoirs scatter throughout Wilpattu National Park.

The willus or, natural lakes, are depressions in the sandy earth that fill with rainwater during the rainy season. The rest of the year the area is dry. The lakes gradually evaporate throughout the year. Wilpattu is the largest and oldest National Park in Sri Lanka!

Many threatened and endangered species live within the park, including the Sri Lankan leopard, the elephant, sloth bear, and the water buffalo. Keep an eye out for mongoose, spotted deer, sambar deer, mice, and shrews. Many bird species also live here.

There are campsites to rent or resorts to stay at (don’t forget an aryuveda treatment!) and many delicious places to get local fare. Don’t wait—come visit Wilpattu National Park today!

5. Kumana National Park

A rustic bird sanctuary with a turbulent past awaits you at Kumana National Park.

Kumana—formerly known as the Yala East National Park—is a paradise for birds. It protects over two hundred and fifteen different species. The mangrove swamp Kumana Villu acts as a nesting and roosting ground for many water birds during May and June. Each year, hundreds of thousands of birds migrate here.

The Kumana Bird Sanctuary has a rough past because of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Less than two years after it reopened, the 2004 tsunami hit. Fortunately, recovery has been swift and tourism has returned!

Cave carvings dating to the 3rd century B.C. can also be found, and Kumana also lies in the path of the traditional annual pilgrimmate to the Hindu temple at Kataragama.

Arugam Bay provides plenty of comfortable accommodations and delicious food. If you want a peaceful experience of bird watching and animal spotting, make your way to Kumana!

6. Gal Oya

If you love variation in your wildlife and scenery, you won’t want to miss Gal Oya National Park.

Gal Oya National Park was established in 1954 to protect the great Senanayake Samudraya reservoir, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka. It has become a major eco-tourism venue filled with a stunning assortment of flora and fauna. It’s home to thirty-two species of mammals, and one hundred and fifty species of birds.

A boat cruise will take you through Bird’s Island, (which serves as a nesting ground), the Makara Kata tunnel, and the Dighavapi stupa. The Dighavapi stupa is believed to be the site where Buddha meditated during his third visit in Sri Lanka.

The Gal Oya Lodge can help you arrange fun activities and make your stay memorable. Ampara offers many delicious options for food when you need an energy boost. What are you waiting for? One of the most beautiful national parks in Sri Lanka is waiting for you!

7. Horton Plains National Park

They say that mountains are the temples of the gods. The Horton Plains National Park is one place to test that theory!

Horton Plains is nestled in the skirts of two of Sri Lanka’s tallest mountains; Kirigalpotta and Totapola. Keep an eye out for leopards, wild boar, shaggy bear monkey, sambar deer, and the rare toque macaque.

World’s End, an 870 meter drop off, marks the south end of the park. Visit early in the morning before the mist descends or you won’t be able to see through! From there, you can continue to Bakers Falls, one of Sri Lanka’s most famous waterfalls. Complete the circuit by walking back to the entrance of the park, a 9.5 kilometer walk, which should take about three hours at a leisurely pace.

Book a campsite in advance or book  room at the World’s End Lodge. There are even more places to eat if you visit Ohiya. We can’t wait to see you in Horton Plains!

8. Lahugala National Park

Small and sweet is definitely the way to describe Lahugala National Park!

Located in the eastern province of Sri Lanka, the Lahugala Kitulana National Park is one of the smallest parks on the island. Due to ethnic violence at the park, it was closed for many years before being reopened in 2005. There are three main reservoir located here; Lahugala, Kitulana, and Sengamuwa.

This dry-zone evergreen forest has a unique charm. Elephants frequent the park in herds of over one hundred and fifty. Other edemic species live here, including the toque macaque, the sloth bear, the tufted grey langur, the Sri Lankan leopard, the Sri Lankan axis deer, and the Sri Lankan sambar deer. Wetland birds include the purple heron, the painted stork, the lesser adjutant, the great white pelican, the hite-throated kingfisher, and the spot-billed pelican. So many wonderful creatures to see!

Accommodations and restaurants in Arugam ensure that this will be a comfortable and delicious stop on your trip to Sri Lanka.

9. Wasgamuwa National Park

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, you don’t want to miss the White Mountain in Wasgamuwa National Park. It’s been inhabited for over two centuries!

The most pronounced feature of the park is Sudu Kanda, the White Moutain, which stands at an elevation of four hundred and seventy meters.

Herds of up to one hundred and fifty elephants migrate to the park at this time of year, but other mammals include the purple-faced langur monkeys, sambar deer, buffalo, wild boar, and if you’re lucky, leopards and the endemic sloth bear. There are nearly once hundred and fifty different species of birds here, including the endemic red-faced malkoha and the ceylon junglefowl.

There are campsites available for the more adventurous travelers that want to sleep under the stars, and delicious places to grab some food and get you ready for your next stop. Come to Wasgamuwa and see the wild side of Sri Lanka for yourself!

10. Wirawila Bird Sanctuary

Bird lovers, Wirawila Bird Sanctuary is a haven for you!

The Wirawila Bird Sanctuary is located in southern Sri Lanka, and boasts two main reservoirs; the Wirawila reservoir and the Tissa reservoir. Thousands of migratory birds (both aquatic and jungle species) come to the sanctuary each year to roost and nest.

While visiting, keep an eye out for water birds like the lesser flamingo, the spoonbill, the painted stork, the pelican, the grey heron, the purple heron, the darter, and the rare black necked stork. Migrating waterfowl who visit the park include the piontail, the eurasian curlew, and the whimbrel. They harmoniously share the space with the wetland portion of the sanctuary residents like the red wattled lapwig, the great stone ployer, and other forest species such as the orange breasted green pigeon, the hornbill, and the flycatchers.

Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or just a nature lover, Wirawila is an unforgettable sanctuary to visit.

11. Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Do you want to see all the birds that Sri Lanka has to offer? (And then some?) Then come to Kalametiya!

Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is a major wetland area between the towns of Tangalle and Hambantota. It’s home to nearly all of Sri Lanka’s bird species—as well as countless or migrants who roost and nest during the migratory season. Kalametiya is one of the oldest bird sanctuaries on the island of Sri Lanka.

Keep an eye out for the black capped purple kingfisher, flamingos, the Asian open bill, the eurasian spoonbill, the purple swamp hen, the common snipe, the black winged stilt, and the glossy ibis, among many others! Be careful—elephants and crocodiles may also sneak up on you.

Tangalla is the nearby town, and offers any kind of accommodation from hostels to luxurious resorts. Delicious seafood is also on the menu in most restaurants here!

12. Muthurajawela

Sri Lanka has many natural wonders, but none so intriguing as the Muthurajawela Marshland, or swamp of royal treasure, where history states ancient kings hid their treasures. Grab a map and come to Muthurjawela!

The Muthurajawela marshland is located on the coast, just south of Negombo. The name literally means swamp of royal treasure in Sinhalese. Today, it could also refer to the wide array of birdlife it protects.

The mixed water creates a special ecosystem perfect for birds and reptiles. Including crocodiles and Sri Lanka’s largest snake, the green python. Over one hundred different species of birds live here. The Muthurajawela Sanctuary also contains exotic examples of many different mangrove trees and other flora. Due to its convenient location, Muthurajawela is easily accessible.

There are local places to stay and delicious food to eat near Negombo, so don’t miss this beautiful sanctuary and opportunity to explore another hidden Sri Lankan gem.

13. Udawattakele

Luscious plants, endemic birds, and a prime location: Udawattakele has it all!

Udawattakele is an historic sanctuary located in the ancient, sacred city of Kandy. The sanctuary is home to over four hundred and sixty plant species, including giant lianas and several orchid species.

Around eighty different species of birds live in the Udawattakele Sanctuary, some of which endemic, such as the Layard’s parakeet. Their beautiful grey, green and blue colours are attractive in the forest light. Other endemic species include the yellow-fronted barbet and the brown-capped babbler. Bird enthusiasts will be happy to know that the elusive three-toe kingfisher, the red-faced malkoha, and the kashmir flycatcher have been known to inhabit the sanctuary. Keep an eye out for blue-winged leafbirds, spotted doves, emerald doves, Tickell’s blue flycatcher, and crimson-fronted barbets.

Stay at your choice of comfortable accommodations and indulge in delicious cuisines.

14. Kandalama

Of all the great Sri Lankan provinces, Kandalama deserves a special mention! The entire village of Kandalama (as well as its adjoining areas) are an adventurer’s delight thanks to two UNESCO World Heritage sites located very close. History lovers, outdoors enthusiasts, and visitors looking for a relaxing break will all finds something in Kandalama.

One of the best places to start is Kandalama Reservoir. If you’re a boating enthusiast, you’ll love it here! Boat tours are available if you want to get out on the water, or get a glimpse of traditional fishing from other fishermen. Don’t miss the sunsets on Kandalama Lake!

Located close by is Dambulla, which has its own long list of tourist attractions, including the Dambulla Museum and the Rock Cave Temples. Or head over to Sigiriya. If you’re a history lover, you don’t want to miss either one!

There’s no doubt about it: Sri Lanka has some of the best natural sites in the world! It’s a haven for bird or animal lovers of any kind, from the beautiful mangrove swamps of Muthurajawela, to the lush trails of the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary. Many parks protect the habit of Sri Lankan animals, like Minneriya and Lanugala National Park. Camp under the stars at Wilpattu National Park, or visit Kandalama for a little more ancient history. Whether you’re visiting during monsoon season or not, there’s definitely something for you to see in the great Sri Lankan outdoors.

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