Wasgamuwa National Park: A Beautiful Animal Sanctuary

Wasgamuwa is the place for wonders of nature and history!

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, you don’t want to miss Sudu Kanda, or the White Mountain in Wasgamuwa National Park. It’s been inhabited for over two centuries! Wasgamuwa became a national park in the 1970s after being nature sanctuary for many years. The most pronounced feature of the park is Sudu Kanda, the White Mountain, 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 one hundred and fifty different species of birds here, including the endemic red-faced malkoha and the ceylon junglefowl.

Things to Do

Elephant Viewpoint

Wasgamuwa is famous for the sprawling herds of wild elephants as large as 150. Many elephants gather around the reservoir in the evening, and during the monsoon to feed on the grasslands. You can see many of these wonderful animals while going around in the park with a safari tour. Best time is to go early afternoon when the animals are moving around for water and food. A new elephant transport home is being planned in this area.

Jeep Safari

Jeep Safaris are the only way visitors are permitted to enter the park. You can only access the park inside a vehicle for your own safety! These safaris are available in the entrances and you can book them in advance as well. Pre booking comes with great advantages, like hotel pick up and snack time. Other than elephants, keep an eye out for leopards, fishing cats, sambar deer, and rusty spotted cats. Every now and then, a lucky visitor will spot a sloth bear. Visit early morning for best experience!

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Rs 3200 per person

Transportation from Colombo Airport: Via train or bus 9 hours, via taxi or drive 4 hours

Opening Hours: 6 am to 6:30 pm

Location: Wasgamuwa National Park, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

How to get there from the city: 90 km from Polonnaruwa

Website: https://lanka.com/about/attractions/wasgamuwa-national-park/

Camping

There are few campsites inside the forest, which are ideal for an unforgettable camping experience. Three campsites can be booked from the head office of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The other five campsites are named as Medapitiya, Mahaweli Ganga I and II, Wawul Ebe, and Ulpath Hatha. Spend a night under the stars at the national park, and enjoy the sounds of nature. Make sure you are prepared for spending time outside, like resealable foods, water and warmer clothes, as nights and early mornings tend to be cooler.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Price depends on each campsite an number of people

Transportation from Colombo Airport: Via train or bus 9 hours, via taxi or drive 4 hours

Opening Hours: 6 am to 6:30 pm

Location: Wasgamuwa National Park, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

How to get there from the city: 90 km from Polonnaruwa

Website: http://srilankanexpeditions.com/tour.php?id=68

Bird Watching

In Wasgamuwa National Park, you can find one hundred and forty three species of bird. Seven of them are endemic birds to Sri Lanka, such as the red faced malkoha. Since the park is located on the border of a dry zone and a wet zone, several wetland birds also can be found in the park. The chestnut-winged cuckoo and the frogmouth are two rare birds recorded in Wasgamuwa National Park. There are so many interesting facts you could learn about birds, so make sure to add a birdwatching to your tour!

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Book it with your safari

Transportation from Colombo Airport: Via train or bus 9 hours, via taxi or drive 4 hours

Opening Hours: 6 am to 6:30 pm

Location: Wasgamuwa National Park, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

How to get there from the city: 90 km from Polonnaruwa

Website: http://www.srilankansafari.com/birds_of_sri_lanka.php

Dimbulagala Raja Maha Vihara

This spot is truly worth the hike! With all the beautiful buildings and scenery you will not be dissapointed. This forest hermitage of medieval times and holy abode since time immemorial, home to some of the most valued fragments of early frescoes by the Brits. The restored colors of the pagoda are amazing. Hire a tour guide to tell you all about the legends and historical stories of this complex.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Free of charge

Transportation from Colombo Airport: Via train or bus 9 hours, via taxi or drive 4 hours

Opening Hours: 6 am to 8:30 pm

Location: Dimbulagala Monastery Polonnaruwa, Polonnaruwa 51000, Sri Lanka

How to get there from the city: 20 minute drive from Polonnaruwa

Website: http://www.srilankansafari.com/birds_of_sri_lanka.php

Malagamuwa Stone Pillars

Malagamuwa was a temple complex in the 12th century built by King Parakramabahu the Great during the Polonnaruwa era. Besides the temple, it’s believed the king had a palace to stay at while he visited sermons of the temple. Ruins of a thick foundation made with bricks and stone pillars is scattered around the temple complex. Make sure to check out this historical site and take a look on the remains of the complex!

Giant Canal of Kalinga

The giant canal of Kalinga, also known as the Kalinga Yodha Ela, is located in Polonnaruwa. It was also built by King Parakramabahu the Great during the Polonnaruwa era. It’s believed that this canal used to transport local rice productions by foreign sailors. It starts from the Minipe Anicut left bank and runs across Wasgamuwa National Park, supplying water to paddy cultivation and small reservoirs. Recently there were several restoring projects, and engineers trying to make this reservoir better and safer. 

Wasgamuwa Reservoir

Wasgamuwa National Park exhibits one of the highest biodiversity among the protected areas in Sri Lanka due to the reservoir, and the Wasgamuwa reservoir receives water by the giant canal of Kalinga from the Mahaweli River. The reservoir is a home for several aquatic birds and crocodiles. There are designated Jeep safari routes along the bank of the Wasgamuwa reservoir to give you a scenic view of the water and surroundings. This reservoir attracts many birds and mammals.

When to Go

There are two seasons in Sri Lanka, a rainy monsoon season and a dry one. The north and eastern regions – which include Polonnaruwa and Wasgamuwa – the weather is determined by the north-eastern monsoon. This brings rain and wind from October through January and a sunnier, warmer weather between April and September. From the beginning of April, the weather is getting more hot with an average 30°C but it still tends to rain a few times a month. Therefore the best time to go is between May and September if you’d like to be in a drier weather. However, if you don’t mind a bit of a rain and lower temperatures (25°C) and less tourists, you can enjoy Sri Lanka in the monsoon season as well, just make sure you bring raincoats too.

 Where to Sleep

Wasgamuwa National Park provides both bungalows and campsites to visitors who wish to stay within the park. There are three bungalows inside the park and two just outside the park. These can be booked through the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

We normally like to stay in Dambulla when visiting Wasgamuwa. The accommodation and service are both better and it is easy to visit other sites like Dambulla and Sigiriya. Our preferred eco-friendly choices in Dambulla are Heritance Kandalama and Kalundewa Retreat.

Heritance Kandalama

Do you love monkeys and mischief? Stay at the Heritance Kandalama, where mischievious monkeys climb your gallery pillars! With top-notch accommodations and world-class services, your stay at this hotel is going to be truly remarkable.

Kalundewa Retreat, Dambulla

The simple sophistication of Kalundewa Retreat blends with the neighboring villages and their rural lifestyle. It has surroundings that are tranquil and beautiful while the guest rooms are deluxe and welcoming. Well-equipped with up-to-date interiors, the resort also offers various dining venues and a number of recreational activities. The resort emphasizes ecotourism and is a perfect place to stay. Enjoy a retreat with authenticity, that will help you revitalize.

Where to Eat

Far Cry, Wasgamuwa

The dishes offered by this restaurant are simply delicious. They prepare Sri Lankan and European food, and are known for their freshly baked breads and pastries—including flaky, buttery croissants.

Wasgamuwa Safari Village Hotel

The Wasgamuwa Safari Village Hotel serves Sri Lankan and Chinese food. They are well known in the area for their warm hospitality and delicious food offerings.

Dress code

Make sure to dress appropriately when you visit Sri Lanka: don’t forget to cover your shoulders and if possible your ankles as well when visiting sacred places. This is a way of showing respect towards the locals and their religion. A casual top or shirt and jeans should be a great option, even on the safari, as it could get very hot during the day and way cooler at late afternoon.

Bikinis and swimwear are acceptable only near the beach. Don’t go into stores or restaurants in your swimsuit! Make sure to take off your hat when entering stores.

Do not forget to bring a light jacket or a sweater if you traveling around, because temples and hiking trails could get colder.

Getting In and Around

Wasgamuwa National Park is located in the north eastern part of the island. It is only 90 km away from Polonnaruwa, and you can access it from many cities via public transportation or a private car.

Colombo: Colombo is 240 km away from Wasgamuwa National Park on the west coast of the island. From Colombo take the daily express direct train to Polonnaruwa, then transfer to a local bus or take a tuk-tuk to reach Wasgamuwa National Park in 8 hours.  Via taxi or private car you can reach the national park in 4.5 hours.

Negombo: Negombo is 210 km away from the national park, on the west coast of Sri Lanka, just above Colombo. From Negombo take a daily bus to Polonnaruwa, then transfer to a local bus to reach Wasgamuwa National Park in 9 hours. You can also travel to Colombo where you can take the daily train to Polonnaruwa. Via taxi or private car you can reach Wasgamuwa National Park in 4 hours.

Kandy: Kandy is 125 km away from Wasgamuwa National Park in the centre of the Sri Lanka. Take the daily local bus to Polonnaruwa, then transfer to a local bus to the national park with a total trip time of 7 hours. You can also take a train to Dambulla, then take a local bus to Polonnaruwa with a total trip time of 9 hours. Via taxi or private car you can reach Wasgamuwa National Park in 3 hours.

Ella: Ella is 125 km away from Wasgamuwa National Park in southern direction. Via train go to Kandy, then transfer to a local bus to Polonnaruwa with a total trip time of 7 hours. Via taxi or private car you can reach the national park in 2.5 hours.

Galle: Galle is 350 km away from the national park, on the south coast of Sri Lanka. Via a daily direct bus travel to Dehiattakandiya, then travel with a local bus to Wasgamuwa National Park in about 12 hours. Via taxi or private car you can be at the national park in 6 hours.

Dambulla: Dambulla is 70 km away from Wasgamuwa National Park, in north west direction. Travel with a local bus to reach the park in 2 hours. Via taxi or private car you can be there in 1 hour.

Budget

Sri Lanka is a stunning place with its beautiful history and if you plan to go there prepare yourself because you can come across with highly priced safaris, hotels and tours.

As most places, you can choose a luxury hotel for $90 and up or the mid-range costs around $20-$60 or you can find rooms or hostels for $10-$15. The public transportation is the cheapest option to get around ( $1- $4), but it’s not so comfy, as you have to stand most times, and travel times are very long. However, you can hire a driver who will take you anywhere for around $50/day in the area. Restaurants usually ask $20/meal, but you can grab food from buffets and stands, which cost you way less ($3-$5), and you can try amazing foods like papaya with red chili. Throughout Sri Lanka could be an expensive place to visit because of the cost of the activities, like safaris and tours, however, you should not leave those out, the view and the experience. will definitely make it up for you.

Conclusion

Wasgamuwa National Park is clearly a prime destination for your Sri Lanka trip! Whether you want a piece of nature, a glimpse of wild animals, a little more history, or a combination of all three, there is something for you! Wander along the remains of a Buddhist image house and stupa, or go on a Jeep safari to spot elephant herds, leopards, deer, and maybe even the elusive sloth bear. If you’re in it for a real adventure, book one of the campsites within the park and sleep under the stars. There’s no better way to get to know Sri Lanka than sleeping outside! Stop at the Far Cry Diner or the Wasgamuwa Safari hotel for delicious food and satisfy your hungry palate.