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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for List of National parks in Sri Lanka - Explore the Wild Lands of Lanka
Joanna James Joanna James
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List of National parks in Sri Lanka - Explore the Wild Lands of Lanka

Wildlife tours in Sri Lanka are extraordinary affairs. Elephants, leopards , and sloth bears you name it, call this tiny nation their home. Visit these national parks and say hello to them! 🐘


Yala National Park

Yala National Park

Famous For: Leopards 🐯

Distance from Colombo : 06 hours ( 296 Km )

Situated in the south east of the country, the Yala National Park is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka as well as the second largest. Once upon a time, Yala was the site of several ancient civilizations but now it’s totally dedicated to providing a sanctuary for Sri Lankan wildlife.

The park is made up of five blocks and only two of these are open to the public. The borders of the park, meanwhile, are used as for camping by places like Mahoora Tented Safari Camps; so that travellers can get a more authentic experience.

Yala is famous for its leopards as it’s considered to have one of the highest leopard densities in the world. There are about 30 or so Sri Lankans leopards living in Yala. In addition, Yala is also home to 44 species of mammals including 300–350 elephants, 47 reptiles including endemic species such as the Sri Lankan flying snake and 215 bird species among other species.

Photo © Mahoora Tented Safari Camps


Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe National Park

Famous For: Elephants and water birds 🐘

Distance from Colombo: Four hours ( 171 Km )

The Udawalawe National Park was established in 1972 to provide a refuge for wild animals displaced by the building of the Udawalawe Reservoir as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir.

The park lies on the boundaries of the Uva and Sabaragamuwa Provinces featuring extensive stretches of scrub jungle and grassland as well as riverine forest. It’s well known for its large herds of Sri Lankan elephants or Elephas Maximus Maximus. There are about 250 permanently resident elephants reported from the park.

Udawalawe is also known as an important habitat for bird watching especially for water birds such as cormorants, Asian open bill, painted stork, the spot-billed pelican, black-headed ibis and the Eurasian spoonbill to name a few.

Apart from the elephants and birds, visitors can spot a range of wonderful wildlife such as mugger crocodiles, Sri Lankan axis deer, Sri Lankan sambar deer, Sri Lankan leopard and much more.

Photo By Ji-Elle (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve

Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve

Famous For: Birdwatching 🐦

Distance from Colombo: Five hours

Meaning the “Lion Kingdom” in Sinhalese, the Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve. This beautiful hilly virgin rainforest is known as a birdwatcher’s paradise as it's home to 147 species such as the

  • Sri Lanka White-eye
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Scaly Thrush
  • Dusky Blue Flycatcher
  • Yellow-eared Bulbul to name a few.

Sinharaja is reported to be the only location where 21 out of 26 endemic bird species of Sri Lanka can be seen. One of the biggest attractions of Sinharaja is mixed-species bird flocks where birds of different species tend to move in mixed feeding.

Photo By Saqib Qayyum (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Minneriya & Kaudulla National Parks

Minneriya & Kaudulla National Parks

Famous For: Seasonal elephants 🐘

Distance from Colombo: Five and a half hours ( 195 Km )

Situated within a half an hour’s distance away from each other, the Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks are located within the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The Minneriya National Park is famous for its seasonal congregation of elephants when over 300 elephants come together around the banks of the Minneriya Lake. The ‘Minneriya Elephant Gathering’ takes place during the dry season which between September and October.

The Kaudulla National Park, on the other hand, is famous for its spectacular avifauna especially for its large flocks of migratory wading and waterfowl birds. The recorded number of 255 bird species includes rare species such as the purple heron, lesser adjutant, black-necked stork, and the Eurasian spoonbill, to name a few.

Photo via Amila Tennakoon , Flickr , (CC BY 2.0)


Horton Plains National Park

Horton Plains National Park

Famous For: Bird watching and Sambar Deer 🦌

Distance from Colombo: Five hours ( 188 Km)

Nestled among the central highlands, the Horton Plains National Park is reported to be the highest plateau in Sri Lanka. The cloud forests in the park are rich in endemic animals and plants that have adapted themselves to the cooler temperatures.

The Horton Plains National Parks is home to 24 species of mammals, nine species of reptiles and 87 species of birds, among other species.

The park is well known for its large concentration of sambar deer of about 1500 to 2000 individuals. Apart from the deer, there are Sri Lankan leopards, Sri Lankan spotted chevrotains and grizzled giant squirrels, to name a few of the resident species.

Photo By Cherubino (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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