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Yala National Park clinches the top spot for the most popular wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka - and for good reason. Fringed by the Indian Ocean, the vast grasslands, dense forests and glittering lagoons are a natural playground for abundant populations of elephants, leopards and aquatic birds.
A former hunting ground during the British colonial rule, the park is now one of Sri Lanka’s leading ecotourism areas and boasts some of the island’s most pristine rural landscapes. A safari offers endless sightseeing opportunities - we’re talking crocodiles dozing in lagoons, resplendent peacocks parading through forests, and herds of elephants grazing in lush grass. It really is a nature-lover’s dream.
It’s not all about animal encounters in Yala though. If you fancy a spot of culture, you can visit one of the local villages, learn how to whip up a spicy Sri Lankan feast and try your hand at curd making. So whether you choose to spend your time on the back of a jeep or chatting to local farmers over a homecooked lunch, enriching experiences come in all shapes and sizes in this beautiful part of the world.
Ready for a wild adventure? Swap your flip flops for hiking boots and bring your binoculars as you embark on an unforgettable journey into Sri Lanka’s unspoilt wilderness. We promise you won’t regret it.
Of course, the main draw of Yala National Park is the plethora of wildlife, and what better way to see the exotic mammals, reptiles and birds than with a safari? You can choose from a half-day tour, or if you want to maximise wildlife-spotting opportunities and see the park in its full splendour from dawn until dusk, opt for the full-day option.
Spread across 900 square kilometres, Yala is one of the biggest national parks in Sri Lanka. In fact, it’s so vast that it’s split into five areas, two of which are open for safari tours. It’s worth bearing in mind that the park can be busy at certain times of year (particularly from May until August), but with some careful planning, you should be able to avoid the crowds.
For many, the highlight of a safari is spotting a big cat in the wild. Yala’s most famous resident is the Sri Lankan leopard - though these elusive predators aren’t always easy to see. To increase your chances, safaris tend to focus on the park’s dense forests and rocky outcrops where leopards like to hunt and laze in the sun. You won’t forget the first time you catch a glimpse of a spotted tail or paw print - just remember to bring your camera so you can steal some snaps of these amazing moments.
While the leopards are a huge attraction, the park’s diverse landscapes are home to an array of other species. Keep an eye out for elephants, sloth bears, jackals, spotted deer, crocodiles, sambar and peacocks. At the lagoon, flocks of flamingos, pelicans and storks make for a brilliant spectacle. And if you really want to get up-close and personal with the flora and fauna, an expert guide can take you around the nature trails on the border of the park.
When you’ve had your fill of wildlife encounters, why not experience some of the area’s rich culture? Visit the local villages and ethnic communities and gain a unique insight into their humble lifestyles. Discover the variety of mouth-watering ingredients used in authentic Sri Lankan dishes and enjoy a homecooked farmer’s meal made from locally-sourced produce. There’s also the chance to learn the art of curd making and have a go yourself.
To include Yala National Park in your tour of Sri Lanka, start with the Sri Lanka Classic base itinerary and select the Nature button or click on Yala using the interactive map. Finally, add the finishing touches to your trip by selecting other destinations and experiences using the itinerary builder.
If you’re a wildlife-enthusiast, a visit to Yala National Park should be at the top of your wish-list. For more insider tips and inspiration on how you can spend your time in the park and surrounding area, head over to our blogs to read about what others have done.
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