Sri Lanka’s national parks

Hardly anyone has enough time to visit all of Sri Lanka’s 14 national parks during one trip. Therefore, you will have to decide which parks to visit, according to your personal preferences.

If you want to see leopards, you should go to Wilpattu or Yala National Park.

The sloth bears are most likely to be seen in Wilpattu National Park as well.

If you want to see elephants, you need to go to Udawalawe or Minneriya National Park.

A colorful, exotic variety of tropical birds can be seen in Gal Oya National Park, Kumana National Park and Bundala.

The most fascinating landscapes can also be found in Gal Oya and Horton Plains National Park.

Therefore, each national park is a matter of taste. It is difficult to say which is the most beautiful national park in this tropical paradise.

For us, however, the three most beautiful parks are the following:

Uda Walawe national park

The Uda Walawe is one of the largest national parks and is located in the southern interior of Sri Lanka and stretches around the Uda Walawe reservoir (see google maps here). The beautiful park is known for its large elephant populations.

Since the national park is not densely overgrown and the largest part consists of grassland and thorn bush savannahs, it is easier to spot large animals compared to other parks. Therefore, visitors get to see the impressive pachyderms on almost every safari tour.

What you can see: Elephants, monitor lizards, crocodiles, foxes, mongooses, water buffalos, exotic birds

Best time to visit: May – September. However, the park can be visited year-round as the monsoon’s impact is not too negative due to the savannah structure.

Opening hours: from 6 am to 6 pm

Safari Offers: In the morning or in the afternoon for about 2-4 hours, depending on elephant sightings

Wilpattu national park

Wilpattu is the largest national park and is located on the north-west coast of Sri Lanka (see google maps here).

Although the park has a very wide and extensive wildlife population, it is also the country’s most densely overgrown jungle park, which makes it difficult to spot the animals at times.

Nevertheless, for me, it is the most beautiful park, because it is not as crowded as Yala National Park. In my opinion, the probability to see leopards is even higher in Wilpattu than in the famous Yala National Park, as now there are so many jeeps on the road that the shy animals prefer to avoid the paths.

There are more than 40 lakes in Wilpattu National Park, which is why it is also called “Land of Lakes”. Therefore, there are many clearings, where you can observe the animals drinking. I have seen leopards and elephants on several occasions.  

What you can see: Mongooses, peacocks, elephants, leopards, wild pigs, monkeys, sloth bears, crocodiles, turtles, deer, rich exotic bird population

Best time to visit: February – October. Can be visited year-round.

Opening hours: from 6 am to 6 pm

Safari Offers: Morning Safari: 6 am – noon, afternoon Safari: noon – 6 pm, full-day Safari: 6 am – 6 pm

Horton Plains

Such a quiet, mysterious place, as if it were otherworldly.

Horton Plains National Park with its dense forests, hazy lakes, waterfalls and the almost vertical cliff World’s End is located at the center of Sri Lanka between Nuwara Eliya and Haputale at about 2,000 m altitude (see google maps here).

Horton Plains is definitely worth a visit with its winding hiking trails and completely different flora and fauna than you would expect to see on an island in the Indian Ocean.

The landscape is made up of grassland covered hills, swamps, waterfalls, trees and bushes covered with moss and grey-green lichens, rocks and foggy lakes. Three of Sri Lanka’s largest rivers, the Mahaweli, Kelani and the Walawe River, have their source in the park.

Horton Plains National Park is the only national park in Sri Lanka visitors can explore on their own.

Depending on your stamina and preferences, countless beautiful hiking trails lead to different destinations in the park. One of the most popular destinations is World’s End, a cliff that vertically drops 825m into the depth. A three-hour hike past Baker’s Falls waterfalls ends at World’s End. You should start this hike early in the morning, to reach World’s End before 10 am. After 10 am, dense, white clouds come up. On a clear day, you can even see as far as the southern part of the island.

While it is very cold in the morning, the weather changes very quickly around noon, so it is best to start the hike wearing the “onion look”.

What you can see: fascinating landscapes, waterfalls and a breathtaking view from “Worlds End”, Sambar (horse deer), lizards, exotic birds

Best time to visit: basically year-round, but it is advisable to visit the plateau during the months October – March, as the visibility is very limited in the rainy season

Opening hours: from 6 am to 6 pm

Safari Offers: There is no organized safari as you can explore the park on your own. Best time to do so is in the morning from 6 am – 10 am (best visibility).


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