If the god ever made a place for Leopards, That place will be Yala National Park !

Angelena Scott – Big Cat Diary

Yala National Park is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka. The park is located 260 kilometers south of Colombo. Yala National Park, with its diverse ecosystems including moist and dry monsoon forests, thorn woods, grasslands, marshes, and beaches, is home to 44 animal species.

The British founded Yala National Park as a Game Sanctuary in 1894, and it was redesignated as Yala National Park in 1938. Yala National Park covers more than 100,000 hectares of wildlife, with Kirinda to the west, Kataragama to the north, Panama to the east, and the Indian Ocean to the south. Yala is separated into five sections known as blocks 1 through 5.

The Biodiversity at Yala National Park

While Sri Lankan leopards (Panthera pardus kotiya) can be seen in various national parks throughout the country, the species is said to be most widespread in Yala National Park. According to studies conducted in Block 1 of the Yala National Park, the habitat has one leopard per square kilometer of leopard diversity. Yala is believed to have the highest leopard population density in the world, and the area is thought to be home to more than 100 Sri Lankan leopards. Even though a leopard sighting is never guaranteed, the likelihood of seeing one in Yala National Park is almost certain.


Apart from leopards, you can spot a herd of over 350 Asian Elephants, Sloth Bear, Wild Water Buffalo, Toque macaque (an old world monkey indigenous to Sri Lanka), Golden palm Civet (also endemic to Sri Lanka and identified as vulnerable by the IUCN), Red Slender Loris, and the Fishing Cat (A wild cat of South East Asia classified as endangered by IUCN in 2008)

There are also 47 reptile species, six of which are endemic, including the Sri Lankan krait, the Boulenger’s keelback, the Sri Lankan flying snake, the Painted and Fan throat lip lizards, and the Wiegmann’s agama. There are 18 species of amphibians, two of which are endemic, Bufo atukoralei and Adenomous kelaarti (dwarf toads), and 21 species of fresh water fish, including the Mozambique tilapia and the stone sucker. A variety of butterfly species can be seen here, including the common bluebottle, common lime butterfly, red rose, common Jezebel, and common mormon. Furthermore, it is one of the 70 most significant bird places in Sri Lanka, with 215 bird species, six of which are endemic, namely the Sri Lanka grey hornbill, the Sri Lanka jungle fowl, the Sri Lanka wood pigeon, the crimson-fronted barbet, the black capped bulbul, and the brown-capped babbler. There are also many aquatic birds, the most of which are migrants, as well as many rare species.

The Cultural Importance of the Area

Yala has played an important part in Sri Lanka’s historical civilisations. Yala was also located along popular trade routes, via which the Indo-Aryan civilisation reached the small island republic. Situlpahuwa (was the home of 12000 arahants), Magul Vihara (built in 87 BC), Akasa Chaitiya (built in the 2nd century BC), and several ancient, dis-repaired tanks that stand testament to the rich hydraulic mechanisms of an agricultural civilisation dating back to the 5th century BC are all located within the Yala National Park.

Best time to visit Yala national park

The dry season in the region makes February to June the best time to visit Yala National Park. During the dry season, the park’s water levels are lower, causing many creatures to come out in search of water, making it easier for travelers to observe animals they may have never seen before.

how to get to yala national park from colombo

By a Private Taxi

If you prefer a more scenic route and are up for a road trip, you can  hire a private taxi from Colombo to Yala National Park. The journey takes approximately 4 hours, covering a distance of around 320 kilometers. The route will take you through picturesque landscapes, small towns, and highways, offering a glimpse of rural Sri Lanka.

If you need any help booking a taxi from airpot toYala national Park, or around Yala national park, we have the best rates. Please go to our price list for the taxi fare

By Bus

Another option is to take a public bus from Colombo to Thissamaharama or Kattaragama Depending on which gate you planing to do the Safari. The journey can take around 8-9 hours, and it’s advisable to choose a comfortable bus service. There are luxury Intercity coaches available from Colombo to Kataragama and Thissamaharama. The ticket will be approximately 7USD per person. As Uber is not widespread in Kataragama town you can always ask the hotel to arrange your transportation from Kataragama Town to the hotel.

Yala National Park Entrances

Yala National Park, located in Sri Lanka, has multiple entry gates that visitors can use to access the park. Each gate provides access to different sections of the park, offering unique wildlife viewing opportunities. Here are the main entry gates of Yala National Park:

Palatupana Entrance (Main Entrance)
  • Palatupana is the main and most commonly used entrance to Yala National Park. It provides access to Block 2, which is the most visited and renowned area of the park.
  • Block 2 is known for its high concentration of wildlife, including leopards, elephants, and a wide variety of bird species.
  • Nearest Town to Palatupana Gate is Tissamaharama town
Katagamuwa Entrance
  • The Katagamuwa Entrance is another popular entry point to Yala National Park. It provides access to Block 1, also known as Yala East.
  • Block 1 is characterized by its diverse ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, and wetlands, making it an excellent place for birdwatching.
  • Nearest town to Katagamuwa Entrance is Kataragama town.
Galge Entrance
  • Galge Entrance is less frequented by tourists compared to the Palatupana and Kataragama entrances. It provides access to Block 3.
  • Block 3 offers a more secluded and tranquil safari experience, with opportunities to encounter wildlife away from the crowds.
  • The Gate is Located at Buttala Kataragama Road where you can see elephants on the road.
Weheragala Entrance
  • Weheragala Entrance is located in the northern part of Yala National Park and provides access to Block 5.
  • Block 5 is famous for its picturesque lakes and water bodies, attracting a wide range of birdlife, especially during the migratory season.
  • While wildlife sightings in Block 5 may be less frequent, the serene surroundings make it a unique and peaceful safari option.
Yala Entrance


Tourists have several options for lodging in the area, ranging from camping following a safari at Yala National Park to ecological luxury tent or glamping tent setups in the park’s buffer zone to hotels near Yala National Park’s location. You can do some research to discover a hotel or camping that meets your needs and then tailor your Sri Lanka vacation package to include your preferred lodging.

Camping at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka

Camping within the park’s boundaries is one of the most popular activities among visitors to the national park. To meet these needs, Yala National Park has a variety of permitted camping sites where you may experience nature and wildness up close in the night while sitting by a happy bonfire and enjoying some nice food. Even within these camping grounds, you will have options ranging from basic camping facilities that allow you to get minimal and experience the toughness of camping, just like in the old days, to glamping options that allow you to nestle amidst the wild forests and trees in your own cocoon of luxury.

Glamping at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka

Glamping sites in Yala, such as Camp Leopard -Yala Safari Glamping, offer some of the most magnificent dinners under the starry night sky. The experience is a thrill for people who love to camp in the wilderness with all the conveniences of home.

Yala Leopard Center

On June 26, 2020, the Department of Wildlife Conservation received the keys to the Yala Leopard Center in Yala National Park. The center’s goals are to aid the DWC in improving leopard conservation and educating the public on leopard behavior in Yala National Park.

The Center is housed in two adjacent buildings known as Whiskers Wing and Rosettes Wing. Whiskers Wing displays a collection of photos of Leopard Behaviors, a digital touch screen that displays information such as leopard identification and other data from the Yala National Park and numerous research articles on leopards. Rosettes Wing has information panels containing videos of Leopards

Some of the famous Leopards in Yala National Park


Image courtesy of Yala Leopard Diary

Yala National Park Ticket Price

  • Yala National Park admission fee is different for residents, children, and foreigners, and it varies depending on the season. So, before you go, make sure to check the park’s official website  or Yala National Park Entrance Fees Calculator by Camp Leopard to determine the ticket price.

Did You Know?

Yala National Park is home to a White elephant

This is the only “white elephant” known to exist in the wild free of human interference and the first instance of one from Sri Lanka. The other ‘white elephants’ that have been reported are all captive creatures.

Yala National Park is home to a Black Leopard

Although black leopards are extremely rare to find in Sri Lanka, one was photographed in the Yala National Park. Only a few sightings in the nation were reported over the years.

Yala National Park is home to a whole family of Black Necked Storks

Even though there are only 10 of black naked storks thought to be living in the entire country, a couple of these birds and hatchlings have been observed in Yala National Park.

Best time to visit Yala National Park

The dry season in the region makes February to June the best time to visit Yala National Park. During the dry season, the park’s water levels are lower, causing many creatures to come out in search of water, making it easier for travelers to observe animals they may have never seen before.

Whatever time you choose to visit Yala National Park, make sure you choose the finest available tour package and customize it with your preferred hotel, so you can have the perfect vacation in the natural environment.

How to Book a Jeep Safari in Yala

To begin,

  • Visit a trusted online booking platforms associated with the park
  • Check in TripAdvisor
  • Contact the hotel where you are planning to stay
  • Or Simply Contact our Ceylon Hunt Team who handle Jeep Safaris in Yala

Get recommendation of a reliable Safari Jeep Operator. Contact your Operator and discuss your requirements like preferred date of visit, specific entrance to the national park considering that each gate leads to different sections of the park. Provide accurate visitor information, including names and any other required details. Choose the type of safari that suits your schedule

  • Full Day Safari
  • Extended Safari with Lunch inside the Park
  • Half Day Safari

On the day of your safari meet your safari Jeep at the hotel and embark on an unforgettable wildlife adventure through the enchanting landscapes of Yala National Park.

Near by places to see in Yala National Park

  1. Kataragama: A sacred pilgrimage site known for its colorful festivals and the revered Kataragama Temple, located about 20 kilometers from Yala.

  2. Kirinda: A coastal village featuring the iconic Kirinda Vihara, a historic Buddhist stupa perched on a rock with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean.

  3. Bundala National Park: A short drive from Yala, Bundala is renowned for its diverse birdlife, including migratory species, and offers a different but equally captivating safari experience.

  4. Tissa Wewa: An ancient reservoir in Tissamaharama, perfect for a peaceful stroll or boat ride, providing a tranquil contrast to the vibrant wildlife of Yala.

  5. Udawalawe National Park: Famous for its elephant population, Udawalawe is another nearby wildlife sanctuary offering excellent safari opportunities.

  6. Yatala Wehera: A historic stupa located in Tissamaharama, offering a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural heritage.

  7. Kudumbigala Monastery: A serene Buddhist monastery with ancient ruins, perched atop a rocky outcrop, providing panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

  8. Lunugamvehera National Park: A less-explored park with diverse ecosystems, offering a quieter alternative for wildlife enthusiasts.

  9. Mulgirigala Rock Temple: A fascinating complex of ancient cave temples and rock carvings, providing insight into Sri Lanka’s religious and cultural history.

  10. Yoda Gala Navarangala Forest Monastery: An archaeological site featuring a unique stone platform with nine circular stones, believed to be an ancient meditation site.

How to Book a Taxi in Yala National Park

The best way to travel short distances around Yala is to hire a Tuk Tuk or a private taxi, ensuring convenience and flexibility in exploring the region. While Uber is not widely available in Yala, opting for a Tuk Tuk or a private taxi is a reliable choice. It’s advisable to make bookings in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. We, Ceylon Hunt stands out as a reputable recommendation for taxis in Yala, providing reliable services and experienced drivers. To book a Taxi or Check the price list Click Here

Guidlines to follow when visiting Yala National Park

  • Never get out of the jeep or travel into the woods when on a safari.
  • When capturing images, avoid using your flash. It can irritate the animals’ eyes, resulting in unpredictable situations.
  • Do not consume alcohol or narcotics, and do not smoke on park grounds.
  • Turn your phones to silent mode. Unexpectedly loud noises may disturb the animals.
  • You are not permitted to begin eating anywhere within the park. There are some restrictions in place and you should inquire with your driver or guide regarding dining habits.
  • Do not toss food at animals or feed them.
  • Nothing that could endanger wildlife (weapons, lighters, knives, etc.) should be brought inside.
  • Unnecessary honking has a negative impact on the wildlife ecology.
  • Do not touch or take anything that belongs to the wilderness, even if it is as simple as a stone or a handful of sand.
  • It is critical to remain cool in an emergency. The guide or trekker will be able to handle the situation, and loud noises may exacerbate the situation.

In conclusion, Yala National Park stands as a jewel in Sri Lanka’s crown, captivating visitors with its rich biodiversity, cultural significance, and unparalleled natural beauty. Whether embarking on a thrilling safari, exploring ancient temples, or simply immersing in the tranquility of its surroundings, Yala offers a multifaceted experience. The choice of accommodations, from luxurious resorts to budget-friendly stays, caters to diverse preferences, ensuring every traveler finds their perfect haven. With its varied entry gates, Yala welcomes exploration from different angles, promising a unique adventure for each visitor. This blog has merely scratched the surface of Yala’s wonders; the true magic awaits those who venture into its untamed landscapes.

Image courtesy of Ankur Panchbudhe Thimindu Goonatillake via creative commons licenses. some rights reserved.

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