Man near waterhole scouring landscape with binoculars in Yala National Park.

©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

Yala National Park

Yala National Park

With trumpeting elephants, monkeys crashing through the trees, peacocks in their finest frocks and cunning leopards sliding like shadows through the undergrowth, Yala National Park (also known as Ruhunu) is The Jungle Book brought to glorious life. This vast region of dry woodland and open patches of grasslands is the big draw of this corner of Sri Lanka. For wildlife spotting, Yala is superb, though be aware it's an extremely popular park.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Yala National Park attractions

1. Ranminithenna Tele-Cinema Village


This studio located halfway between Tissa and Kataragama is only mentioned because some drivers and tours will suggest you visit. Structures meant to…

2. Sivam Kovil

10.01 MILES

A riverside Hindu temple dedicated to Ganesh, and the first structure you encounter as you enter the holy complex.

3. Ul-Khizr Mosque

10.04 MILES

The second holy site you see as you pass through the holy compound. This beautiful mosque features intricate coloured tile work and wooden lintels, and…

4. Kataragama Museum

10.08 MILES

This archaeological museum inside the complex has a collection of Hindu and Buddhist religious items, as well as huge fibreglass replicas of statues from…

5. Bodhi Tree

10.17 MILES

You'll often find monkeys hanging around this sacred tree.

6. Maha Devale

10.18 MILES

This is Kataragama's most important shrine. It contains the lance of the six-faced, 12-armed Hindu war god, Murugan (Skanda), who is seen as identical to…

7. Kirivehara

10.36 MILES

An impressive 29m white dagoba in the north of the sacred compound. It's thought to have been built during the reign of King Mahasena (AD 276–303) who…

8. Tissa Wewa

14.25 MILES

The centrepiece of the town and its surrounds is the lovely Tissa Wewa (Tissa Tank), a huge artificial lake. In the evening, check out the flocks of…