There’s a long tradition of national parks in Sri Lanka, dating back over 2,000 years to royally declared off-limit lands. In fact, the world’s first known nature reserve was Mihintale in Sri Lanka, dating back to King Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC. Today 8% of the island of Sri Lanka is part of their national park system.
As a consequence of the recent civil war some parks have been off limits to the public, and are now starting to open up. Overnight access is still an issue in the ever-popular Yala National Park, and the bungalow accommodation is closed for the time being. All national parks in Sri Lanka are managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation who are able to provide the most up to date park access information.
Top National Parks in Sri Lanka
Bandula National Park
A large wetland sanctuary for migratory birdlife, consisting of a maze of lagoons and waterways.
Gal Oya National Park
Evergreen forests and grass lands, providing shelter for elephants, sloth bears and leopards.
Horton Plains National Park
Undulating 2000m plateau in the shadow of 2 of Sri Lanka’s three largest peaks. Sublime scenery taking in wild grasses, rocky outcrops and waterfalls dropping into misty lakes…and the chance of spotting a leopard or two.
Kaudulla National Park
Formed as part of an elephant migration corridor, now home to over 250 elephants and plenty of cat life.
Lunugamvehera National Park
Grasslands surrounding ancient reservoirs that see large elephants populations frequenting.
Minneriya National Park
Light scrub and forest around an ancient reservoir, drawing plenty of Sri Lankan wildlife during the dry season.
Last decent size primary rainforest left in Sri Lanka- and UNESCO World Heritage Site – set in the center of the county’s wet zone.
Sri Pada Peak National Park
Spiritual National Park featuring a pilgrimage mountain in the heart of the island’s stunning Hill Country.
Uda Walawe National Park
Tall grasses and African-style savannah lands make for a more traditional safari feel when driving around Wasgomuwa.
Wasgomuwa National Park
Wide grassy plains and hilly, forested ridges providing perfect habitat for leopards and sloth bears.
Wilpattu National Park
Forgotten jungle scrub in Sir Lanka’s north west, broken up by small clearings and ancient reservoirs.
Yala National Park
Kiplingesque mix of jungle scrub,giant boulder formations, lagoons and lakes, filled with bird and animal life.
Self drive safaris are an option in some of Sri Lanka national parks, though you will need access to a 4WD to get the most out the parks due to the clay tracks. If this sounds a little too much effort for you check out our guide to safari tour companies in Sri Lanka to find someone who can drive for you!
Have you been to a national park in Sri Lanka, or got some useful information you’d like to share on the topic? Please feel free to get involved in the comments section below.