A leopard crossing a dusty road and people observing it while in jeeps at Yala National Park, the Best Place to Visit in Yala!
Yala National Park, the Best Place to Visit in Yala!

The tourist hotspot of South Asia, Sri Lanka, is indeed a little lavish pearl of the great Indian ocean. As an island full of greenery, it always gets on top of the preferences of travelers who are into nature. It is not that one specific place of the island gains the credit for attracting the outsiders to the country, but the country as a whole and its every inch contributes to this very course. And yes, one of such fascinatingly verdant areas in Sri Lanka that attracts tourists is Yala, with so many places to visit.

It is a tourist destination spread in the Southernmost part of the country. Moreover, it is quite famous as it houses one of Sri Lanka’s best national parks, namely Yala National Park. Besides, there are many interesting places that one can visit, around Yala, as well as on the way to Yala. Thus, usually, the whole area is overflowing with people most of the time of the year.

You may wonder by now what is so special about this place to earn popularity to such an extent. The following places are indeed the reasons behind it.

  1. Yala National Park
  2. Buduruwagala
  3. Sithulpawwa
  4. Magul Maha Viharaya
  5. Kataragama
  6. Kebiliththa
  7. Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya
  8. Lunugamvehera National Park
  9. Okanda Devalaya
  10. Tsunami Memorial
  11. Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple
  12. Kalutara Bodhiya

These places in and around Yala will surely make your trip to Yala more fascinating! Need to know more about these places? Continue reading!

1. Yala National Park

Among few, yet highly valuable national parks around Sri Lanka, Yala National Park holds a significant position. That is simply due to the richness of its nature and wildlife. The territory preserves most endemic plant species and fauna varieties that are threatened to disappear for the time being. Not only that, but this park also acts as a temporary habitat for migrating birds. Hence, from time to time one can witness different types of bird species in and around this park.

At the same time, this park houses some varieties of reptiles on both land and water-living ones. Besides, this park is not for walking, but to engage in safari. There are various modes of safari, but the most famous option is safari jeeps. However, these safaris are worth going, as that is the only way to explore the woods of Yala National Park.

The best thing about the safaris at Yala is that the driver knows where at what time the particular animals are. Therefore, you get the chance to spot them while they follow their daily routines with their types. At the same time, they know the ideal spots for good photography and ideal angels to get picture-perfect captures.

If you choose to go a whole tour around Yala national park, it may take several days. Still, it offers you awe-inspiring and breathtaking moments that one will urge to spend with nature. So, this is simply one of the must-visit places in Yala.

2. Buduruwagala

Keeping aside dealing with nature, Buduruwagala is one of the major places that showcase the religious aspect of this village. In fact, this is a monument that has a connection to one of the main religions in Sri Lanka, Buddhism. Also, this place is visited by thousands of visitors who are into carvings and ancient places. So, this is considered one of the biggest attractions and best places to visit in Yala.

The attraction directs to the stunning rock-cut Buddha figures that are approximately 1000 years old. Also, there is a standing statue of Buddha in Buduruwagala, which is 15 meters tall. There is a belief that it is one of the highest on the whole island. Besides, the statue doesn’t have any color but contains some traces of splashes of orange. And yes, that indicates that it was once painted with vibrant colors back in history. There are more than dozens of smaller carvings all around the place. They simply make this place full of ancient skills and architecture.

Buduruwagala rock carvings reveal the wonderful craftsmanship of the country during its long history of more than 2500 years. To be specific, the carvings of this place are perfectly carved without a single hunch in them. Thus, it enhances the unbeatable skill of the ancient people and is important for the ones who love to study traditional arts and crafts.

This is a place not exactly in Yala, but in the vicinity of Yala, Wellawaya. There is no greater distance from Yala to Buduruwagala temple, but a course of about 30 mins- 1 hour. So, this is one of the best places for you to visit, as you explore the beautiful Yala.

3. Sithulpawwa

Sithulpawwa is one of the other main Buddhist monuments, one can find within the territory of Yala National Park. This is considered a rock temple as it consists of rock buildings that lie on an enormous rock itself. People also consider this monument to be a place with ancient rock monasteries. According to the historical legends, Sithulpawwa houses hundreds of caves and shelters within and around the complex. And the history reveals that it had been a sacred home for about 12,000 monks who committed meditation.

Although back then it was built as a sacred and complete temple area, now it has nothing more than ruins. When one trails back to the history of this Buddhist monastery, it says that the temple is one of the supreme 2nd Century sites in Buddhist erudition.

The best thing other than its religious significance is its soothing power and the peaceful surrounding. That atmosphere indeed helps in relaxing the mind of a person at his first step at this place.

At the same time, Sithulpawwa also showcases the incredibly well-known architectural skills of ancient Sri Lanka. The records say that these architectural features date back to about 2,200 years. Thus, they are incredible as the buildings are rising in the place up to date.

After all, this is a rock hill quite into the woods away from the crowd and interference. Therefore, it was then and still a peaceful escape from the day-to-day disturbances of ordinary life. So, this is simply one of the best places to visit in Yala, to magnify the delight of your trip.

4. Magul Maha Viharaya

Magul Maha Viharaya is another Buddhist monument. It is hidden in the woods of Yala National Park to the South of Sithulpawwa.

This Buddhist monument has quite a history as it had connections with Kings and their nuptial ceremonies. Hence, it is a monument with historical significance as well.

According to history, this monument was a creation of King Kavantissa during the 2nd century BC. Also, history mentions that this is the place where he got married to his beloved queen, Vihara Maha Devi. Even today one can witness the foundations of Magul Maha Viharaya exactly where the nuptial ceremony of the King took place. And many believe that these ruins belong to King Kavanthissa’s period as he is the first to build something here.

Further, the historical legends reveal that the moonstone here is the only moonstone in Sri Lanka where the elephants are carved with their mahouts. Besides, this place is famous among visitors for its architectural features. So, owing to all these reasons, Magul Maha Viharaya is simply one of the best places to visit in Yala.

5. Kataragama

Kataragama is not exactly in Yala but in its vicinity, a good 38km away from Yala. Yet, it is more like a tradition that one never misses visiting Kataragama as they go on a trip to Yala. So, Kataragama is considered one of the best places to visit around Yala.

This town is famous for the Kataragama Temple which is actually a temple complex. It is devoted to Buddhist Guardian Deity Kataragama Deviyo and Hindu War God Murugan. So, Kataragama is a sacred town that is important not only to a single religion but to several religions. However, it is mainly believed sacred for Hinduism and Buddhism.

One can doubt that it is Hinduism that is widely spread in the place. Yet, if you observe closely, you will notice that the visitors, despite their religion, pay homage to the Kataragama shrine. Hence, the town is quite famous for its presence of peaceful coexistence between Buddhist and Hindu devotees in the region. And yes, it simply beats the false rivalry that the world spreads about the ethical conflicts in Sri Lanka.

Apart from that, there is the Buddhist Stupa called Kiri Vehera erected a limited miles away from this Hindu temple. It says that the distance between these two monuments is a course of a few miles that one can walk. So, the visitors reach both places accordingly and pay their respect when they visit Kataragama.

6. Kebiliththa

Kebiliththa is also one of the sacred places located inside the Yala National Park. Maha Siyambalawa Devalaya in Kebiliththa is not a temple complex similar to Kataragama temple. Still, it is a small hidden Hindu shrine that is buried deep inside the forest.

The specialty of this shrine is that it has no buildings all over the place similar to other temples. Instead, it has some statues of Gods around a small Tamarind tree. It says that it is a small plant tree of the main Tamarind tree which was there in the first place and the Deity Kataragama has shifted from former to current as the former stopped growing after some solid period of time.

Moreover, people believe that it is a place with some unseen great divine power of God. Hence, people visit it very sacredly even with huge respect. Other than this strong divinity power of the place, one can find an ancient Bodhi tree near the shrine. It has a large number of ruins including rock pillars spread around the area. This shrine is also famous as Maha Kabiliththa Devalaya. And yes, it makes it easier for devotees to find the trails to the right place.

Due to the presence of great spiritual power in the area, there is a belief that one should abstain from eating meat, consuming alcohol, refraining from harsh, foul words, and talking about the visit beforehand. Hence, if you are willing to visit the place you need to have a disciplined self of control of your habits. People believe that these commitments are important in receiving blessings from this place.

7. Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya

Yala is quite into religion and sacred presence as it covers almost all the religions existing on the island. One such other Buddhist monument one can find in the vicinity of Yala is Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya. The temple holds great historical and religious significance as it has a boastful history connected to some significant events.

The most significant incident related to these Buddhist monuments is a Buddha visit. History says that Lord Buddha visited this particular place during his third visit to the island. Around 500 monks have accompanied Lord Buddha and they have spent some time here meditating. Apart from that, this temple is also significant as it houses Buddha’s relics. To be specific, according to Mahavamsa, Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya houses the frontal bone relic of Lord Buddha.

Other than this historical religious significance, Tissamaharama Stupa has gained the recognition of being the largest Stupa on the Southern coast of Sri Lanka. According to the records, Tissamaharama Stupa has a height of approximately 156 feet altogether. Also, this stupa has one of the orderly shapes called bubble shape as well.

So, owing to all these specialties, the Tissamaharama Temple happens to be one of the best places to visit around Yala.

8. Lunugamvehera National Park

Apart from the Yala National Park, Lunugamvehera National Park plays a significant role in enhancing the nature details around Yala. Thus, no visitor drops Lunugamvehera National Park if they pay a visit to Yala and its vicinity.

This national park lies along with the Lunugamvehera reservoir. And yes, this park has a lavish outlook which convinces one to step into the parking area and explore a little bit around it. Besides, it houses quite a collection of endemic and endangered plant and animal species in Sri Lanka. The specialty of this national park is that it acts as a sanctuary for water birds and elephants mainly. Even the authorities declared this land a park due to the presence of a greater number of elephants within the area.

Other than that, quite similar to all the other national parks, Lunugamvehera National Park preserves a huge collection of animals. It includes mammals, birds, reptiles, birds, butterflies, and fish species. If we get a rough count on them, it says that the park houses 33 species of reptiles, 183 species of birds, 41 species of mammals along with 21 species of fish as well. Hence, the park is rich in biodiversity. So, this can be considered an ideal destination for nature lovers who are into rare pieces of detail. So, make sure you visit this place as you explore Yala!

9. Okanda Devalaya

Okanda Devalaya is not precisely in Yala but in its vicinity, approximately five hours away from Yala. To be specific, it is in Okanda, a small hamlet in Ampara District along Sri Lanka’s East coast.

This area is mostly famous for surfing. Yet, this shrine serves as a major attraction in the region considering its location amidst the jungle and rocky slopes. Besides, this place is also famous for its spiritual power of God and thus the inflowing of huge numbers of visitors expecting blessings and penance. Mainly, people visit this shrine as there is a belief that God Skanda visited this place during his visit to Sri Lanka.

This shrine lies on the way to Kataragama and thus the pilgrims who visit Kataragama temple during the season on foot stop by Okanda Devalaya and seek the blessings of Lord Skanda. They consider it as a blessing prior to the sacred journey they are going to engage in.

It says that the best time to visit Okanda Devalaya is from the month of June to July. That is because it is a time period that the place is rich with true devotees. However, there is a belief that the visitors have to wear appropriate clothing when entering the religious site. In fact, they have to wear something decent that covers from their arms to knees, and they should refrain from wearing shoes or slippers.

The most important thing that you need to remember is that the trail to the shrine is quite losable since it is on a rocky outcrop. So, make sure to ask for help if you have any doubt.

10. Tsunami Memorial

The Yala National Park is all about exploring around sitting on a safari jeep or a car. During this journey, there are only a few places where you get to stop by and rest a little while eating a snack while walking around, and exploring closely. One of such places that was there back in the days was Patangala rest house. But now there are only the ruins of Patangala rest house. The unfortunate hazardous tsunami that took place in 2004 destroyed it. It even made 47 visitors who stayed in this particular rest house lose their lives. So, that massacre made the place a Tsunami memorial.

The place just has the remains of the foundation of the rest house. The authorities have turned the place into a memorial with the intention of commemorating these 47 people who lost their lives at the site. These lots include 15 Japanese and German tourists along with 29 local visitors. They were all included with their names on a stone inscription on the premises.

At the same time, there is a sculpture made in the shape of a wave and three of them. This sculpture represents the three waves that hit the ground during the Tsunami and the level of water after the Tsunami.

However, you need to get into a safari jeep in order to pay a visit to this memorial. Only the safari jeeps can reach the place neither any private vehicles nor any private visits. Still, this is one of the best places that you should visit in Yala, as it makes you commemorate another set of travelers who were enjoying that same land.

11. Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple

Asokaramaya Buddhist temple is one of the major tourist attractions in the vicinity of Yala. It is one of the best places to visit, and no one ever misses out if they pay a visit to Yala or its vicinity. This is one of the major Buddhist monuments you can find on the Southern coast of Sri Lanka as it has a great connection with some important historical events.

Asokaramaya Buddhist temple is precisely located in Kalutara. It dates back to the 1870s and has provided shelter to the disciples of Aluthgama Sangharatne who arrived to witness the monk’s sermons. Besides, the entrance building and the gate-like structure of the temple attract the greatest number of visitors due to their rich architectural features.

Further, the temple is famous for its ancient carvings and the craftsmanship they display. These carvings are sharp and perfect so some visitors visit the temple just to witness those rare creations. At the same time, some rare paintings cover the walls of this temple. They relate the stories about the customs and traditions of historical Buddhist rituals. Also, some of these paintings display some historical events related to the Buddhist religion as well. So, all of them enhance the delight of the visitors who arrive at this place.

This temple is just 3.5km away from the Yala National Park. The most convenient way to reach the Asokaramya Buddhist temple is just after the safari tour around the national park as it consumes less time.

12. Kalutara Bodhiya

One of the most important Buddhist monuments that one can find in the vicinity of Yala is Kalutara Bodhiya. People believe that this particular Bodhiya, which is a strong and quite old Bo tree, and its premises have a powerful spiritual presence. Therefore, the strong believers visit the place to relate their sorrows and sufferings. And indeed, this temple holds some impressive calmness that soothes one’s mind.

Even the location of the Kalutara Bodhiya attracts people to the premises. It majestically stands beside one of the major four rivers on the island, the Kalu river.

Along with the Bo tree, the premises consist of a stupa, a bubble in shape which is known as Kalutara Chaitya. One can witness a smaller stupa inside the main Stupa along with four statues of Buddha and wall paintings of the life events of Lord Buddha. The specialty of this stupa is that it is built in a way that one can walk into its body and walk around regarding its inner structure. The whole premises was established in 1967 as an initial concept of one of the well-known lawyers of the time.

After all, this is one of the best places around Yala that attracts hundreds of visitors each day.

How to Reach Yala?

In order to witness and explore all the above-mentioned destinations, one needs to first reach Yala. According to the ones who have already visited the place, there are six ways to reach Yala from the main commercial city of Sri Lanka, Colombo.

Among them, one of the most popular methods is traveling by train. One can find five trains a day that takes you to the preferred destination from Colombo Fort. However, you need to take a train that goes through the Southern coastal side and get down at Beliatta. This is a journey of around 3 hours and after getting down you have to take a taxi to travel the rest of the journey to reach the destination. The official website of the Sri Lanka Railways will help you get the train schedules.

If not, you can take a public bus from the Colombo Fort bus stand and get down at Tangalle with the intention of traveling the rest from there to Yala in a taxi. This is a journey which takes about 4 hours, approximately 3 hours on the bus and 1 hour on the taxi.

Or else, you can travel the whole distance by taxi or either by driving. Of course, this is the fastest way to reach Yala from Colombo. Also, it is the most comfortable mode, as you can stop at other places on the way and travel freely until you reach the destination.

If you are planning to travel to Yala from any other corner of the island, make sure you check the map to identify the most convenient route.

Whether and Climate of Yala and the Best Time to Visit Yala

Yala is situated quite in Southern Sri Lanka. Hence, it is always surrounded by a kind of warm temperature throughout the year ranging between 29 degrees Celsius (85 Fahrenheit) – 31 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit).

Therefore, no matter what period you reach Yala, you have to bear a little bit of warm temperature. However, it says that the best time to visit Yala is during the drier months from February to July, as it may make your journey easier than the other times.

Also, it is better to avoid the times between October and November as that is the period in which Yala gets heavy rainfall. At the same time, according to the records, April is the warmest period of Yala with an average maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. February is the coolest period of Yala with an average maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. The same says that November with 190mm of rainfall is the wettest time period of Yala along with March being the sunniest month of Yala with an average of 250 hours of sunshine.

Knowing these facts will help you to decide the time you prefer to visit Yala depending on the climate that you will enjoy walking and exploring around. Always get updated about the climate of the place you are going to reach to spend quality time while enjoying it.

The Bottom Line

Yala is simply one of the top attractions in Sri Lanka that always gives out the best. Besides, now you already know about the best places to visit in Yala. All these attractions are sure to double the delight of your trip. Hence, do not hesitate or think twice about visiting Yala as it is all about wonders from one step to the next step you are keeping in its territory. Happy and safe traveling!