Yala National Park is considered the most popular national park in the country, and the second largest, which is made up of five blocks that borders the pilgrimage town of Katharagama as well as the lower coast, with Yala National Park also having its own beaches. The park, which is also a wildlife sanctuary, is home to a plethora of endemic animals that make its home across this large area of land in the south. The unique factor that attracts so many to the park, it’s the natural abundance of jungles, grasslands, fresh water lagoons and rivers that then meet the sandy beaches of the Indian Ocean. It should be noted that only two blocks (of out the five) are open for the public (those being Ruhunu National Park and Kumana National Park).
The Yala National Park is known for its resident leopard population that are best sighted between January and July. Another attraction would be to catch sight of a herd of elephants as they travel in packs between one grassland to the other, or gather at a watering hole or socialise with their kin. It is always important to keep to yourself and not pose a threat to these gentle beasts, as they are fiercely protective of their young. One of the sightings you will find unforgettable would be to catch sight of the peacock pageantry that are in abundance who will often give you a show, especially during mating season as they dance and flirt to attract a mate.
With luck, you may also be able to catch sight of the sloth bear, and various endangered fauna such as the spotted deer, Slender Loris, water buffalos, sambar deer, monkeys, jackals, and more. Of course, with its prime habitual conditions offering everything from water dwellings to jungles and grasslands, Yala National Park is also home to over 200 species of endemic and migratory birds.
However, it should be noted that Yala is not only just a wildlife attraction but also has religious history with ancient Brahmin inscriptions being discovered at the Kudumbigala Monastery located on a large range of boulder rocks and untouched cave sand buildings. You are also able to visit the Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya that dates back two millennia, and was said to be home to Arahats (Buddhist monks who have achieved enlightenment). Nearby, you can also visit Sithulpawwa Magul Viharaya, which was the site where King Kavantissa and Queen Vihara Maha Devi were married.
The most popular way to get to Yala would while staying at the religious city of Katharagama after taking a pilgrimage to the religious sites, practicing the rituals, and receiving blessings from the Gods. The perahera that takes place in July/August attracts a large crowd and often, you are able to take in a Yala Safari before heading back to capital.