Yala & Udawalawe Holidays

Limelight stealing leopard and elephant encounters. Sloth bears shaking their shaggy coats and peacocks flaunting iridescent plumes. Holidays to Yala and Udawalawe are a walk on the wild side of Sri Lanka.

Deciduous forest, coastal dunes and freshwater lagoons almost touch the Indian Ocean in Yala National Park. Buckle up for jeep safaris amongst famous residents including Sri Lankan elephants, sloth bears, peacocks, Ceylon spotted deer and golden jackals. The leopard population in Yala is high, and although still elusive, there’s potential to see this majestic big cat on the prowl, particularly around dusk. We’ve chosen beautiful beachfront hotels close to the gates of the National Park, so you can make the most of sunrise and sunset safaris.

Udawalawe National Park has one of the best addresses in Sri Lanka to see elephants in the wild. Home to some 700 big tuskers as well as a baby elephant rehabilitation sanctuary, there are lots of opportunities for up-close ‘pinch-me’ moments. You’ll also want to keep cameras charged and eyes peeled for sightings of spotted deer, toque monkeys, sea eagles, sambar deer and grey langurs in the open plains and wetlands.

Call us today for a Yala & Udawalawe tailormade holiday and tick off seeing top of the wish-list wildlife.

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Yala & Udawalawe Hotels

Our recommendations for the best places to stay in Yala & Udawalawe

Jetwing Yala

With its spectacular coastal setting, the chic and eco-friendly Jetwing Yala is the epitome of co...

DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort

Relaxation begins when the resort comes into sight along its driveway and only gets better from t...

Jetwing Safari Camp

On an unspoiled stretch of coastline close to Yala National Park, this tiny wilderness retreat of...

Uga Chena Huts

A unique and luxurious property that combines local influences with the traditional décor of an A...

Cinnamon Wild Yala

Wild by name, wild by nature… this Cinnamon property is secluded and perfectly placed for wildlif...

Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort

A contemporary and peaceful retreat close to one of Sri Lanka's most famous wildlife reserves..

Centauria Wild

Nature lovers and families will appreciate this comfortable hotel in breathtaking countryside nea...

Udawalawe Jeep Safari & Elephant Transit Home

Founded in 1995, the Elephant Transit Home is a haven for orphaned or injured elephant calves who are rehabilitated back to full health before being returned to the wild. Great lengths are taken to minimize contact between the baby elephants, their caregivers and visitors but you can enjoy watching them stamp their feet impatiently as they wait for their food and relish in the fact that once old enough to survive alone, they’ll be free to roam the national park once more. After a delicious lunch in a local restaurant, hop into your private jeep and get ready to explore the Udawalawe National Park, a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of nearby Udawalawe Reservoir. Infamous for its large population of elephants, have your camera at the ready as you spot herds of these majestic creatures feeding, playing and bathing in waterholes as well as an abundance of other mammals, reptiles and birds.

• Duration: half day
• Time: midday to 6pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience
• Available for guests on a car and driver itinerary staying in Udawalawe, Hambantota, Tangalle and Yala
• Available for guests staying at hotels in Tangalle, Hambantota, Galle, Koggala and Weligama

Good to know
This unforgettable trip is suitable for all ages.

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Udawalawe 3-hour Jeep Safari

If you’ve already had the pleasure of exploring the Udawalawe National Park and would like some additional time observing the abundant wildlife in their natural habitat, this is the excursion for you. As you head back into the vast park it won’t be long before you stumble across a herd of elephants strolling alongside the track or water buffalo and deer congregating by a watering hole. Your knowledgeable driver will be on hand to point out the local flora and fauna from soaring eagles to prehistoric looking monitor lizards and will ensure you discover the best secluded spots.

• Duration: half day
• Times 6am to 9am or 3pm to 6pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round
• Private experience
• Available for guests on a car and driver itinerary staying in Udawalawe, Galle, Hambantota, Tangalle and Yala

Good to know
Suitable for all, if not staying in the vicinity of the national park we’d recommend an afternoon safari due to the early start of the morning excursion.

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Yala Full Day Jeep Safari

Explore Sri Lanka’s most famous national park and experience the sanctuary’s rich wildlife from the comfort of your own private jeep on this epic full day excursion. As the sun begins to rise and the parks inhabitants begin to emerge from their slumber, your experienced guide will drive you through the grassy plains and light forest in search of elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes, monkeys and more. With one of the highest densities of leopards in the world and a full day to explore, there’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures too. A haven for bird watchers, the park is brimming with both migratory and endemic bird species and dotted with important ancient ruins and temples dating back to the 5th century B.C.

• Duration: full day
• Time: 6am to 6pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round except September – mid-October
• Private experience
• Available for guests on a car and driver itinerary staying in Yala

Good to know
This experience is designed for those staying in close vicinity to the park due to the early start. Please note that during the height of the drought season between September and mid-October, the park will be closed.

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Yala 3-hour Jeep Safari

If you’re short on time or simply want to add in a safari trip while staying in a resort along the serene southern coast, this three-hour excursion is just the ticket. With your own private guide, it won’t be long before you’re spotting herds of elephants walking across the grassy plains and buffaloes and deer cooling off by a watering hole. Spot monkeys playing in the treetops, crocodiles popping up for air and eagles soaring in the sky above – the park is teeming with life. With one of the highest densities of leopards in the world, Yala is a prime location to encounter these elusive creatures in their natural habitat and bird enthusiasts won’t be disappointed either with a huge collection of migratory and endemic species to spot.

• Duration: half day
• Time: 6am to 9am or 3pm to 6pm
• Daily departures
• Operates year round except September to mid-October
• Private experience
• Available for guests on a car and driver itinerary staying in Hambantota, Tangalle, Udawalawe and Yala
• Available for guests staying at hotels in Yala, Udawalawe, Tangalle and Hambantota

Good to know
If not staying in close vicinity to the national park, we’d recommend the afternoon excursion due to the early start of the morning option.

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Bundala Bird Watching Safari

The first wetland to be declared as a RAMSAR site in Sri Lanka, Bundala National Park is a must do for bird enthusiasts. The UNESCO designated biosphere reserve hosts 197 species and is one of the best places to observe both migrant and resident birds which use the parks five shallow lagoons as feeding sites. Delight in the impressive bird song as your personal tracker guides you through the six different types of wetland where you’ll spot the likes of Black Headed Ibis, Painted Storks and Terns along with other small mammals, reptiles and butterflies from the comfort of your own private jeep.

• Duration: half day
• Time: 5.30am to 9am or 2.30pm to 6pm
• Daily departures
• Operates between October and March
• Private experience
• Available for guests on a car and driver itinerary staying in Hambantota, Tangalle, Udawalawe and Yala
• Available for guests staying at hotels in Tangalle and Hambantota

Good to know
Due to the early start time of the morning excursion, we’d recommend an afternoon visit for those staying further afield.

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Get to know Yala & Udawalawe and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.


GMT +5½ hours


Sri Lankan Rupee


Colombo 10½ hours


Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam & Christianity


Sinhala and Tamil

Where are Yala & Udawalawe?
Yala & Udawalawe sit in southern Sri Lanka and are about 130 kilometres apart. Yala National Park borders the Indian Ocean and is found in the Southern and Uva Provinces roughly 260 kilometres southeast of Colombo. Udawalawe National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, about 160 kilometres southeast of Colombo.

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Yala National Park
Yala National Park is not only the second largest national park in Sri Lanka but also the most visited. Made up of five blocks, of which two are open to the public, as well as a collection of smaller adjoining parks, Yala is a major tourist destination within Sri Lanka. Not only is it home to a plethora of flora and fauna species, it is also blessed with an array of ecosystems, two pilgrim sites and the highest density of leopards in the world. Explore the park on a guided safari and track herds of Sambar deer, watch elephants frolic in the watering holes and if you’re lucky spot an elusive leopard.

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When to visit Yala
The best time to visit Yala National Park is during dry season from May to September when there is minimal rainfall and wildlife tends to surface more often, searching for water in exposed lake beds. During May through to July, the towering Palu trees bear fruit, giving you a higher chance to spot elusive sloth bears who love to feed on the wild crop. Yala National Park is open year round except for the month of September and the first two weeks of October. The annual drought season means everything apart from Block 5 will be closed during these six weeks.

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Another of Sri Lanka’s larger national park, Udawalawe is known for its Elephant Transfer Home. Established in 1995 it helps rehabilitate orphaned elephants so they can be released back into the wild. At the home you can watch the elephants, but not interact with them as they need to remain as independent and wild as possible, to give them the best chance when released back into the park. The home is also supported by Born Free. The national park itself is home to vast herds of elephant, as well as an amazing amount of other mammals, birds and reptiles.

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Over 200 species of bird live in Yala National Park and they love to rise early in search of food. Keep your eyes open for blue-tailed bee-eater, crimson-fronted barbet, Indian paradise flycatcher and Asian barbet in the forest and Lesser flamingo, rare purple heron, pelicans and Oriental darter across the lagoons. Udawalawe National Park has a similarly impressive record of species. The reservoir is home to flocks of black-headed ibis, Painted stork and Asian open bill whilst the open plains attract birds of prey including crested serpent eagle, white bellied sea eagle and changeable hawk-eagle. You’ll also want to keep eyes peeled for the luminous green bee-eater, beautiful Indian roller and electric blue white-breasted kingfisher.

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Yala & Udawalawe Weather

Nov - Jun