There are few national parks in the world with scenery, wildlife and cultural sites that can match those of Yala National Park. Yala, as the locals call it, is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka. With a history that spans across millenniums, Yala literally has something for everyone. As a center of bygone civilisations, Yala has a unique mixture of untouched flora and fauna and traces of civilisations long gone. Wildlife may be the main reason people visit Yala, but the park also brings thousands of religious pilgrims every year.
The lasting durability and strength of Yala is demonstrated in the recovery since the devastation of the Asian tsunami in 2004. The communities are rebuilding themselves as the gradual restoration of the previous natural state continues. There is a joyful vibe in the people living in one of the rare places where there is an opportunity to reconnect with nature.
Cultural and Historical Experiences
Although it may seem like just another untouched part of nature, Yala offers much more to guests. A diverse array of flora and fauna and clear starry nights fill the home of a once thriving trading port. The remnants of these ancient civilizations can be experienced by observing the ancient decayed reservoir tanks. These highly developed hydraulic systems were par of an advanced agricultural civilization dating from the 5th century BC. The temple of Situlpahuwa was also home to over 12 000 monks. It takes a visit to the temple to understand why the name was derived from “the hill of the quiet mind”.
Yala National Park is a relaxing contrast of the bustling cities and metropolises of today’s world. This national park has so much unique flora and fauna and offers so many different experiences in nature. It’s remoteness from the capital allows it to be more pristine than the other popular Sri Lankan tourist destinations. One of the most unique tourist experiences this national park is spending a night in a bungalow within the park.
A jeep safari is another way to get close to the animal species in Yala National Park. This is a great way to experience nature without sleeping or camping out. If spending the big game of the park is intimidating, Yala also has one of the rarest bird species on the planet. If you go bird watching you can see some of the 90 bird species that inhabit the Yala National Park. Among these 90 species there are a lot of migrant birds such as the Great White Pelican or the Lesser Flamingo.
Apart from the abundance of natural sites, the Yala National Park also has a lot of unique historic or cultural spots. One of them is Magul Maha Viharaya which is located south from Sithulpauwa. This is the location where supposedly King KavanTissa and Vihara Maha Devi married. Perhaps the most tragic spot in the Yala National Park is the memorial for the 2004 tsunami. While the park has rebuilt, there is evidence around of the damage caused by this horrific event.
Where to Eat
There aren’t any restaurants and cafes inside the Yala National Park because the park’s area is protected. In the park’s immediate surroundings there are all kinds of restaurants. The Sri Lankan culture won’t ever let you go hungry.
One of the best places to eat is Yala Peace Cottage. Close to the national park it has a local atmosphere and offers both Sri Lankan specialties and Western food.
The Spice Lounge Restaurant & Bar is probably the best choice for tourists who seek a mix of Sri Lankan local atmosphere and the traditional atmosphere of a reputable restaurant in some international hotel. This restaurant serves beverages and delicious meals which range from Sri Lankan specialties to classic international specialties.
Together with the Spice Lounge Restaurant & Bar, The Grand Yala Restaurant is the nearest restaurant you can find around Yala National Park. Offering classic Sri Lankan specialties such as curry it is one of the most reputable restaurants around Yala.