Located 182 kilometers away from Colombo, the national park of Minneriya is located in close proximity to the historic city of Polonnaruwa and in the centre of the Cultural Triangle. This park is part of the elephant corridor along with Kaudulla and Wasgamuwa parks. Minneriya and Kaudulla are two neighbouring parks. While elephants can be sighted all year round, the period from May to October is the best time period. Minneriya is the largest known meeting place of Asian elephants in the world and herds of up to 300 elephants are seen in the vicinity of the Minneriya reservoir. Witnessing the elephant gathering will take your breath away and will make it an unforgettable experience. Safari camping is an even better way to spice up this whole experience. At such camps you have the opportunity to interact and explore the wildlife on a broader aspect.
On 12th August 1997, this area was pronounced as a national park. The reason for doing so is because of the need to protect the wildlife in the area and also to preserve the catchment of the historically significant Minneriya tank built by King Mahasen.
Situated in the dry zone of the country, this park receives an average rainfall of 1500- 2000 millimeters. The main sources of water, other than rainwater, are Elahera canal and a diversion of the Amban River. The lowest temperature this area has reached is 20.6 degree Celsius while the highest is 34.5 degree Celsius. The vegetation of this park consists of scrublands, grasslands, rocky outcrops, deserted chena lands and wetlands.
This park is home to 24 species of mammals, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish, 160 species of birds and 75 species of butterflies. The elephant gathering refers to when hordes of elephants flock together on the edges of the reservoir during the dry season. These herds of elephants migrate to the Minneriya national park from the Wasgamuwa national park seeking food and shelter of the forest. The main tourist attraction within this park is the elephant gathering. While many people visit this park to spot elephants, you will encounter many other animals on the way. There are 2 native monkeys (purple faced langur and toque macaque), Sri Lankan sambar deer and Sri Lankan axis deer. The reservoir is a natural terrain for water birds such as lesser adjutant, spot- billed pelican and painted stork. Migrant birds can also be sighted in this park alongside a few endemic birds (Sri Lanka Jungle fowl, Sri Lanka hanging parrot, black- crested bulbul, Sri Lanka grey hornbill and crimson- fronted barbet). Out of the eight species of reptiles native to our country, all eight species have been considered as endangered.
Minneriya safari is something you should not miss out on. Going on a safari is the ultimate way of sighting wildlife in their own natural habitats. The Minneriya tank, the Pidurangala rock and the Ritigala rock climb are nearby attractions.
In 1938, this national park of Minneriya was declared as a wildlife sanctuary. Later on in 1997, it was declared as a national park. The most significant and historically important feature in this park is the Minneriya tank. This tank was built by King Mahasen (noted for the tanks and reservoirs built by him during his reign) in the 3rd century AD. During the dry season, elephants gather around this tank. This elephant gathering is a sight to see as they come to graze and bathe. These elephants migrate between the Minneriya and Kaudulla parks; which are neighboring parks.
The Pidurangala rock is similar to the Sigiriya rock and is situated just a few kilometres north of Sigiriya. According to historical sources, when King Kashyapa was building the rock fortress at Sigiriya, he had moved the monks living in the vicinity to a monastery on Pidurangala rock. There is an ancient cave temple that consists of various objects reflecting on Buddhist, western and Hindu beliefs. It is also that the stupa found to the left of the entrance marks to spot where King Kashyapa was buried.
Ritigala; another attraction in the vicinity is home to seventy rock caves. These caves are believed to have been inhabited from the first century BC. Ritigala has served as a sanctuary for kings at war against the Dravidians who had invaded the island. Inscriptions found at the site suggest that monks had used these caves as a hermit. After some time, the importance of Ritigala faded away, and it was forgotten. The ruins of the monastery built by King Sena I can be seen at present.
How to get there
There are various modes of travel to choose from in order to travel to the Minneriya national park from Colombo.
By road: the journey to Minneriya national park from Colombo takes approximately 3 hours and 50 minutes and covers a distance of either 209 kilometers or 200 kilometers depending on the route taken. When travelling by road, you have two options to choose from; you could either taxi to the destination or drive by renting a vehicle. The fastest route is via the Ambepussa- Kurunegala- Trincomalee highway (A6). An alternative route is to proceed via the Colombo- Kandy road (A1) to the Ambepussa- Kurunegala- Trincomalee highway (A6). Travelling by road is a leisurely and relaxed mode of travel.
By train: since there aren’t any trains traveling directly from Colombo to the Minneriya National park, you will have to catch a train bound to Habarana from the Colombo fort train station. This train leaves Colombo only once a day and makes 19 stops along the way. Some major stations are Gampaha, Polgahawela, Kurunegala and Kekirawa. The train journey to Habarana will take approximately 5 hours and 15 minutes. After getting down at Habarana, the best option would be to taxi to Minneriya national park, and it would take only 45 minutes. Travelling by train is an economical mode of travel.
By air: if you choose to travel by plane; the quickest yet the costliest mode of travel, there are three options you could choose from. The first option would be to taxi to Diyawanna Oya and then fly to Katugastota before taxiing again to Minneriya national park. The second alternative is to again taxi to Diyawanna Oya. From there you can board a flight to Batticaloa before taxiing to the destination. The final option is to fly from Colombo (Katunayake) to Sigiriya and taxi to Minneriya national park after that. Travelling by air does not consume a lot of time. The journey would take just over 3 hours depending on the route taken.
From Kandy: the journey from Kandy to the Minneriya national park will take nearly three hours. The wisest route to take when travelling by road would be via the Kandy- Jaffna highway (A9). An alternative route is via the Ambepussa- Kurunegala- Trincomalee highway (A6). If you wish to travel by public transport, the best choice would be to travel by train. The train staring from the station at Kandy will reach Hingurakgoda. From Hingurakgoda, you’d have to taxi to the national park.
From Batticaloa: in order to reach the national park in Minneriya from Batticaloa, there are three modes of travel. The first option would be to travel by train. The train starting from Batticaloa would reach the station at Minneriya after 3 hours. From there you’d have to taxi to the national park. Or if you opt for a more comfortable mode of travel, you could drive or taxi. The quickest way to get there is via the Maradankadawala- Habarana- Thirukkondaiadimadu highway (A11). This journey takes just over 2 hours. The fastest and the most relaxed mode of travel is by air. However, this is also the most expensive mode of travel. From Batticaloa you can fly to Katugastota before taxiing to Minneriya National Park.
From Damnulla/Sigiriya: the only way to get to the Minneriya National Park from Dambulla or Sigiriya is by taking a taxi or driving a vehicle. The total distance of the journey is 59.8 km and 47.7 km respectively. The duration of the journey will take approximately 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. Our tour consultants will arrange safari jeeps upon your request to pick you up at the hotel itself or at the park entrance while an alternative option is to travel by tuk tuk to the park entrance.
Since this national park is located in the dry zone of the country, the average annual rainfall is 1164 millimeters. The average temperature is 28 degree Celsius. The temperature ranges between 20.6 degree Celsius and 34.5 degree Celsius. The best time to pay a visit to the Minneriya National Park is during the months of May to October since the gathering of elephants takes place during this time period.
Food and Drink
There are a plethora of restaurants in the vicinity of the Minneriya national park providing delicious food. There are restaurants offering cheap eats, mid-range and fine dining facilities. A few restaurants with good tourist reviews are ‘The Wadiya’, ‘Gunners café’ ‘Curry and Rice Habarana’, ‘Cinnamon Lodge Restaurant’, ‘Nelum Kole Bath’, ‘Nature Club restaurant and guesthouse’, and ‘Randoli restaurant’.
Minneriya National Park Safari: do you wish to witness the largest gathering of Asian elephants in the world? Then the best place to be, is at the Minneriya national park, where these sturdy elephants gather in search of food and shelter. More than 300 elephants from the neighboring parks arrive at Minneriya during the moths from May to October. Not only can you witness elephants at this park, you also have the opportunity to catch sight of many other animals such as monkeys, leopards, deer, sloth bears and wild buffaloes, to whom this park is home to. Wildlife enthusiasts should not miss out on this opportunity.
Minneriya Safari Camp: if you are a wildlife enthusiast with a desire to witness wildlife in their own habitat, then the Minneriya safari camp is the ideal spot. This Safari camp is located right at the border of the park. The location of these camps at the boundary of the forest will make you feel like you are right at the center of the forest. While they are set up before your arrival, they include all necessary facilities. At this safari camp, you can take the opportunity to watch birdlife, engage in wildlife safaris and get up close and personal with the flora and fauna.
Pidurangala rock: the massive Pidurangala rock is situated beside the Sigiriya rock and is a good spot to get a good view of the Sigiriya rock. The 360 degree birds-eye view at the top, especially at sunrise will leave you at a loss for words. A hike to the Pidurangala rock is an exhausting yet thrilling activity. Midway through the hike you will arrive at the Pidurangala temple. Since many visitors overlook this rock and focuses more on the Sigiriya rock, you can enjoy the stunning vista in peace without rushing.
Minneriya Tank: this gigantic tank built by King Mahasen is a very good example which displays the advanced reservoir building technology of our ancestors. This reservoir is spread out over an expanse of 4670 acres and holds over 20 billion gallons of water. Even to this date the tank is of great importance because it is a major source of water used by people for drinking and cultivation purposes; especially in the presence of a drought. It is also the main source of water for the animals at the Minneriya National Park.
Ritigala rock: Ritigala is home to seventy rock caves that were believed to have been inhabited from the first century BC. It is a mountain and an old Buddhist monastery. Rock inscriptions found at Ritigala states that it was a monastic retreat for monks in the past. The ruins of the monastery are situated towards the eastern side of the mountain. This mountain range consists of four peaks. The highest peak out of these four peaks has been given the name Ritigala Kanda. The Ritigala mountain range is a strict Natural reserve managed by the Department of Wildlife of Sri Lanka along with the Forest Department of Sri Lanka.