Located in the Hambantota District, the destination of Yala has much to offer. Known for the famous Yala National Park, Yala is an important destination that one must include in their itinerary when visiting Sri Lanka. Located 195 km away from Colombo and 138 km away from Kandy, Yala is a welcoming tourist attraction that has many places to visit. the Yala National Park, Situlpawwa, Lunugamvehera national park, Kataragama Kiri vehera, Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalya, etc are some such places. The city does not fail to flaunt its bio diversity of the wild life while not forgetting the ancient Buddhist culture of the country. Without a shadow of doubt, Yala can be stated as one of the best places in Sri Lanka where one can observe the wildlife species. It is located in a dry semi-arid climatic region and receives rainfall mainly through the northeastern monsoon during the months of October to December.
Although at present Yala is known for its national park, in the bygone days Yala was a center of ancient civilization. Yala; the second largest national park of Sri Lanka is made up of five blocks but only two blocks are open to the public. Even-though Yala was classified as a wildlife sanctuary at first, later it was classified as a national park and is home to 44 varieties of mammals and 215 species of birds. Royal peacocks, the lithe and splendid leopards, the majestic elephants, sloth bears, jackals, buffaloes, monkeys, sambars, spotted dear and crocodiles are some such exotic species. At the same time, Yala also has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. The Tsunami in 2004 caused a lot of damage and destruction to this park. Surprisingly, it was later discovered that no animal was harmed from this disaster.
‘Sithulpawwa’ and ‘Magul Viharaya’ are two religious sites with paramount importance which lies within Yala. ‘Sithulpawwa’also known as ‘Chiththala Pabbatha’is also believed to be a place where around 12,000 monks once resided. ‘Magul Viharaya’ marks its importance as an ancient monument where King Kavantissa married princess Viharamahadevi.
In ancient times, Yala was considered to be a center of civilization and as claimed by the historians, King Ravana established his kingdom in Yala. During the period of the Ruhuna Kingdom, agricultural activities seems to have flourished and the numerous tanks that were found in this region are conformations of this rich agricultural civilization. This also displays the advanced irrigational knowledge of the ancient kingdoms. ‘Situlpawwa’; where 12,000 monks were believed to have lived, ‘Magul Maha Viharaya’ built in 1st century BC and the ‘Akasa Chetiya’ built in 2nd century BC are important pilgrimage sites within the ‘Yala National Park’. ‘Mahavansa’ (poem), an outstanding piece of literature written in Pali which conveys the history of Sri Lanka upto the rule of King Mahasen, states that by the end of 13th century AD the Ruhunu Kingdom began to decline in its powers.
In addition to those, Yala was also an expanse of land used by the resident British for hunting purposes in the past.
How to Get There
There are several options to choose from when travelling to Yala from Colombo and they are by road, bus, train and air.
By Road – The easiest and the coziest way to get to Yala would be by either renting a vehicle to drive or by taxi. The quickest way to get there is via the Southern Expressway (E01). An alternative option is to take the Colombo-Batticaloa highway (A4). The duration of the journey would range between 5to 6 hours depending on the route taken. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can make arrangements to provide the necessary vehicle facilities for this purpose.
By Bus – The economical mode of transport to Yala is through busses and its available every 30 minutes from Pettah, Colombo. Nonetheless travelling by bus may leave you weary. It is important to note that there are no direct Yala bound buses. After getting into a bus at the Pettah bus Terminal it would take approximately 8 hours to reach Kataragama. From Kataragama you will have to taxi to Yala and this would take approximately 3 and ½ hours. Therefore, the whole journey would take a time period of 11 and a ½ hours.
By Train -Kital Elle is the closest railway station to Yala. To get to Kital Elle from the Colombo Railway Station it would take approximately 9 and ½ hours. Some major stations at which the train would make stops are at Kandy, Hatton and Haputale. Once gotten down from Kital Elle, the journey to Yala by road will take approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes.
By Air – This is the costliest mode of travel to Yala. There are several options to select from and both ‘Cinnamon Air’ and ‘Sri Lankan’ offer domestic flights. However, it should be noted that there are no direct flights to Yala. For the three options stated below it is necessary to taxi to Diyawanna Oya from Colombo. For the first option you would have to take the 30-minute flight to Hatton and then either taxi or drive to Yala. The second option is to fly to Katugastota and then drive to Yala while the third option is to fly to Batticaloa and taxi to Yala from there. Booking arrangements can be made through our travel consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays.
From Kandy -The quickest way to get to Yala is by air; approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes. You could either fly from Katugastota to Hambantota or to Weerawila before driving to Yala. An alternative is to taxi to Hatton and fly to Weerawila. The drive to Yala will take approximately 5hours and 30 minutes via the Mahaweli Raja Mawatha (B492) or the A2 road which goes through Colombo, Galle, Hambantota and Wellawaya.
From Galle – The quickest way to reach Yala from Galle is by hiring a vehicle or a taxi. This way it takes just over 6 hours to reach the destination. The easiest way is via the A2 highway going through Colombo, Galle, Hambantota and Wellawaya. Another easy and fast route is via the Southern Expressway while another alternative is to take a Hambantota or Monaragala bound bus and then taxi to Yala.
All arrangements regarding vehicles and flight bookings will be handled by Epic Sri Lanka Holidays.
The mean annual rainfall ranges between 500–775 millimeters (20–30.5 in) while the mean temperature ranges between 26.4°C (79.5°F) to 30 °C (86 °F). The wind in Yala can range from 23 kilometers per hour to 15 kilometers per hour between the two monsoon seasons. January is the month with the lowest temperature and it’s the coldest time in year. The hottest weather in Yala is the month of July with temperature around 34°C in the day & 15°C in the night.
Food & Drinks
The popular eat outs that offer international dishes like American, Southwestern, Italian, British are Spice Lounge Restaurant and Bar, Orchid Restaurant, The Grand Yala Restaurant, The Flavors Restaurant etc. while these restaurants also offer Sri Lankan dishes. Smoky Kitchen and Muthu Restaurant are typically known for the Sri Lankan food. All restaurants and cafes are conveniently located about 0.3 miles to 2 miles away from the National Park.
Yala National Park- The Yala National park is divided into five blocks of which two have been open to the public. A jeep safari through the park is one of the most enjoyed activities by locals and foreigners and allows siting the diversified species that resides in the park. Some of them include water birds, reptiles, leopards, elephants and Sri Lankan sloth bears
Situlpawwa – The Situlpawwa rock temple is located deep within the Yala National Park within the Hambantota District. The temple is situated on top of the rock and is reached by a difficult steep climb, aided by steps cut into the rock. The temple is believed to have been built by king Kawantissa. It houses an intricate cave complex.
Lunugamvehera National Park- Located in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka the park was declared so as to protect the catchment area of the Lunugamvehera reservoir and the wildlife of the area. The park mainly acts as a passageway for elephants to migrate from the Yala national park to the Udawalawe national park. After its prolonged shut down due to the Civil War, the park is now open to the public.
Kataragama Kiri Vehera- Being one of the most popular Buddhist Pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka, Kiri Vehera is said to be 95 ft. in height. It is located in the Moneragala district and is situated 800 m north to the famous Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya.
Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya- This temple is one of the few religious sites that is venerated by the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and the Vedda people (indigenous people). The vicinity of the temple complex is used for secretive practices of sorcery and cursing peculiar to Sri Lanka. Lack of clear historical records and myths, fuel conflicts among the Buddhist and Hindus regarding the ownership of the temple and the mode of worship. However, the temple can be reached by an all-weather road.
Sella Kataragama Lord Ganesh Temple- Located in the banks of the Menik River, visiting this temple is generally a must in one’s itinerary. It is also another multi-cultural site visited by Buddhist, Hindus and Indigenous Veddas. One must cross the Menik River to enter the sacred place which is sided by a plethora of Kovils.
Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya- Being one of the four major monasteries in Sri Lanka the site of Tissamaharama Vihara was made sacred by the Lord Buddha himself. Tissamaharama Stupa is the largest stupa in the Southern region of the country with a height of 156 feet and 550 feet in circumference. A recent discovery of a pillar inscription in Kirinda, reveals that the left tooth relic of Buddha was also enshrined in this temple.
Akurugoda stone inscription– Stone inscriptions are the oldest form of stating historical facts. These inscriptions have changed with time from facts stated in short lines to descriptive facts. Such historical significance can be sited at Akurugoda stone inscriptions.
Nivan Maha Prakaraya- It is one of the popular tourist destinations in Dabarawewa. It is known for its 3D architecture of an ancient moonstone which represents the cycle of rebirth. It is 28.5 feet in height and 900 feet long. The creation comprises of six layers of statues.
Bundala National Park- The park is internationally known for being home to migratory water birds in Sri Lanka of which Flamingos appear to be a highlight. The national park is situated 245 kilometers (152 mi) southeast of Colombo. The national park contains five shallow, brackish lagoons with salt pans in three.
Kirinda Beach- The port of Kirinda located 10km south of Tissamaharama is a desolate coast with its long stretch of sand dunes overlooking the ocean. Here there is a rocky outcrop of which one can obtain magnificent views.
Kirinda Vihara Maha Devi Temple- The temple includes a Stupa and a huge standing Buddha. The temple was dedicated to Queen Viharamahadevi as a heart of the local legend. It is atop of a rocky outcrop and was refuge to victims of the tsunami in 2004.
Nidangala Beach- Located in the outskirts of Yala National park, Nidangala beach has a breathtaking view. White sand and the giant rocks amidst the waters is certainly a picturesque location.
Telulla Archeological Site- The site is located in the Moneragala District. The site currently consists of 11 Stupas, an image house and the remains of two buildings which were destroyed by treasure hunters. This place can be reached by Weligatta-Bundala road passing the Bundala National park.
Ranminitenna Tele Cinema Village – Ranminithenna is the first and only tele, cinema village existing in Sri Lanka. It has a setting of Galle, Kandy and old colonial Colombo while visitors are allowed for site seeing and to take pictures in these backdrops except inside the studios.
Golf at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Country Club – The 18-hole golf course at the Shangri La Golf Resort and Country Club is picturesque destination for all golf enthusiasts. Designed by the world-renowned golf architect Rodney Wright, this golf course guarantees a memorable golfing experience for you to take back home.