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Tourist Places To Visit In Yala National Park
A popular tourist attraction in Sri Lanka all thanks to its National Park, Yala is one of the most frequented places in Sri Lanka, spanning over 1268 sq. km. With lush grasslands, light forestry and saline creeks, Yala is abundant in flora and fauna with a wide variety of aquatic birds, monkeys, elephants, buffalos, crocs and leopards amidst several more! But there’s more in and around Yala besides the National Park that you can explore.
With an extraordinary coastline with coral reef, Yala National Park also has a number of ancient ruins, monuments and rock engravings that go way back to the 3rd century BC. En route, the conventional excursion of Hindu and Sinhalese followers to Kataragama temple is the Kumana National Park. Here are some of the tourist places worth visiting at Yala National Park.
Yala National Park
Spanning 97,878 hectares, 305 km from Colombo, the Yala National Park comprises two sections of Ruhana and Kumana National Parks at the west and east sides which are open to the public. Both sections are divided by a river making it difficult to cross the sections. Second to the largest national park in Sri Lanka, which is the Wilpattu National Park, Yala National Park includes semi-dry thorn scrubs, intermingled with dense forests, mangroves and beautiful coral reef adorning the coastline.
With over 250 species of birds, 46 varieties of reptiles, 44 animal species and 18 types of amphibians, Yala National Park is renowned for the maximum concentration of leopards at 25, in addition to other mammals grazing around in groups of 100-200 numbers like elephants, wild buffalo and sloth bear. There’s also 6 bird species that are rife in Sri Lanka, like the brown-capped babblers, wood pigeons, black-capped bulbul, crimson front barbet, jungle fowl and grey hornbill. You can also see the widespread monkey community of Toque macaque and the prosimian Red Slender Loris.
Buduruwagala is one of Yala’s best attractions with its magnificent rock-carved Buddha Figures which are almost a 1000 years old, it's highest being 15 m tall. With a splash of orange color on its rare cemented robe, the enormous Buddha figure has smaller engraved figurines as well by its side.
A small community by the countryside, Okanda Devalaya is regarded as the official entry point for Kumana National Park. As per a popular belief in which God Skanda entered Sri Lanka on a golden boat supposedly, which later transformed into a rock, Okanda is the intersection where travellers rest a while before heading for Kumana, followed by Yala National Park.
Situated in Yala National Park’s 4th block, Kebiliththa is the best place for religious reverence, amidst the Hindu and Buddhist communities. Believed to be God Katharagama and God Skanda’s favorite spot for meditation, Kebiliththa is visited most for this popular belief to soak in the calm. The davalaya doesn’t have any cemented structures, just some idols around a small & ancient Siyambala tree, about 9 ft high, that sprung up from the offshoot of a large tamarind tree. There’s a popular belief that to visit the Kebiliththa, one must prepare in advance and abstain from all forms of eggs, fish and meat and make their offerings with utmost faith and respect.
One of the oldest rock monasteries in Yala, Sithulpawwa was believed to have been home to 12,000 monks and is renowned also for its 2,200 years old temple architecture. Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya includes several cave temples, Buddha figurines, stupas, and image houses that span over a large area and also have ancient paintings that have been made on the surface of the rock on a thin plastic layer, mostly in red and yellow colors.
Magul Maha Viharaya
The site where Vihara Maha Devi & King Kaban Tissa got married, south of Sithulpawwa, the ancient Buddhist temple of Magul Maha Viharaya is situated within the Yala National Park and known for its captivating architecture, making it a ‘must-see’ attraction. The foundations of the “Magul Maduwa” are still there in the vihara premises, where the marriage took place. Believed to have been built by King Kavanthissa in the 2nd century BC, the Viharaya compound spans about 10,000 acres with the ruins of a palace, monastery, stupas, bo-maluwa and ponds dispersed everywhere.
Connected to the park, the sacred town of Kataragama brings in a tranquil blend of earnestness, purity, lush greenery and community. One of Sri Lanka’s most important pilgrim spots, Kataragama is no less sacred for the Vedas, Muslims, Hindus and the Buddhists, with a large number of people visiting here in July and August in reverence. During the annual procession, Kawadi dancers and Fire walkers offer their homage to the Gods, while a daily ritual at the temple is to make offerings between 4.30am-10.30am and then at 6.30pm. On visiting Kataragama, you’ll find the streets laden with fruit platters filled with mangoes, watermelons and coconuts and numerous hawkers with garlands and flowers for offerings.