How to Spend 3 Days in Yala National Park
Three days are enough time to see four of the area’s wildlife parks: Yala, Bundala, Kumana, and Uda Walawe. Spend a night or two in a classic tented camp; spot leopards, elephants, and more; and explore the lakeside town of Tissamaharama. Here’s how to do it all in 72 hours.
Day 1: Safari chic
Dawn and dusk see wildlife at its most active, so get to the Yala area the night before, to prepare for an early game drive. The next morning, explore Bundala National Park, a compact wetland home to monkeys, elephants, crocodiles, sea turtles, and migrating birds. Then, head to either Uda Walawe (known for elephants) or Yala (famous for leopards) for a classic safari camp experience. Some packages include two nights and three days with a prearranged itinerary that includes multiple game drives and activities such as fishing. Whichever park or package you pick, enjoy a close encounter with the wilderness from a stylish, fully furnished tent with a fan and electric lighting.
Day 2: Leopards and elephants
Start the day bright and early—and get a head start on travelers visiting from outside the park—with a dawn game drive in search of Sri Lanka’s “big three”: leopards, elephants, and sloth bears. Once you’ve captured the photos of a lifetime, unwind over breakfast back at camp. Your afternoon destination is the park you didn’t stay in last night (either Yala or Uda Walawe). In Yala, don’t miss the historic Sithulpawwa Rock Temple; in Uda Walawe, stop by the Elephant Transit Home, an ethical elephant orphanage that returns all its charges to the wild. Choose a private tour for the most flexibility. In the evening, dine on a barbecue feast in the park’s buffer zone, surrounded by fire torches and the sounds of the forest.
Day 3: Culture and cuisine
Bird-watchers in particular will want to complete their series of national park visits with a morning game drive in Kumana, where wetlands house more than 400 bird species. Later, tour a village on foot or by tuk-tuk, and learn about traditional chena farming systems. Then, enjoy a curry lunch with a local family before soaking up the sights of Tissamaharama, a pretty lakeside town. Wrap up your stay with a sunset cruise on Tissa Wewa (Lake Tissa) or an alfresco dinner on a private Indian Ocean beach.