The natural diversity of Sri Lanka is almost unparalleled in any other island of its size – from sandy beaches to rocky cliffs to serene meadows, Sri Lanka is home to many natural wonders. If you’re interested in slowing down and taking in the wildlife of this country, consider reading our guide to the best national parks in Sri Lanka.

Yala National Park

The hottest park destination in Sri Lanka, Yala’s greatest attraction is the high density of Sri Lankan leopards. Other animals in the park include sambars, spotted deer, wild pigs, toque monkeys, langur monkeys, mongooses, buffalos and golden jackals. Across the large park, there have been recorded up to 100 species present in a single day.

Best For:

Seeing leopards (the park has about 30)

Distance from Colombo:

171 kilometres, or approximately four hours by car (though relatively close in distance, a roundabout route is needed to access the park)

Nearby Attractions:

Arugam Bay

Uda Walawe National Park

Originally designed as a sanctuary for animals displaced by reservoir construction, Uda Walawe is now the third most popular park in the country. This spot is important for preserving the habitat of Sri Lankan elephants and many species of water birds.

Best For:

Seeing elephants (the park has about 500)

Distance from Colombo:

171 kilometres, or three hours by car

Nearby Attractions:

The caves of Dambulla and Heritance Tea Factory

Horton Plains National Park

In the Sri Lankan highlands is the highest plateau on the island. Cloud forests and exotic birds characterise this plateau, and Horton Plains National Park, which sits atop it. Birds to see here include the Sri Lankan whistling thrush and the Sri Lankan bush warbler.

Best For:

Seeing birds from an 880-metre cliff

Distance from Colombo:

181 kilometres, or a little more than three hours by car

Nearby Attractions:

Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Wilpattu National Park

Although abundant in the country, sloth bears are often hidden. Sri Lanka’s largest park, though, offers sightings of these as well as muntjacs and barking deer. Wilpattu only reopened in 2003, after a 15-year closure related to civil war. Visitors are now only able to visit 25 percent of the full park, and animals here are more easily startled and not as acclimated to vehicles.

Best For:

Seeing sloth bears

Distance from Colombo:

203 kilometres, or a little more than three hours by car

Nearby Attractions:

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi (a Buddhist tree of importance)

The national parks of Sri Lanka present unparalleled beauty, but also present unique dangers. From bear attacks to wild weather changes, vising a national park can pose its share of risks. Be covered when you travel by purchasing travel insurance from Cover-More. Don’t leave your safety to chance when you travel abroad.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Kosala Bandara.