Udawalawe vs Yala

Both Yala and Udawalawe national parks are popular national parks in Sri Lanka for jeep safaris.

The short answer is which one is better: You will definitely enjoy the bright and varied nature of the island and not be disappointed by each of them. There are more chances to see a leopard in Yala, but Udawalawe guarantees you a lot of elephants.

Sure, each option has its pros and cons, but below we will try to highlight the main ones.

Udawalawe Vs Yala: Area and wildlife

The area of Yala National Park (979 sq. km.) is much larger than Udawalawe (308 sq. km.), but in fact, a safari in Yala takes place only in Block 1 (140 sq. km) so usually the safari route in Udawalawe is longer (highly depend of your guide).

The main attraction of Yala is the leopards living there – there are usually several dozen of their habit in Block 1. In Udawalawe there are only a few pairs of leopards in the entire park, and it is very rare to see them.

The pearl of Udawadawa is, of course, the elephants – there are many more of them here than in Yala, and you are guaranteed to see single males and entire families in different situations. One more reason for Udawalawe is the possibility of seeing a crocodile – they also live in Yala, but you are unlikely to see them on a safari.

In both parks, you will also see many other animals: buffaloes, deer, wild boars, monkeys, various birds, and reptiles. You can learn more about animals here.

Udawalawe vs Yala: Best season

The best time for a safari in both parks is the period from December to July. Udawalawe is open all year round. Yala Park is closed for tourists in September-October for 4-5 weeks. Closing dates are announced in advance by the Department of Wildlife (DWC).

Udawalawe vs Yala: price comprassion

Both parks are the 1st category national parks of Sri Lanka. The cost of an entrance ticket to both parks is the same and is set by the DWC. The cost of a guide and a jeep to visit the park is also about the same. The up-to-date information about the entrance fees you may find on visit page.

Udawalawe vs Yala: transport access

From Colombo and the cities of the southern coast (Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Galle, Matara, Tangalle) the travel time to the parks is also about the same (to Yala longer for 10-15 minutes). By bus is a little more convenient to get to Yala from Matara and Negombo: there are direct buses to Kataragama and Tissamaharama. To visit Udawalawe you would take a bus to Embilipitiya and after have a short ride by tuk-tuk or local bus to the city of Udawalawa itself. More details about all the ways to get to Udawalawe Park can be found here.

Udawalawe vs Yala: The tourist crowds

With the hope of showing you leopards, jeep drivers in Yala gather around the areas where leopards are most likely to be seen. The guides know the favorite places of the leopards and a whole line of jeeps gather around them. This makes the Yala national park look so crowded. In Udawalawe most of the time you won’t see other cars.

Udawalawe vs Yala: Accommodation facilities and overnight

Both parks have lodges that offer overnight stays in the park, their cost is about the same (several hundred USD per night). More details about this option can be found here.

On booking and AirBnB you may find a lot of options around Yala that will allow you to stay surrounded by the jungle, but not yet in the park, which will be much cheaper.

See also:

Ticket price

How to get to Udawalawe park