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Why Yala in Sri Lanka should be on your travel bucket list

After multiple previous visits to the enchanting island nation of Sri Lanka, we finally visited Yala National Park in the southeast of the island. Considered to be the principal national park in Sri Lanka, it was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 before receiving national park status in 1938. Not only is it home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna (did someone say elephants and leopards?) but the national park status goes a long way to ensure that the vast area covering nearly 1000 square kilometres is protected from poaching, gem mining and illegal logging, problems that continue to impact areas of outstanding natural beauty throughout the region.

Feel good about the impact of your travel

The national parks in Sri Lanka are managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the park entrance fee that you pay is one of their main income streams. This revenue is used to ensure that the flora, fauna and natural resources are protected and in turn, remain untouched for future generations. Yala National Park is home to more than 300 of the remaining Sri Lankan elephants, of which there are an estimated 2,500 in total. However, when you consider there were more than 20,000 wild elephants in the 19th century it makes it very clear why they, and their habitat, need protecting.

Experience your Yala safari with a knowledgeable guide

There are many operators who offer safari day trips to Yala National Park and as with every choice you make, it’s alway best to do your research. We read multiple reviews, in addition to asking friends and colleagues for recommendations. Your Yala safari will likely be the highlight of your trip so ‘investing’ in a knowledgable guide is essential in our opinion. For sure they will enhance your experience with their ability to identify, track and locate many of the park’s harder to find inhabitants.

Get up close (well, not too close) and personal with elephants and leopards

The magnificent wildlife that calls Yala National Park home includes the Asian elephant and the leopard. Despite Yala being one of the places in Sri Lanka where you are most likely to see leopards, there is  of course no guarantee. But with lots of patience, an excellent guide and a small slice of luck you may just get up close and personal to these magnificent creatures. Yala National Park has the highest density of leopards on the planet with an estimated 60-80 leopards calling the park home, so your chances are quite high that you may indeed have that close encounter with one of these graceful and powerful big cats.

Stay at the perfectly located Jetwing Yala

Perfectly located near to the Palaputana entrance of Yala National Park, Jetwing Yala is the perfect retreat for anyone wishing to explore the area. This eco conscious luxury hotel boast a 75m pool and is situated within vast grounds from which you have direct access to the dramatic sand dune backed beach. This unique location, with both the Indian Ocean and the magnificent Yala National Park as neighbours makes Jetwing Yala an excellent option for anyone spending time in this enchanting corner of southeastern Sri Lanka. At the end of an exhilarating day exploring, there is nothing better than enjoying the expansive pool with its ocean views, or pampering yourself with a treatment in the blissful spa, all before heading to a sumptuous Asian Fusion culinary adventure at Thambapanni,


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Marvel at the rugged and wild Sri Lankan coastline

The majestic plains and forests of Yala National Park have an equally illustrious neighbour, the Indian Ocean. Separated by seemingly never ending wind swept dunes, they exist harmoniously. This area of southeastern Sri Lanka is not only where you can be amazed by the beauty of Yala, but you can also marvel at the rugged Sri Lankan coastline. It’s no surprise that at certain times of the year, surfers travel from far and wide to hone their skills at beaches nearby. This is the Indian Ocean at its wildest; prepare to be impressed.

Enjoy an array of delicious Sri Lankan cuisine

Despite having guests from all over the world who expect varied culinary offerings, the team at Jetwing Yala have ensured that Sri Lankan cuisine is very much at the fore throughout the resort. We were able to enjoy a wide array of Sri Lankan dishes and we were perfectly catered for as vegan guests during our stay. Trust us when we say that the simple sounding ‘rice & curry’ in Sri Lanka is far from simple. Instead, it’s an explosion of flavours and mini curries served with local rice. Sri Lankan ‘rice & curry’ is colourful, exciting and delicious making it one if our favourite meals on the planet.

These are just some of the reasons why Yala in Sri Lanka should be on your travel bucket list. Going on safari is a common bucket list feature and a visit to Yala National Park offers the perfect opportunity to transform one of your dreams into a reality. We feel blessed that we’ve now ‘ticked off’ another one of our travel dreams. Thank you Yala and thank you Sri Lanka for your warm welcome and wonderful hospitality.

Paul Eyers is Founder of Vegan Food Quest. Vegan Food Quest have become luxury vegan travel specialists as they continue to find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Paul Eyers

Paul Eyers is co-founder of Vegan Food Quest who write about luxury hotels and resorts in Southeast Asia with a focus on sustainable travel, eco travel and vegan travel. Currently based in Malaysia, Paul also writes about sporting events and some of the finest golf courses throughout the region.

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    1. My favourite image is the platter of food. Curry & rice is always far too simple a phrase to use when talking about oriental foods.

      In Sri Lanka you get to enjoy so many different ways of spicing a dish and there are lots of subtleties way beyond the heat. Also the rice can be flavoured in so many different ways as well. Sri Lankan cuisine really is an art form.

    2. ‘rice and curry’ is indeed too simple term for the amazing selection of curries you receive when ordering this dish in Sri Lanka!

  1. Although I’ve done a couple of safaris to Africa, I’ve never yet seen a leopard.

    Surely my luck would change with the greatest density of leopards on the planet at Yala National Park?

    1. you would have a good chance for sure, but of course nature can’t be ‘stage managed’ so you still need a good guide and a little bit of luck!

  2. Friday lunchtime and my guilty pleasure of a quick peep at A Luxury Travel Blog. Yala National Park is an absolute dream. What a tempting place!

    1. having visited Sri Lanka many times over the years , this recent trip was the first time we had been to Yala and we absolutely loved it…

  3. Never really thought of Sri Lanka as safari territory before. It’s on a small scale and I get that it’s got it own charms.

  4. Sri Lanka is on my bucket list full-stop. I’ve still never made it there. It was always difficult trying to fit holidays around work and the monsoons. Also being honest there have been times when Sri Lanka’s been off the tourist scene due to civil war, the tsunami and civil unrest.

    We are both hoping to retire towards the end of the year. At that point Yala would be a nice place to wind down after nearly 4 decades of the 9 to 5 (which was more often 8 to 7!).

    1. we have been visiting Sri Lanka since the late nineties and were there a number of times during the civil war, we also were there just a few months after the tsunami which was so hard to see. they’ve been super unlucky with war, tsunami, the easter terrorist attacks, covid and the recent economic crisis. i hope you get to visit once you retire as it’s a truly wonderful country.

  5. A 75m is huge! I’d be exhausted swimming that far, way longer than my health club pool.

    Jetwing Yala looks absolutely idyllic. What a great place to stay at the heart of your Sri Lanka adventure.

    1. Jetwing Yala was a highlight of our stay for sure, lovely property, amazing location and super friendly staff team. delicious vegan food too which made us very happy!

  6. As I’ve only been to Sri Lanka once for a week in budget accommodation and that was a long time ago I’m totally wowed by what Yala has to offer. I’m willing to be corrected but I can’t imagine that Sir Lanka has much more luxurious accommodation than Yala?

    1. Sri Lanka has travel options for all budgets and over the years we’ve experienced a wide variety from simple homestays to luxury hotels and resorts. they all have their own charm and manage to deliver that special Sri Lankan hospitality. we love variety in our travel.

  7. Sri Lanka hadn’t been anywhere near my travel bucket list until you made a pretty good case for the country and particularly for Yala National Park.

    That’s the trouble with being a regular reader of A Luxury Travel Blog. My travel bucket list keeps on getting longer and longer!

    1. we need more than a bucket for our travel wish list, more like a swimming pool to fit them all in! trouble is, we keep returning to places we love like Sri Lanka, this was perhaps our 10th visit since 1998 and we will return again for sure.

  8. I’m just back from Sri Lanka and that picture you show of “rice and curry” nicely sums up the nation’s cuisine.

    The people always underplay their food when they say that they’re going to have “rice and curry”. Many meals are a collection of small bowls with a variety of curries.

    As a vegan I loved it. There was usually just one bowl of meat or chicken or fish to ignore and then there was a nicely spiced collection of veg and dahls and sambals. I particularly liked the bitter gourd dishes.

    I was only in the country for 10 days but from what I tasted Sri Lankan cuisine suits me really well and has to be one of my favourites in the world culinary scene.

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