Occupying a vast swathe of land stretching all the way up to the border of the Northern Province, Wilpattu National Park is the largest in Sri Lanka, and was formerly the most popular until the onset of the civil war, when its position straddling the frontline between Sinhalese and Tamil areas led to the widespread destruction of local infrastructure and killing of wildlife. The park finally reopened in 2009 and its wildlife is now gradually recovering, although the effects of long-term poaching mean that the overall density of wildlife remains significantly lower than in parks such as Yala, Uda Walawe and Minneriya, although there’s a small but significant chance of spotting the leopards and sloth bears for which the park was once famous, not to mention elephants, deer, and many types of bird. Equally, the lack of visitors and the size of the area open to visitors (around eight times larger than that at Yala, for instance) means that it’s also supremely peaceful compared to many other parks.

An unusual feature of Wilpattu’s topography are its numerous villus. These look like lakes (indeed the park’s name derives from villu-pattu, “Land of Lakes”), though they’re actually just depressions filled with rainwater which expand and contract with the seasons, attracting a range of water-birds and wildlife.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Sri Lanka features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: 5 reasons to visit Sri Lanka

Video: 5 reasons to visit Sri Lanka

From remote, palm-dotted beaches to ancient temples and some of Asia's best wildlife-watching opportunities, Sri Lanka has something to offer every kind of trav…

19 Jan 2018 • Olivia Rawes videocam Video
Your Sri Lanka itinerary: 5 trip ideas to explore the country

Your Sri Lanka itinerary: 5 trip ideas to explore the country

Sri Lanka is deceptive. On a map of the world it appears to be tiny, but the moment you arrive you’ll realise that within its diminutive borders it packs in a…

18 Jan 2018 • Stuart Butler insert_drive_file Article
10 Sri Lankan foods you need to try

10 Sri Lankan foods you need to try

The tear-shaped Indian Ocean island of Sri Lanka is a true culinary treat. Through years of colonisation and trade, many cultures have influenced its cuisine, c…

17 Jan 2018 • Sarah Gilbert insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right