South East Dry Zone


Dominant with thorn forests, lakes, lagoons and variety of forests, this is one of the most diverse parts of the country with ecology and animals. Known for the mighty Elephants and the popular Leopard, the Yala National Park is located in this zone. Being mostly dry throughout the year the zone receives its water from the North East monsoon rain season, this gives from 1500mm-2000mm rainfall for a year. Lowland grasslands are dominant in the flood plains. Most of the land area in the zone is protected for either plant life or animal. This offers the lushness of the Southwestern Wet Zone, in an astonishingly short space, east of Tangalle, everything changes. Open savanna and shallow wetlands take over from the dank forest and rich undergrowth and the increasingly frequent patches of bare earth have a burnt and arid look. From Nonagama, 25km east of Tangalle, there are two choices of routes through the dry zone. Both offer magnificent wildlife spotting opportunities. The road inland takes you close to Udawalawe, famous for its Elephants, from which you can travel to Ratnapura or the Singharaja Rainforest or into the highlands. Alternatively, you can continue east on the coastal road, visiting salt pans for some superb bird watching, the remarkably varied wildlife of Yala, and on to the strange and wonderful pilgrim site of Kataragama. 

South East Dry Zone

Bundala National Park

Bundala National park is a park with a higher percentile of bird watching and occasional spotting of an Elephant or a Crocodile. The reserve consists of a series of shallow lagoons which are surrounded by low scrub which is quite dense. Tracks go through the bushes and connects each of the lagoons together. Bundala is particularly rewarding for its winter migrants, who arrive chiefly from Eastern Europe. From September to March you can see an abundant of stints, sand pipers, plovers and many birds of sort.


Udawalawa National Park

Easily accessible from the South Coast, Udawalawe is one of island’s most popular national parks. Mainly open parkland traversed by streams, it is best known for its elephants and large herds can be seen during the dry season. However, bird watching is more rewarding than searching for any other wildlife. The 308sqkm park was set up in 1972 to protect the catchment of the Uda walawa reservoir which is at the south end of the Walawe ganga. Among the sightings are Macaque, Langur, Jackal, Leopard, Sambar Deer and most importantly Elephants.


 ETH Udawalawa

Set up by the Department of Wildlife in 1995, the Elephant Transit Home cares for abandoned calves, most of which have been injured, before returning them to the wild when they reach 5 years of age. Its successful reintroduction scheme is supported by Born free foundation. Most of these calves are up for fostering, by fostering what wildlife regulators does is letting foster parents host half of the calves’ food and medicine expenditure, in return the foster parent can name the calf and some special offers are available at national parks too. at the reintroduction to the wildlife selected calves are given radio tracking devices where their movements in the wild is tracked in the database for a monitored number of years.



Yala is known to be Sri Lanka’s most popular national park, varying from parkland to dense jungle to the plains, there are also several streams, small lakes and lagoons. Yala comprises of 5 blocks out of which only 1 is open for the general public. The search is for the park’s elusive leopards which is a major attraction, they are quite bold and walking around the park, spotting one of them is mainly based on luck. Among other animals who has the spotlight are Elephants, Monkeys, Sambar, Spotted deer, Jackal, Wild Boar and Buffalos. Yala is also known for the extensive birdlife, both resident and migratory. 



Tissamaharama is one of the oldest of the abandoned royal cities. King Dutugemunu made it his capital before recapturing Anuradhapura. The ruins had been hidden in the jungle for centuries and today there is a little of interest visible. The town is often used as a base for Yala National park. Among the sights are the Tissa Wewa tank and number of dagobas with archeological significance in background. At 7km south lies Kirinda an important Buddhist shrine and a fisheries port.



Kataragama is a pilgrimage holding significance for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims like Adam’s Peak. It is most famous for the perahera in July and August. The Hindu and Buddhist sanctuaries are quite away from one another by the small town roads. Buddhists worship the Kirivehera believing to be visited by lord Buddha, Hindus visit the Skanda temple and Muslims pray to Khir Takya mosque. In the middle of the town flows Menik river with massive trees shading its route.



Buduruwagala is an ancient Mahayana origin rock carving slate of Gautama Buddha, other statues are believed to be next Buddha (Maithree), his wife before he turned to priesthood and his son. Of these seven rock cut figures in high relief, the 16m high Buddha statue is in the center, flanked by possibly Avalokithishvara to his right who in turn has his consort Tara by his side. Traces of original red and yellow paint remain on the Buddha statue and towards his right in the background is a hole cut in the rock which is believed to be lit as an oil lamp, a mustard smelling oil is believed to be miraculously flowing from it periodically. It’s best to visit in the morning or afternoon in an easy walk accompanied by one of monks from the newly built temple.


Accommodation choices for South Dry East

We’ve selected a range of accommodation options when you visit South Dry East. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities, and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

Suggested itineraries featuring South Dry East

These sample itineraries will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in South Dry East, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.


Contact our Travel Consultants to start planning your tailor-made holiday of your dream vacation to tropical Sri Lanka.

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