Udawalawe Safari

Udawalawe safari is a popular wildlife tour in Sri Lanka due to many reasons, the most prominent reason being the convenience to reach the national park from west coast beach resorts and Colombo. The second reason is, that it is easy to spot wild animals in the park in a short period.

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Wildlife reserves are always very popular in Sri Lanka wildlife tours and they offer a valuable opportunity to see wild creatures in their natural habitat. Udawalawe is one of the popular wildlife reserves among the 2 dozen national parks in Sri Lanka. This off-the-beaten-track tourist attraction is loved by a large number of foreign tourists and is a popular activity in Sri Lanka. Unlike most other national parks such as Yala, it is not overcrowded and wild animals do not encounter hordes of tourists every day. That’s the most interesting part of the Udawalawe safari.

Where is the Udawalawe national park?

The national park is tucked away from Colombo towards the central province of Sri Lanka. Udawalawe safari has become one of the very interesting activities on the island, especially for foreign travellers. Venturing on an Udawalawe safari allows the tourist to spot a large number of wild elephants, numbering hundreds most of the time.

How to reach Udawalawe National park from Colombo

Since most travellers book the Udawalawe safari from Colombo, we mainly discuss the route from Colombo to Udawalawe national park. The travellers can reach Undawalawe national park mainly on 2 routes. The first route is via Rathnapura, Pelmadulla to Udawlawe. The travellers need to spend about 4 hours reaching Udawalawe from Colombo if they opt to take this route. The second route is via Matara on the southern expressway. This route is comparatively new and however, and it is getting popular among travellers despite the considerably long distance to cover compared to the other route, as the journey on this route curtails the journey between Colombo and Udawalawe by around 1 hour.

Why choose Udawalwe national park for Sri Lanka wildlife tours?

A large number of travellers opt to have the Udawalawe safari over Yala national park safari because Yala tends to be very crowded very often. Yala is the most popular national park on the island flooded with tourists every day, the travellers may encounter hundreds of safari jeeps at any given time writhing the forest. Another important factor to choose Udawalawe national park is its proximity to Colombo and beach resorts on the west coast and southern coasts. The travellers can even venture on a one-day safari from Colombo and the beach resort if they are willing to start the trip bit early.

Udawalawe safari from the beach resort

It is very easy to visit Udawalawe national park from popular beach resorts on the southern and western coasts. Therefore Udawalawe safari and beach holiday on the west coast or southern coast is a very good combination. If you are looking for a Sri Lanka one-day trip from Colombo, Udawalawe would be a good option, however, it is necessary to leave Colombo early morning. You can also add Udawalawe safari to your road trips such as 5 day Sri Lanka trip or one week Sri Lanka trip.

Udawalawe national park is popular for Sri Lanka’s one-day trips, due to its proximity to the west and south coast of Sri Lanka. Udawalawe safari is also a very good alternative to the Sri Lanka wildlife tour based in Yala. When the Yala national park is closed during the drought, then the tourist traffic heads to Udawalawe national park, Which is located near Yala national park and offers a similar wildlife experience.

Observing wild animals is a very popular activity among foreign travellers to Sri Lanka and the government authorities have taken many steps to promote wildlife tourism on the island. Sri Lanka is a good place to spot many species of wild animals such as leopards, bears, crocodiles, monkeys, jackals…the list goes on.

Udawalawe safari from Sri Lanka hill country

Udawalawe safari is a popular activity for travellers based in Sri Lankan hill country resorts such as Ella, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. It is very easy to drive to Udawalawe from Ella and Nuwara Eliya, it takes only about 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive. Therefore, the Udawalawe safari is an easy day trip from hotels in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Ella.

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A large gathering of wild elephants is a common sight at the Udawalawe national park

Udawalawe safari is one of the best programs for the beach holiday lovers

Many dozens of wildlife reserves are suitable for Sri Lanka safari tours. Udawalawe safari tours are particularly popular on the island due to the location of Udawalawe national park near the west coast, south coast and Colombo. Udawalawe national park is located in the Sabaragamuwa province, which can be easily reached from the west and south coast resorts. Udawalawe safari is the best wildlife activity for travellers, who spend their beach holiday in west coast beach resorts, south coast beach resorts as well as Nuwara Eliya, Bandarawela and other hill country resorts mainly due to the convenience of reaching it.

The Udawalawe national park is one of the places to explore the fascinating wildlife of Sri Lanka. The Udawalawe national park is one of the biggest national parks on the island and occupies 978 km of dry-zone forests in southern Sri Lanka.

Udawalawe consists mainly of dry-zone and arid-zone forests. The park is situated in the southwest part of the island in the Sabaragamuwa province. A dominant feature of Udawalawe national park is the formation of huge granite rock formations with caves. These rocks are so big, that they resemble small mountains.

Vast plains and lakes with shimmering water are a great spectacle and provide a great opportunity for photographers. These plains are occupied by many species of animals such as wild buffaloes, elephants, deer, crocodiles etc and lakes are occupied by a large number of bird species such as Flamingo, pelican, whistling thrust, buffaloes and crocodiles.

What to do in Udawalawe?

  • Jeep safari at Udawalawe national park
  • Visiting Udawalawe elephant transit camp
  • Visiting Sankpala temple

Sri Lanka Safari Udawalawe-what do we see?

The Udawalawe park is one of the popular wildlife reserves in Sri Lanka and is included in many Sri Lanka beach and wildlife exploration tour packages. Udawalawe is is a laid-back village and most popular due to the Udawalawe national park.

The national park is very popular for Elephant safari and enables travellers to see a large gathering of wild elephants. The Udawalawe park can be easily reached from any beach resort located on the west and southern sea border, therefore Udawalawe safari tours are a very popular short program that can be booked from western and southern Sri Lankan beach resorts.

Where is the Udawalawe national park?

Due to its convenient location in the Sabaragamuwa province, Udawalawe safari tours are the best wildlife activity for travellers staying on west coast beaches, south coast beaches as well as Nuwara Eliya, Bandarawela and other mountain resorts. Undoubtedly the most popular safari tour on the island is the Yala safari while Udawalawe safari tours rank second for best wildlife exploration. The national park is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, and it has a picturesque majestic mountain range in the background.

Udawalawe park nestled in the cradle of the Ruhuna Rata and epic Sabaragamuwa Province filled with an abundance of antiquity from relics of Dagobas, stone anicuts (sluice), carved motifs on pillars and Brahmi inscriptions, ancient rock cave hermitage (like those in Madunagala, Karambagala, Bambaragala, Sankapala) and finally interlaced with nature’s bounty of scenic mountain frontiers. The ancient concept of the Dagoba, weva (Tabk), keth yaya (rice field) has been well portrayed in this historic region.

Udawalawe reservoir

Udawalawe reservoir is another important part of the national park. It provides water for wild animals throughout the year. The combination of Udawalawe reservoir, the national park and the mountain range in the backdrop makes an awe-inspiring sight that you will not find anywhere else in Sri Lanka.

You encounter the huge Udawalawe reservoir even before you step into the national park. Today the reservoir is the lifeblood of the region since it is the main source of water for agriculture. There is a good chance of spotting many species of aquatic birds around the reservoir.

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Sri Lankan safari Udawalawe – What is the best time for the safari?

The best period to visit the national park is from November to April parallel to the peak holiday season on the west coast. During this period the national park is relatively dry and has a good chance of spotting animals. During the rain, the terrain is very difficult to drive due to the muddy and slippery surface. During the peak season be prepared to encounter a considerable number of foreign travellers, who spend their winter holiday in Sri Lanka. During the low season in Sri Lanka from April to November, Sri Lanka is visited by a limited number of travellers so the park is also visited by a very limited number of travellers.

Udawalawe safari morning or afternoon

Safari can be done in the morning and afternoon. This dry-zone national park is not very suitable for mid-day safari as the animals move to shady areas to avoid the midday heat. The animal movement is also very minimal during midday making it difficult to spot animals. Therefore to have the best Sri Lanka safari at Udawalawe national park, it is recommended to start your wildlife adventure early morning or afternoon.

Udawalawe sunrise safari

Udawalawe sunrise safari or the early morning safari starts between 05.00 am to 05.30 am. This is the best time to start the Udawalawe safari if you can, thereby you can cover much of the ground in the park before the heat buildup.

Udawalawe leopards

Leopard is the biggest carnivore on the island and they are restricted to national parks and wildlife reserves. Leopards are occurring in most national parks on the island, however, it is very difficult to spot them in the jungle. Although there are few leopards in Udawalawe, it is a well-known fact that Udawalawe is not a place to spot leopards and Udawalawe is popular for spotting Elephants. If you like to spot leopards you should head on to Yala national park further south of Udawalawe.

Udawalawe elephant

Udwalawe is mainly a wildlife reserve for elephant safari, due to the concentration of a large number of wild elephants. Udawalawe safari is one of the best wildlife programs to spot wild elephants. There are many open grasslands in the forest. These grasslands are favourite places for wild elephants to get food. these grasslands are the best places to sport wild elephants in the forest. In a global context, the Sri Lankan jungles are among the best place for spotting wild elephants. According to the statistics issued by the wildlife department in 2022, the number of wild elephants on the island is increased to 7000 from the earlier estimated 5000 animals.

Udawalawe safari jeep contact number -0094-77-4440977

The best time to start your Sri Lanka safari Udawalawe

  • 5.00 am to 6.00 am
  • 2.00 pm to 3.00 pm

Udawalawe safari day tours from Ella

Sri Lanka one-day safari Udawalawe is one of the very popular activities among the travellers that visit the mountain resort, Ella. Most travellers stay in Ella and make short trips to various places in Sri Lanka. The distance from Ella to Udawalawe national park is just 90 km and it takes only 2 hours to reach Udawalawe from Ella. Therefore Udawalawe safari is very suitable for one day tour from Ella.

Which Udawalawe safari package should I Book?

Udawalawe safari tour should not be restricted to a wildlife experience because it can be combined with many other activities such as visiting Buddhist temples, historical monuments, tea plantation tours, Forts and many more. Therefore it is suitable for all age ranges and a suitable Sri Lankan adventure for families, couples as well as individual travellers.

The Udawalawe safari package is available in many variations. Whatever the Udawalawe safari package you book try to avoid the midday heat because it can considerably limit the number of animals that you encounter in the park. The Udawalawe safari package is available as a standalone activity for travellers, who can reach the national park themselves. Udawalawe safari can also combine with any other tour package Eg 7 days Sri Lanka tour can be combined with a wildlife tour and You can combine your beach holiday with the Udawalawe safari.

Most Sri Lanka tour operators organize Udawalawe safari packages from beach resorts in Kalutara, Bentota beach, Hikkaduwa beach and Galle. This one-day tour also can be booked from hill country resorts such as Nuwara Eliya, and Ella as well as from Colombo. The prices may differ based on the starting point of the trip. These Udawalawe safari packages include hotels transfer as well as the jeep safari at the National park. Here are a few most popular Udawalawe safari packages.

1. Udawalawe safari package from the Colombo

Udawalawe safari package from Colombo USD 110 P.P based on 2 persons – The safari package starts early morning due to the distance to cover on the trip (180 km). The pick-up from the hotel in Colombo is at 04.00 am and you will reach the national park at 06.00 am and start the Udawalawe jeep safari.

  • 04.00 am Meet the driver/guide at the resort and start the journey
  • 07.00 am Reach the national park and purchase the entrance ticket
  • 07.15 am Start the Udawalawe jeep safari
  • 10.15 am Finish jeep safari and start the return journey
  • 12.00 am Visit Saman Devala, which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples on the island
  • 02.00 pm Reach your hotel in Colomb0

2. Udawalawe safari package from Kalutara

Udawalawe safari package from Kalutara USD 90 P.P based on 2 persons– The distance to cover from Kalutara to Udawalwe (142 km) is a little less than the distance from Colombo to Udawalawe. You can reach the national park in 2 hour drive from your hotel, and the tour starts at 04.00 am.

  • 04.00 am Meet the driver/guide at the resort and start the journey
  • 06.30 am Reach the national park and purchase the entrance ticket
  • 06.45 am Start the Udawalawe jeep safari
  • 09.45 am Finish jeep safari and start the return journey
  • 11.45 am Visit Saman Devala, which is one of the oldest Buddhist temples on the island
  • 01.30 pm Reach your hotel in Kalutara

3. Udawalawe safari package from Bentota

Udawalawe safari package from Bentota USD 110 P.P based on 2 persons – you have to travel 180 km on this safari tour to Udawalawe from a beach resort in Bentota. the early morning journey will take around 2 hours and 30 minutes. However, the return journey might take around 3 hours due to the busy roads.

  • 04.00 am Meet the driver/guide at the resort and start the journey
  • 07.00 am Reach the national park and purchase the entrance ticket
  • 07.15 am Start the Udawalawe jeep safari
  • 10.15 am Finish jeep safari and start the return journey
  • 11.20 am Visit Gall Fort and make a walking tour
  • 01.30 pm Reach your beach resort

4. Udawalawe safari package from Galle

Udawalawe safari package from Mirissa/Galle USD 75 P.P based on 2 persons – It is very convenient to reach Udawalawe national park from beach resorts such as Galle and Mirissa on the south coast. It is just 125 km to Udawalawe from the south coast and it takes only 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach the national park. This one-day Udawalawe safari tour starts at 5.00 am from beach resorts in the south and finishes at around 03.00 pm.

  • 05.00 am Meet the driver/guide at the resort and start the journey
  • 06.30 am Reach the national park and purchase the entrance ticket
  • 06.45 am Start the Udawalawe jeep safari
  • 09.45 am Finish jeep safari and start the return journey
  • 12.45 pm Reach your beach resort

5.Udawalawe national park from mirissa

  • 05.30 am Meet the driver/guide at the resort and start the journey
  • 06.30 am Reach the national park and purchase the entrance ticket
  • 06.45 am Start the Udawalawe jeep safari
  • 09.45 am Finish jeep safari and start the return journey
  • 11.45 pm Reach your beach resort

Mirissa is one of the most popular beach resorts on the island not only for leisure holidays but also for wildlife tours such as swimming with sea turtles, whale watching tours etc. Mirissa is located in the deep south of Sri Lanka and it provides easy access to Udawalawe national park with less crowded roads. The time taken on the journey from mirissa to Udawalawe is just 1 hour.

6. Udawalawe safari package from Ella

Ella is one of the most convenient tourist resorts to start your one-day Udawalawe safari package. This is mainly due to its proximity to the national park. The distance from Ella to Udawalawe national park is just 90 km and it takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes the journey. The journey is very convenient between Ella and Udawalawe due to the well-maintained road and it is free of traffic most of the time.

  • 05.00 am Meet the driver/guide at the resort and start the journey
  • 06.00 am Reach the national park and purchase the entrance ticket
  • 06.15 am Start the Udawalawe jeep safari
  • 09.15 am Finish jeep safari and start the return journey
  • 10.45 am Reach your beach resort

7.Udawalawe safari from Tangalle

  • 05.00 am Meet the driver/guide at the resort and start the journey
  • 06.00 am Reach the national park and purchase the entrance ticket
  • 06.15 am Start the Udawalawe jeep safari
  • 09.15 am Finish jeep safari and start the return journey
  • 10.45 am Reach your beach resort

If you spend your beach holiday in deep south Sri Lanka in a beach resort such as Weligama beach, Hambantota and other beach resorts in the south such as Tangalle, Ranna. It is very easy and convenient to visit Udawalawe national park from your resort. It is between 60-70 km from the most beach resort on the south coast to Udawalawe and it takes about a 1-hour drive.

How much does it cost for Sri Lanka Safari Udawalawe?

The Udawalawe safari tour cost USD 40 per person based on 2-8 persons. The safari tour includes 2 hours jeep safari in the national park and entrance fees, all taxes. You have to report to the main entrance of the national park, where you meet our jeep driver.

Udawalawe Safari Bungalow

If you wish to spend a day or two in the Udawalawe safari bungalow, which is located within the park, it will be possible with the permission of the wildlife department. You have to make an advanced booking for the Udawalawe safari bungalow with the Udawalwawe safari tour.

It is very difficult to grab a chance to have an overnight stay at the Udawalawe safari bungalow, due to the high demand. Therefore the travellers, have to reserve the rooms at the Udawalawe safari bungalow, well in advance to make sure that they are able to enjoy the fantastic opportunity of sleeping in the untamed wilderness.

Udawalawe safari accommodation

Finding Udawalawe safari accommodation is very easy and it is very affordable too. There are several good hotels (star class hotels) and many other types of accommodation facilities such as cabanas, and camping available bordering the Udawalawe Park as Udawalawe safari accommodation.

These options are very good alternatives for an expensive Udawalawe safari bungalow. If you wish to find good Udawalawe safari accommodation in a nearby place, you can contact Serendipity tours and they can arrange a convenient location at the very best rate. Seerendipity tours organize daily Sri Lanka safari to Udawalawe national park.

Nature of Sri Lanka Safari Udawalawe

Several tracks are been used during the Udawalawe safari tours by the jeep drivers and rangers, usually, it is a choice of the driver, who look for the best route to encounter a maximum number of creatures. Having a well-experienced jeep driver is large helps you to select the best trails, thereby having a better chance of spotting more animals.

The vegetation of the national park is mainly consisting of various types of grass providing ample food for Elephants. You will encounter many numbers of wild elephants even before you enter the national park, due to the large concentration of jumbos in Udawalawe. Udawalawe is considered to be one of the best places to spot elephants in Sri Lanka.

If you go deep into the jungle the vegetation changes dramatically and huge trees with irregular upper canopy are dominating the deeper areas. The number of elephants is also very low in the deep jungle due to the lack of grass and other types of vegetation that elephants love. Here you have the opportunity to spot other animals such as deer, monkeys, sambhur, crocodiles, leopards and bears instead of elephants.

Sri Lanka Safari Udawalawe -resting places

There are two places to stop your jeep during the safari. There you can get off the vehicle and have a walk in the immediate surroundings. The travellers are not allowed to get off the vehicles in any other places, during the safari due to the wild animal attacks. There had been several incidents in the past, in which many travellers were killed by wild animals, as they got off their vehicles during the safari.

Accommodation in Udawalawe

Travellers can find many places for an overnight stay during their trip to Udawalawe national park. A large number of accommodation facilities from dormitories type of accommodation with very low prices to high-end luxury accommodation can be found in Udawalawe. Moreover, the travellers also choose the bungalow located within the national park, which is known as the Gonawiddagala traveller’s bungalow. The bungalow is located about 1 km deep into the jungle from the main entrance and travellers need to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle with a very high ground clearance to drive to the bungalow.

The bungalow is well equipped with all essential equipment for a comfortable stay. The bungalow can provide accommodation for 10 people at a time. The support staff of the bungalow do the cleaning and cooking for the visitors. The travellers need to expect some mosquitoes as the bungalow is located within the jungle, however, the administration provides mosquito nets for visitors. The bungalow is built on a huge rock formation near the Lake, therefore, it commands a very scenic view from the bungalow, especially in the evening.

Udawalawa Elephant Transit Camp

The Udawalawe Elephant orphanage was started in 1995 on a plot of land bordering the Udawalawa national park in Sri Lanka. Udawalawe Elephant orphanage was a project initiated by the Department of Wild Life conservation and it was patronized by the Born Free Federation of the UK, which is also funding the project run by the University of Colombo, in which elephants that are released to the park are being monitors for their behaviour. Orphan elephants are monitored with a special collar, which produces radio signals.

Visitors can closely monitor the elephants from a raised platform built close to the feeding area of the orphanage. Feeding time is the best time to visit the orphanage, during the rest of the day there is no elephant on the premises. During feeding time, the visitors can see a bunch of mischievous baby elephants impatiently waiting for their portion of milk. Some even fight each other to reach the feeding spot.

Even though the Udawalawa elephant orphanage shows some similarities to the elephant orphanage in Pinnawala, the Udawalawa elephant orphanage is considered to be more nature-friendly compared to its counterpart. More and more tourists are refusing to visit pinnawala while they are prioritizing the visit to Udawalawa elephant orphanage over pinnawala.

Udawalawa elephant orphanage was introduced to overcome the major disadvantages of the elephant orphanage in Pinnawala. One of the serious shortcomings of the Pinnawala orphanage is that the animals are not released to the jungle due to their inability to survive, it is mainly due to the living style they practice over many years at pinnawala.

colombo zoo

However, at Udawalawa elephant orphanage, the elephants are allowed to go to the jungle, upon reaching the proper age. It is one of the major setbacks of elephant orphanage Pinnawala, not being able to release the animal to their natural habitat even though they are mature. Different lifestyles and feeding habits in the Pinnawala elephant orphanage make it difficult for them to survive in the jungle. Unlike earlier, now the orphan animals found in the jungle are being brought to the Udawalawa elephant orphanage.

The calves were brought to the Udawalawa elephant orphanage and have very limited contact with humans furthermore, the young animals are given the freedom to roam in the jungle when they are fit to walk. Thereby enabling them to be familiar with the natural habitat in the jungle, where they live once they make social contact with a group.

Elephants of the Elephant transit camp are freed in various places in the national park, in small groups. The members of these small groups get separated after a few months and live with the wild animal once they get acquainted with the wild herds. Some of the animals carrying the radio-collared enable to monitor their integration with wild animals.

What are the Bottle-feeding hours at Udawalawa Elephant transit camp?

Orphan calves of the Elephant transit camp can be seen only during the feeding hours when they are fed with milk bottles; 9 AM, 12 Noon, 3 PM and 6 PM. Orphan babies can be viewed from the viewing gallery which is a specially built platform for visitors. The duration of the feeding is 20 minutes and the animal leaves the Elephant transit camp after the feeding.

History of Udawalawe

The Udawalawe region sits on an ancient seat of a bubbling civilization that was the grandeur that was Ruhunu Rata of over 2000 years of history. Relics of these souvenirs of a forgotten heritage lay in the form of dagobas, tanks, stone sluices, stone pillars, Rock cave hermitages, Brahmi inscriptions, sculptures, Moon Stones, cobra stones, and a host of other priceless archaeological artefacts.

The very earliest remains of this ancient civilization date back to the 3rd century B.C. of king Mahanaga’s epic reign in the ancient kingdom of Magama in Ruhunu rata. Such relics are those of the Uru Sita Weva ancient stone sluice and its Biso Kotuwa. Among the other kings mentioned in the chronicles of Sri Lanka in whose reigns some of these Dagobas and tanks were built are those of King Kavantissa of the 2nd century B.C and Prince Dutugemunu.


In the heart of the Embilipitiya Bazaar, lies the historic site called Kavan Tissa Raja Maha Vihara. The Dagoba is in utter ruins and in the folds of the shrub jungle. Stone and dwarf pillars are scattered here and there. A Nissankamalla’s partly broken inscription slab lies at the site.

The remains of the ancient feature of the Dagoba, “Weva and Keth Yaya” are still retained, though in ruins. The other dagoba that was significant to Kavantissa temple is the Panmure Raja Maha Vihara on the road to Kolonne about ten miles away from Udawalawe. The next significant one is the well-known Sankapala Raja Maha Vihara about 12 km away from Udawalawe by the side of the main road of Pelamadulla- Nonagama near its 24th-milepost.

Sankapala Raja Maha Vihara is reminiscent of the famed giant called Pussadeva of Prince Dutugemunu of the 3rd Century B.C. the rock cave hermitage harbours Buddha statues and its murals are dotted with paintings that have vanished into oblivion over time. There is a shrine room dedicated to the three shrines of Gods, Kataragama, Vishnu, and Goddess Pattini.

One of the greatest assets of the region is the Walawe Ganga (River), which touches this prosperous region, on its way to the Indian Ocean. The Walawe River rising in the Horton Plains, the Haputale and the Kaltota ranges roared down its mighty way through the tortuous jungles infested with wild beasts, cascading down the Haputale slopes and the Kaltota – Balangoda escarpment and finally joining the sea at Ambalantota.

Udawalawe Development Project

The second biggest Multi-Purpose Irrigation-Power-Agriculture Project transgressed into this area was the Udawalawe Project in 1964. It commenced its vast construction works in 1964. The Gal Oya Development board and later the River Valleys Development Board were entrusted with its works.

The Udawalawe project envisioned irrigating about 81,000 acres of dry, uncultivated lands into useful lands by constructing irrigation channels and a reservoir. The resettlement program was launched in the developed lands by the government of Sri Lanka. Today Udawalawe is an important contributor to the agricultural products of the country.

Being an important region with historical background and natural wealth such as Udawalawe national park, it helps the country to earn much-needed hard currencies with tourism. Today it has become a popular tourist place in southern Sri Lanka. There are many tourist hotels in the region and several development projects have been launched targeting more foreigners. A lot of tourists are anchoring for a few days in Udawalawe which provides easy access to many important places in Sri Lanka such as Yala, Kataragama, Embilipititya, Tissamaharama, and Hambantota.

buddha statue

Sankapala Monastery Udawalawe

Sankapala monastery was in high activity till Valagambahu’s reign in the 1st century BC during the Anuradhapura period, when the infamous famine called Baminitiya Saya struck this place. But later in the late 19th century, the Sankapala temple was restored during the incumbency of the famous scholar and erudite Buddhist monk Ven. Karatota Dhammarama Thera around who had woven a tragic story. During the reign of Rajadhi Rajasinghe of Kandy (1782-1798), scandal-mongers had sneaked to the king that this learned Buddhist priest was in secret league with the Dutch.

The king flew into a wild rage and imprisoned the priest in Kandy. While languishing in prison, this learned monk is said to have composed some puzzling Sinhalese verses. The puzzles were written intricately so that the lines could be read from many sides. The king sent this set of puzzling verses to all the learned scholars of the time, but none could interpret them. Only Ven. Karatota Dhammarama (monk) was able to tell the meaning of those puzzles.

The puzzles were comprised of the noble teaching of Buddha. The king was convinced of the innocence of the priest. As a reward, he gifted the Sankapala Temple and its lands to this priest. This square type of verse is termed Barsa poems which are depicted on the door of the shrine room in Sankapala Temple.

A little distance away from the temple, a rock outcrop is said to contain the hallowed tomb of this great warrior conch blower cum archer Phussadeva. Over his tomb, a stupa was said to have been built. Treasure hunters destroyed this historical place as they were looking for hidden treasures. On one occasion some foreigners had destroyed an image of Buddha which had been there pillaged and dragged it to the nearby river.

The other temple of historic importance is the Gothabaya Raja Maha Vihara, Padalangala about eight miles from the Sankapala Temple. This ancient temple perched on a rock outcrop with its restored dagoba is indeed an imposing sight. There are many artefacts were found at the site during the excavation such as moonstones, Asanagaras, an inscription written in Brahmi letters, stone pillars, stone baths etc. On a rock, the slab is the fast-fading Brahmi inscriptions which say that the ancient name of this place was Padangala which corrupted to the present name Padalangala.

Temple houses a valuable Buddhist Ola leaf inscription with great value in its library. An old sun-dial Horawa denoting time is also can be seen in the temple.  This dagoba and its other treasures are dating back to the reign of King Gotabhaya of the Ruhunu kingdom in the 2nd century BC. Hence it is named as Gotabhaya Raja Maha Vihara. The temple has beautiful surroundings with mountains, rice fields, streams and patches of forests.

All visitors to these sacred places are supposed to dress in a particular manner to uphold their religious values. There is a set of rules that every visitor to religious sites observes while visiting sacred places in Sri Lanka. If you are wondering what these rules are, check out this article “13 RULES TO OBSERVE WHILE VISITING SRI LANKA BUDDHIST TEMPLE, SRI LANKA TEMPLE DRESS CODE TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH DRES’ CODE“.