Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park is situated in the Polonnaruwa District of the North Central Province. The Minneriya Lake and its environs serve as a crucial wetland habitat, contributing to its rich biodiversity. The main entrance to the park is near Ambagaswewa area, located 8.8 km from Habarana along the Colombo to Polonnaruwa road. Visitors must acquire a permit from the “Ambagaswewa Wildlife Conservation Office” prior to entering the park. Minneriya tank is a historic irrigation reservoir with a catchment area of 24,000 hectares, ultimately spanning 22,550 hectares when fully completed. The primary source of the river is the diversion of the “Amban River” towards the “Elahera Canal”. Covering an area of 8,889 hectares, the Minneriya national park boasts a diverse landscape. The climate is characterized as a tropical monsoon, with an expected annual rainfall of about 1,146 mm and an average annual temperature of 27.5 degrees Celsius. Recognized for its abundant biodiversity and natural beauty, Minneriya park was officially designated as a National Park in 1997.

Safari to Minneriya National Park

Experience a private jeep safari in Minneriya National Park during the afternoon, focusing on observing elephants and birds. Minneriya National Park is renowned for its impressive elephant gatherings, particularly in July and August, when 200 to 300 herd of elephants congregate. If you love this amazing creature of nature, Minneriya National Park is a must-visit destination in Sri lanka. This phenomenon, known as “The Gathering,” offers a spectacular wildlife experience. Guides can pick you up either at the Minneriya National Park entrance or from hotels in the Habarana and Sigiriya areas for your personalized safari adventure. Elephants in the region have the freedom to roam within both Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park, thanks to the availability of water sources.

   To book a safari jeep tour at Minneriya National Park, you can typically arrange it through local tour operators and travel agencies from $35 to range of prices for groups. Alternatively, you can contact the park’s visitor center or administration office for booking information and availability. Make sure to inquire about any specific requirements or regulations for safaris in the park. When booking a private safari in either Kaudulla or Minneriya National Park, the safari jeep driver will choose the park based on the current movement patterns of the elephants, ensuring you have the best opportunity to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Elephants Gathering in Minneriya National Park

South Asia’s largest herds of wild elephants can be seen in this area. This park is a paradise for elephant photography. Minneriya National Park and two adjacent national parks (Angamadilla and Kaudulla) are home to over 300 Asian wild elephants. During the dry season, the grasslands that grow on the lake banks of the drying Minneriya lake gather over 100 elephants a day. This large gathering of elephants can be seen with minimal effort. It only requires an evening entry into the national park in a guided safari jeep and a drive to the banks of Lake Minneriya. In the evening, herds of 30-40 elephants can be seen approaching the grasslands of Minneriya National Park. These elephants represent the largest herd of Asian elephants found in South Asia. It is said that this elephant assembly can be seen in the adjacent Angamadilla and Kaudulla National Parks at different intervals during the dry season. More than 180 elephants were seen in this meeting in Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks.

      Minneriya National Park is home to the largest concentration of elephants in one location and serves as a sanctuary for Sri Lanka’s wildlife and contributes significantly to the country’s national park-based tourism industry. Minneriya stands out as the sole wildlife wonder in South Asia to be included among the ‘Ten Greatest Wildlife Wonders of the World’.

Every year, during the dry season, Minneriya National Park hosts ‘one of the 10 greatest wildlife wonders of the world’, as recognized by Lonely Planet, an internationally renowned travel guide. The annual elephant gathering is a spectacle unfolding in Minneriya National Park from May to October. During the peak season of August to September, a significant number of elephants, sometimes as many as 400, gather on the grasslands surrounding the Minneriya Reservoir.

Abundant Wildlife

Minneriya National Park boasts a diverse range of wildlife beyond elephants. Among them, two endemic monkey species, the purple-faced langur and the toque macaque, flourish in the park’s lush forests. Moreover, sightings of large herbivorous mammals like the Sri Lankan Sambar Deer and the Sri Lankan Axis Deer are common. The park also acts as a refuge for rare and endangered species such as the Sri Lankan leopard and the Sri Lankan sloth bear. Notably, Minneriya is known to be one of the few areas in Sri Lanka that harbors the Gray slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus), a fascinating nocturnal primate.

Minneriya National Park is not only a sanctuary for mammals and birds but also hosts a variety of amphibians and reptiles. Notable amphibian species include the endemic and endangered slender tree frog and the common tree frog. The park boasts a total of 25 reptile species, with eight being endemic, among which the iconic, red-lipped lizard stands out. Visitors to the park can also observe water and land monitors, while mugger crocodiles are frequently spotted near the lake. Additionally, the park’s living ecosystems support numerous freshwater fish species, adding to the diversity of wildlife experiences available to visitors.

Bird Watching

Minneriya National Park offers a sanctuary for bird enthusiasts, boasting a diverse birdlife. The Minneriya Reservoir, encompassing a substantial area of the park, draws various large waterfowl such as the lesser tern, painted cranes, and spotted pelicans. The park serves as a temporary home for both resident and migratory bird species, making it an ideal destination for birdwatching. Among the endemic birds found here are the Sri Lanka junglefowl, Sri Lanka hanging parrot, brown cap, Sri Lanka gray hornbill, black-crested bulbul, and crimson-fronted barbet. Moreover, the park has recorded 11 threatened bird species underlining their importance for bird conservation.

Flora & Fauna of Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park’s flora displays the region’s biological richness. It comprises tropical dry mixed evergreen forests, abandoned chaparral patches, grasslands, and wetlands. A variety of small plants dominate the open meadows and old hen pastures, resulting in a distinct landscape within the park. This diverse vegetation provides critical habitat and food for the park’s fauna, as well as contributing to Minneriya National Park’s ecological balance and overall biodiversity. Minneriya National Park has a wide variety of vegetation, including dry evergreen forests, scrublands, grasslands, and wetlands. The park’s vegetation composition is determined by soil type, elevation, and water availability.

Dry evergreen woods of this Minneriya ecosystem dominate certain places, with trees such as “Palu” (Manilkara hexandra) as well as “Weera” (Drypetes sepiaria), and Satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia). Scrublands thrive in arid areas of the Minneriya region with vegetation like Cactus (Opuntia stricta) and thorny kind bushes. Grasslands grow near water bodies, providing enough grazing opportunities for wildlife, whereas wetlands sustain aquatic plants like lotus and water lily. This diverse vegetation contributes to the Minneriya park’s immense biodiversity by providing a haven for a diverse range of plant and animal species in a thriving ecosystem.

Minneriya Lake

Minneriya Lake is a large lake located in Polonnaruwa district. It was built across the Minneriya river by King “Mahasen” in 286 AD. The water that feeds the Minneriya Lake comes from the Mahaweli River via the “Elahera” canal. The lake covers an area of approximately 18.9 square kilometers and spans around 4560 acres, making it a significant water body in the region. This abundant water source supports various ecosystems and contributes to the biodiversity of the surrounding area. Minneriya Lake is really important for farming and nature in the area. It’s eye-catching, so lots of people visit for bird watching, boat rides, and walks.

 The ecosystem of Minneriya Lake and its surrounding park is diverse, consisting of plants, animals, and aquatic life. This includes various trees, grasses, and flowers, as well as animals like elephants, deer, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The lake serves as a central habitat and water source, supporting the park’s rich biodiversity.

Visitor Information

Tours Location and Nearest Town: Minneriya National Park is situated near Habarana, which is the nearest town. It’s around 21 kilometers from Dambulla town to Habarana.


Best Time to Visit: The optimal time to observe the herd of Asian elephants is from August to September.


Park Opening Timings: The park opens at 6:00 AM and closes at 6:30 PM.


The last opportunity to purchase tickets is at 5:00 PM.


Drive Mode: Safari jeeps are the preferred mode of transportation within the park for optimal wildlife viewing.


ATMs and Restaurants: Visitors are advised to bring snacks and water as there are no ATMs or restaurants within the park premises.


Essentials: It is advisable to bring a camera to capture the incredible wildlife encounters, sun protection cream to shield against the sun’s rays, a dust cover to protect belongings from dust during the safari, and sufficient water to stay hydrated throughout the excursion.



By Bus: If you’re traveling from Colombo, Kandy, Trincomalee, or Anuradhapura, you can take a bus heading to Polonnaruwa, Batticaloa, Madirigiri, or Dehiattakandiya. Upon reaching your destination, disembark and arrange for transportation to Minneriya National Park. The journey duration may vary depending on your starting point, typically ranging from 2 to 5 hours.


By Car or Taxi: Opting for a car or taxi offers a convenient and comfortable way to reach Minneriya National Park. The travel time will depend on your starting point and route taken.


By train: you can disembark at either Habarana or Minneriya station. From there, you can hire a taxi to reach Minneriya National Park.

Accommodation Options

Guesthouses: Look for guesthouses or homestays in the nearby towns of Habarana or Sigiriya. These are often family-run and offer basic but comfortable rooms at affordable rates.


Eco-lodges: Consider staying at eco-lodges or nature retreats that offer a rustic experience amidst nature. These accommodations focus on sustainability and often provide cozy rooms or cottages in tranquil surroundings.


Budget Hotels: Explore budget hotels or inns in the vicinity of the national park. These options provide no-frills accommodations with essential amenities such as clean rooms and basic facilities. If you are lucky, you can reveal some hidden gems in this Minneriya region.


Camping: Some tour operators or campsites offer camping experiences near Minneriya National Park. Camping can be a simple yet adventurous way to stay close to nature and wildlife.


Local Guesthouses: Inquire with locals in the area about guesthouses or small-scale accommodations that may not be listed online. 

           They might offer authentic experiences and personalized hospitality. These simpler accommodation options are suitable for travelers looking for affordable and straightforward places to stay near Minneriya National Park.

Photography Tips & Tricks

Research and Plan: Understand the park’s geography, wildlife, and best times for sightings. This will help you anticipate where to be and when.


Gear Preparation: Bring a telephoto lens to capture wildlife from a distance. A wide-angle lens can also be useful for landscapes. Don’t forget spare batteries and memory cards.


Timing: Early mornings and late afternoons often offer the best lighting conditions and wildlife activity. The golden hour around sunrise and sunset can provide beautiful soft light for your photos.


Patience and Observation: Wildlife photography requires patience. Spend time observing animal behavior and anticipate their movements to capture the perfect moment.


Camera Settings: Use a fast shutter speed to freeze motion, especially for moving wildlife. Adjust your ISO and aperture accordingly to maintain the right exposure.


Respect Wildlife: Keep a safe distance from animals and never disturb them for the sake of a photo. Respect their natural habitat and behavior.


Experiment with Angles: Don’t just shoot from eye level. Try different angles and perspectives to add depth and interest to your photos.


Use Natural Light: Whenever possible, rely on natural light rather than using flash. Flash can startle or disturb wildlife and may not produce the desired results.Remember to keep it natural and avoid over-editing.

           By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be well-equipped to capture stunning photographs in Minneriya National Park.


Minneriya National Park is an amazing place with a wide range of biodiversity to visit if you love animals and nature. You can see lots of elephants there, especially during certain times of the year when they gather in huge groups. The park is also full of other cool animals like birds, deer, and maybe even leopards if you’re lucky. The scenery is beautiful too, with forests, grasslands, and a big lake where you can see all kinds of wildlife. Whether you’re going on a jeep safari, exploring ancient ruins nearby, or just enjoying the peaceful surroundings, Minneriya National Park is a fantastic place to experience the beauty of nature in Sri Lanka while getting rid of your hectic schedules in concrete woods.

We will cover this beautiful national park during our Cultural Triangle Tour.  As well we will cover this place in most of our round tours. If not, you can add Minneriya to your bucket list where we can provide you a customized Sri Lanka Tour





(Cover Image Credit: Burrard-Lucas Photography )