Minneriya National Park | Cultural Triangle | Red Dot Tours

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Minneriya National Park

Situated at the centre of the Cultural Triangle, Minneriya is a good alternative to the busier parks in the south and it is easy to weave in jeep drive here between visiting the ancient sites in this area. The dry season, from June to September, is the best time to visit the 8,890 hectare park, when the ancient tank that dominates the area dries out and the grasses and shoots push through – during this time it is possible to see herds of up to 150 elephants feeding and washing, as well as toque macaques, sambar deer and leopards, as well as many different species of bird including flocks of cormorants and painted storks. When the large numbers of elephants come together it is an astonishing sight and is a recognised wildlife event known as ‘The Elephant Gathering’, the largest assemblage of Asian elephants in the world.

Minneriya mainly consists of tropical dryzone evergreen forest, abandoned chena lands, grasslands and wetlands which are home to a variety of shrubs. 24 species of mammals have been recorded here, including leopards, sloth bear, spotted and sambar deer, wild buffalo, wild boar, three species of mongoose, porcupine, Indian pangolin, grey langers and purple-faced leaf monkey. There is also a large population of elephants in the park, which sometimes converge in great numbers (up to 300) around Minneriya Tank. Nine species of amphibians have been seen in the park, among them the native red-lipped lizard, water and land monitor lizards and mugger crocodiles.

Due to its many different types of vegetation and habitat, the park is also home to over 170 species of birds, including: migrant waders such as wood and common sandpiper and Kentish plover; forest birds like the Malabar-pied hornbill, Rufus woodpecker and the globally-endangered lesser adjutant, and endemic species including Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka green pigeon, brown-capped babbler and Sri Lanka jungle fowl. The orange-breasted green pigeon, emerald dove and green imperial pigeon can also be seen, as well as a host of other migrating forest birds.

Stats in Brief

Stratification: Dry monsoon forest, tanks & grass lands

Size: 2,550ha

National Park

Altitude: 100m

Temperature: Average 27.5 (Degree C)

Annual Rainfall: Average 1,150mm

Best time of year to visit: May to October for the 'Gathering' of Elephants

Optimum duration of stay: Minimum of 1 night

Accommodation Options: Deer Park, Chaaya Village, Cinnamon Lodge, Heritance Kandalama, Luxury camping

Highlands: The largest known 'Gathering' of Asian Elephants in the world occurs from May to October each year in Minneriya National Park


The core of this National park is in an uninhabited area of the country’s most diverse natural systems, with intermediate forests, Bamboo stands, patanas and platoes. The tank within the park supports a variety of waterfowl while being of immense socio-economic value.

Flora & Fauna of Minneriya

The vegetation of the park consists of tropical dry mixed evergreen forests, abandoned chena lands, grasslands and wetlands. Large trees seen are Palu, Satin, Milla, Halmilla, Weera and Kalumediriya. The open grasslands and old chena lands are dominated by the many species of small shrub.


24 species of Mammals have been recorded from the park. In addition to having a very large population of Elephants in the park, Minneriya also has all other big game like Leopards, Sloth Bear, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, Wild Buffalo, Wild Pig, Grey Langers, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, three species of Mongoose, Porcupine & Indian Pangolin.

In August and September each year during the dry season, wild elephants from the surrounding wilderness in search of food and water, makes their way to the shores of the Minneriya Lake inside the Minneriya National Park. Huge heard of elephants, sometimes numbering up to 300, converge together within a few square kilometers of the lake. This Elephant Gathering is a thrilling sight not to be missed.


Due to its different types of vegetation and habitats, both Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks have recorded over 170 species of birds. From Migrating waders like Woodsand Piper, Common Sandpiper & Kentish Plovers to forest birds like the Malabar-pied Hornbills, Rufus Woodpecker the globally endangered Lesser Adjutant and the endemics Sri Lanka Grey Horn-bill, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Brown-capped Babbler and Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl are some of the highlights. The Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon and migrating forest birds can be seen.

Amphibians & Reptiles

Nine species of Amphibians have been recorded in the park among them are the endemic and endangered Slender Wood Frog and the Common Tree Frog. Of the 25 species of reptiles recorded in the park 8 are endemic including the Red-lipped Lizard. Water and Land Monitors are also seen here. The Mugger Crocodile can be seen near the tank. Many species of fresh water fish are found in the Minneriya and Kaudulla tanks.

Accommodation Options

Deer Park Hotel, Giritale:  The Deer Park Hotel stands in the heart of the cultural triangle overlooking an ancient reservoir at Giritale. This appealing hillside property, set within the jungle of ancient royal hunting grounds, is an ideal gateway for those wishing to visit Polonnaruwa or Minneriya National Park. The Deer Park is a true luxury eco resort, subtly enhancing the beauty of its surroundings. It has a tranquil, natural feel, with the sound of birdsong and rushing waterfalls. (More)

Chaaya Village, Habarana:
Located in Habarana in close proximity to the famous UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Cultural Triangle and Minneriya National Park, Chaaya Village is a 4-star hotel set on an acre of garden, and blends seamlessly into its natural surroundings amidst tall trees and tropical foliage and a vast serene lake that brings nature right to the doorstep. (More)

Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana:
  Cinnamon Lodge is blessed with a tranquil and picturesque 27-acre woodland location next to a beautiful lake. The large gardens are filled with gigantic tropical trees and tranquil waterways all providing home to a variety of birds, grey monkeys and rock squirrels.  The layout of the hotel is similar to the ancient cities of the Cultural Triangle where individual abodes and central public areas, connected by meandering pathways, are set amidst tranquil surroundings with the greatest respect to nature. (More)

Heritance Kandalama:
Heritance Kandalama snakes along a rocky outcrop on the bund of the ancient 3rd century Kandalama reservoir. The hotel is an ideal base from which to explore Sri Lanka's ancient heritage and rich bio diversity.  Hidden within the edge of the jungle, which is home to numerous species of birds, butterflies, monkeys, spotted deer and wild boar, the hotel has won numerous prestigious environmental awards for its role in nurturing Sri Lanka's cultural heritage and natural beauty.  (More)


The National Park entrance is near the 35 kilometer post on A11 running between Habarana and Polonnaruwa.

Useful Links

Nature Footage: Click Here

Video clips on the Asian Elephant in Minneriya and other sanctuaries in Sri Lanka.

Media Reviews

'The elephant gathering'
by Sarasi Wijeratne, Travel Sri Lanka, Vol 4 No 2

'A Dry Zone Jumbo heaven'
By Florence Wickramage, Ceylon Daily News, Click Here


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