Things to do in Tissamaharama: Yala & Attractions

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Tissamaharama, also known as Tissa, is located on Sri Lanka‘s south coast. The village is a popular place among tourists, as it’s the perfect starting point to visit Yala National Park. That’s also the reason we went to Tissa. We stayed here for one night, in Lakeside Cabana Tissamaharama. Highly recommended!

Besides visiting Yala, Tissamaharama has some nice sights to visit as well. Below you can read what you can do and see in this town.

Yala National Park

Yala National Park is the second largest, but most visited national park of Sri Lanka. The park consists of five different blocks, some of which are open to visitors. Yala is so popular because you can encounter a wide variety of animals here. Not just elephants, like in most other parks. You can meet different birds, elephants, crocodiles and, if you’re lucky, leopards and sloth bears.

When walking through Tissa, you will meet countless men who want to sell you a safari to Yala. You can book the safari with them or through the accommodation where you are staying at. Because the competition is so high, the price is usually cheap. Make sure you don’t pay in advance, as there’s always the possibility that they won’t show up. We chose to book the safari through our accommodation for 6,000 rupee per person. This got us early access to the park, a shared jeep with driver and guide, breakfast and lunch. You can choose between a half day or a full day. We opted for half a day. Are you, like us, especially curious about the experience of a safari? Then half a day would do.

Our jeep left at 4:00 in the morning, as one of the first. The drive to Yala takes about an hour. The park didn’t open until 06:00, but we were at the front of the queue! The goal of all drivers is to spot a leopard. As soon as one has been spotted, they share their location with other guides and before you know it, there will be 30 jeeps on that spot. Unfortunately, it was raining in the morning, which meant that the leopards were hiding in the bushes. Our guide spotted one within 15 minutes, but we couldn’t see him properly. Unfortunately, we had no luck after that! We did spot elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, pigs, deer, mongooses and many different birds. I really liked the experience and although the price is relatively high for Sri Lanka, a visit to Yala is definitely worth it.

Tissamaharama Lake and the Fruit bats

Close to Tissamaharama’s center you will find a large lake, Tissamaharama Lake or Tissamaharama Wewa. The lake is a man-made reservoir built in the 3rd century BC to irrigate the rice fields and to provide water to Tissamaharama. There’s a path along (a part of) the lake, allowing you to walk or cycle here. A walk will make you feel as if you are in a painting. The lake is surrounded by trees, all kinds of birds fly around, the water reflects the blue sky and in the distance you can see beautiful mountains. In one word: amazing!

Tip: Follow the “beep” sounds as you walk along the lake. Around the lake you will find a number of large trees that are full of huge fruit bats! Can’t find them? Ask a local or a tuktuk driver to show you the way.

Tissamaharama Raja Maha Vihara and the Tissamaharama Dagoba

The Tissamaharama Raja Maha Vihara is an ancient Buddhist temple in Tissamaharama and was one of the four large Buddhist temple complexes in Sri Lanka. This place was consecrated by Buddha, who meditated there for some time. Until the 11th century, the temple in Tissamaharama was known as the Buddhist educational center of southern Sri Lanka. On the site you will find the Tissamarama Dagoba, one of the largest stupas in the country. The complex is a five-minute walk from the central bus station.

Debarawewa Lake

Another beautiful lake in Tissa is the Debarawewa Lake. The accommodation where we stayed, LakeSide Cabana, is located along this lake. We slept here for $ 10 including breakfast! There’s a track alongside a part of the lake, where you can enjoy walking or cycling. We did this after we returned from our safari. The lake is surrounded by trees, is full of plants and water lilies and you’ll see several animals.

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