There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala. Among the largest is Lunugamvehera National Park. The park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Yala harbours 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. The area around Yala has hosted several ancient civilisations. Two important pilgrim sites, Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara, are situated within the park.
It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometers (378 sq. mi) and is located about 300 kilometers (190 mi) from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and along with Wilpattu was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan leopards and aquatic birds.