Habarana is large village strategically placed at the centre of cross roads on the primary route to the North and East of Sri Lanka.
Being almost of equal distance between Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Dambulla (and close to Sigiriya and Ritigala too) it is the ideal base to explore the major sites in the Cultural Triangle – or as a stopover on the journey to Jaffna or Trincomalee. It is also the easiest starting point for excursions to elephant watching at Minneriya and Kaudulla national parks. The main attractions of the village itself are the elephant rides offered by many operators, and village tours which give an insight into rural life; the tranquil Habarana Lake also offers a pleasant scenic walk around its perimeter.
Habarana is a central location within the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka and it is the perfect destination for visitors to the area to engage in one of the most popular tourist activities – an elephant ride. It is here that the most popular elephant rides can be experienced. An elephant ride is the best way to get a good view of the wildlife and also become familiar with nature and the behaviour of animals. Elephant rides in Habarana take you through swamps, pathways, rivers, jungles, and the main road. The many tanks and reservoirs in the area may also provide visitors with the opportunity to experience riding an elephant in while it wades or swims across a tank. The best time to go is between March and June as the water level of the waterways are high enough to ride the elephant in such conditions. Occasionally elephants may also bathe its passengers with its trunk. There are mahouts which each elephant to guarantee the safety of the passengers and there is a saddle on top of the elephants to provide a comfortable experience.
This tour of a typical Sri Lankan village allows people to experience rural life for a day and includes activities such as visiting a mud hut, eating milk rice, grinding paddy, going on a catamaran safari, bush walks, looking at chena cultivations and much much more. Some activities also enable people to participate in it adding a unique feel to the whole experience. It is the ideal activity if you want to experience how people are able to live in true peace and harmony without any of the trappings of modern day city living. Life is not a rat race in these rural villages, but people have time to meet and spend time with their families and extended relatives who often reside in close proximity to each other. A tour of a rural Sri Lankan village is the perfect way to witness firsthand the various domestic and cultural activities which remain largely unchanged and uninfluenced by modern city life and western society.
Bullock Cart Ride
Bullock cart rides are an ancient method of transport and are rarely seen on the road today. However, once upon a time this was the accepted means of transportation on the island with only the privileged having access on most occasions. Of course times have changed but this ride allows one to get a glimpse of the rural lifestyle in Sri Lanka and passengers are taken through paddy fields and forests where they get to lay back and enjoy nature at its best. They are also able to have a traditional Sri Lankan lunch in a banana leaf and also a cup of tea along with some jiggery which is traditionally made from kitul sap. This amazing ride ends with a canoe ride where one can get a glimpse at the beautiful birds and other creatures inhabiting the river area. The quite atmosphere which is only disturbed by animal sounds is the perfect end to this ride.
Elephant Safari (Minneriya National Park)
This national park is situated between Polonnaruwa and Habarana and spreads across 8890 hectares. The elephants that travel from Kaudulla to Wasgamuwa can be seen here making it one of the most ideal parks to see wild elephants in Sri Lanka. There are over 200-300 Asian elephants here. The best time to see them is during the dry season which stretches from June to September.
There is an event known as ‘the gathering’ which refers to the annual meeting of a large number of elephants and this is the largest grouping of Asian elephants at any given time. They gather at the Minneriya tank which was built by King Mahasen to drink water, bathe and even find mates. It is an amazing spectacle if one is lucky enough to see it. There are safari’s available throughout the year which take you around the park to see these magnificent creatures. There are other creatures that can be seen such as the sloth bear, red lipped lizard, macaque monkeys and leopards to name but a few.