Sri Lanka – A Shopper's Delight
Sri Lanka, also known as “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” is not just a spectacular visual treat with breathtaking natural beauty, but it has also emerged as a shopper’s delight in recent times. You can not only enjoy beautiful beaches, tea plantations, mountains, diverse flora and fauna but also indulge in shopping till you drop! Sri Lanka is one of the main producers of tea, garments, gemstones and spices in the world. So, a visit to Sri Lanka will be incomplete if you don’t bring back the famous “Ceylon Tea” from Sri Lanka along with cinnamon, cardamom and high-quality garments for your entire family and loved ones.
Another very popular shopping option in Sri Lanka is gems and jewellery. Sri Lanka is famous for sapphires, rubies, garnets, tourmalines and many more. Other popular goods to shop in Sri Lanka include batik and lacework, handlooms, sarees and Buddha and elephant figurines. Don’t forget to add Raksha masks, Ayurvedic products and traditional handicrafts to your shopping list as well.
Important Tips for Shopping in Sri Lanka
- Bargain Hard: You should bargain hard wherever you go shopping in Sri Lanka. Prices are normally quoted many times higher for tourists than the actual rates and you are welcome to bargain for the same everywhere from street stalls to high-end malls.
- Avoid Tour Guide Recommendations: Like many other places in the world, local tour guides are prone to taking you to store which give them a commission, with no regard to the quality and genuineness of the goods they sell to the tourists. You can do your research and go to stores which have a credible reputation.
- Exercise Caution When Buying Gems: Sri Lanka is extremely popular for its gems. To take advantage of a tourist’s ignorance, there are conman ready to sell fake gemstones (typically shiny, coloured pieces of glass) to you as genuine ones. If you are planning to buy gems in Sri Lanka it is prudent to buy those from a store which is a member of the Sri Lanka Gem & Jewellery Association or the Sri Lanka Gem Traders Association or the International Coloured Gemstones Association.
- Buying at Laksala: Founded in 1982, Laksala is government-owned gift and boutique store chain with outlets across the country. They offer a wide variety of genuine products from gemstones, jewellery, tea, spices, leather products, art and crafts, souvenirs, etc. You will find a Laksala store wherever you go in Sri Lanka. Prices are reasonable and you are assured of buying genuine products.
Top 3 Shopping Destinations in Sri Lanka
Situated on the west coast of Sri Lanka, Colombo is the largest Sri Lankan city and the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. If you love shopping, then you need to keep a day or two aside only for shopping in Colombo to get the true shopping experience. Colombo has everything to offer to a Shopaholic from high-end malls, large department stores to exclusive tea lounges and bars to quaint street markets with small shops stuffed with goodies. Some of the most noteworthy shopping experiences in Colombo are:
- Malls: Arcade Independence Square, Crescat Boulevard, Liberty Plaza and Majestic City Central.
- Tea: The Teaeli Loose Leaf Tea Bar at Park Street Gourmet, Dilmah T-Lounge on Chatham Street and Mlesna Tea Centre in Crescat Boulevard.
- Gems & Jewellery: Jewel Arena on Flower Road, Vogue Jewellers on Galle Road and Salie’s Fine Jewellery and Gemstones on Galle Road.
- Homeware: Noritake City Store, Paradise Road, Gandhara Arts and Artefacts and Plate.
- Department Stores: Odel, House of Fashions and Arpico.
- Arts and Crafts: Barefoot Garden Café and Shop, Laksala, Lakpahana and Selyn.
- Spa Treatments, Beauty & Ayurvedic Products: Kemara, Vishwa Tharu Spice and Herbal Shop, Iris Garden, Spa Ceylon and Siddhalepa.
- Clothing: No Limit, Beverly Street, Cotton Collection, Fashion Bug, The Design Collective and Indi & Co.
- Unique Shopping Experiences: Pettah Floating Market, Saturday Good Market Event, Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct and Viharamahadevi Park.
This is a major Sri Lankan city at the south-western tip of the country about 116 km and a 1-1½ hour drive away from Colombo. Galle is another shopping hotspot for tourists coming to Sri Lanka. Galle is famous for antiques, art and lacework, fine silks, spices, gems and jewellery and speciality furniture. Shopping attraction in Galle include:
- Gems and Jewellery: Cara Jewellers, Lihiniya Gems, Laksana Jewellers, Forbes Gems and Jewellers and Chrysolite Gem and Jewellery.
- Fine Silks: Natural Silk Factory, Gintota.
- Speciality Furniture: Olanda Furnitures on Leyn Baan Street and Raux Brothers on Pedlar Street.
- Spices: Spice Market, Church Street, Handicrafts, Gifts, Souvenirs, Art, Lacework.
- Homeware Boutique: Orchid House, Barefoot, Exotic Roots, Old Railway, KK the Collection, The Three by TPV, Dutch Gallery, Shobha Display Gallery and Kokorico.
- Fashion Clothing: MiniMango.
- Unique Shopping Experience: Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct Galle.
Situated in central Sri Lanka, Kandy is the country’s 2nd largest city. It is also a very popular shopping destination for tourists, next only to Colombo. Being in the heart of the tea plantation country, Kandy is a great place to buy tea. It is also famous for local handicrafts, batik, handlooms, gifts and souvenirs, arts and crafts, antiques and Buddhist literature. Some of the best places to do shopping in Kandy are:
- Buddhist Literature: Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy
- Batik: Jayamali Batik Studios, Market Street.
- Tea: Ceylon Tea Museum
- Antiques: Waruna Antiques, Peradeniya Road.
- Arts & Crafts: Rangala House Art Gallery, Temple Street. Kandyan Art Association and Cultural Centre.
- Gems and Jewellery: Hemachandra Jewellery, Isini Gems, Premadasa & Co.
- Gifts, Souvenirs, Garments: Odel Luv SL and Selyn.
- Local Handicrafts and Spices: Kandy Municipal Central Market.
- Supermarket: Kandy City Centre.
What to Buy from Sri Lanka
1. Ceylon Tea
Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was known earlier, is known for its numerous tea plantations, particularly in the central highlands region. These tea plantations produce one of the finest teas in the world – Ceylon Tea. You can visit the tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya, experience tea-tasting sessions in tea lounges in Colombo and take the elegantly packed tea for your loved ones back home.
Every region produces tea which has a distinct colour and aroma which is unique to that region only. Several flavours of Ceylon Tea like English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe, Ceylon Black etc. are available along with specialised tea flavours like Chocolate Mint, Cardamom Masala, etc. White tea is the most expensive tea produced in Sri Lanka. Most popular brands include Dilmah, Damro and Teaeli. Ceylon Tea is one of the most-shopped items by tourists in Sri Lanka.
2. Gems and Jewellery
Sri Lanka is also one of the most important gemstone producers in the world. It produces rubies, sapphires, topaz, garnets, amethysts, zircon and many varieties of precious and semi-precious stones. The sapphires and rubies from Sri Lanka are legendary the world over. The blue sapphire used in Princess Diana’s engagement ring and the blockbuster Hollywood movie “Titanic” were also from Sri Lanka.
Ratnapura is gem-mining capital of Sri Lanka where gems have been mined for centuries. Gems and jewellery stores are abundant in Colombo, Kandy and Galle. Although extremely attractive, it is always prudent for tourists to exercise discretion while buying gemstones in Sri Lanka because getting fooled with shiny glass pieces instead of gemstones is a common tourist experience. You should buy gemstones and jewellery from reputed stores only who are members of the Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association.
Spices form an integral part of Sri Lankan life, from teas to meals everything has spices in it. Since Sri Lanka has a somewhat similar climate as south India it has also emerged as a top producer of high-quality spices. Sri Lanka produces cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, vanilla and many other spices and condiments. It is the biggest exporter of cinnamon in the world and Sri Lankan cinnamon is considered to be the world’s best quality. Spices are best purchased in local markets like the Kandy Central Municipal Market and the Spice Market in the Galle Fort area. If you are visiting the latter, you can visit Aflal’s Spice Shop. Travellers from India will love to take large quantities of these fresh and aromatic Sri Lankan spices back home as Indian cuisine is also incomplete without spices.
4. Batik Garments
The art of Batik dyeing was brought to Sri Lanka by the Dutch from Indonesia. Today Batik is an integral part of Sri Lanka’s culture and heritage and is highly valued by its citizens. Batik dyeing involves applying wax to sections of the design which don’t need to be dyed. After one round of dyeing the earlier wax is removed and applied in a different section before dyeing in a different colour. The Batik artisans work from lighter to darker shades and produce stunning designs in vibrant colours over a variety of fabrics. You can get top quality home linen, silk sarees, shirts and much more in breathtaking Batik designs in stores like Odel and Barefoot. Legendary Batik craftsman Dudley Silva has his own Batik Design Studio in Ambalangoda. Jayamali Batik Studio in Kandy is another great place to explore Batik.
5. Raksha Masks
Raksha masks are perhaps the most iconic souvenirs of Sri Lanka which are available in every gift and souvenir shop on the island. You will find them in various sizes and colours – from fridge magnets to keychains to wall hangings. These masks made of wood are extremely colourful with demonic faces of cobras, garudas and even the demon of death. They are believed to ward off evil spirits and protect the home having such a mask. The masks are also used in the traditional Kolam ritual dance. The main centre for producing these masks in Ambalangoda which also has a museum dedicated to these masks. You can buy your mask from the museum or any of the many gift and souvenir stores across the country.
6. Porcelain Tableware
Sri Lanka has abundant quantities of high-quality raw materials like quartz, clay, dolomite, etc. needed for manufacturing world-class porcelain and ceramic tableware. It is no surprise that one of the world’s most renowned Japanese brand – Noritake has been producing exquisite tableware in Sri Lanka since 1972. Noritake has factory outlets and stores in Colombo where you can get beautiful porcelain tableware for your home.
7. Sri Lankan Saris
A Sri Lankan sari (called Osaria in Sinhalese and Kandyan in the Kandy region) is very different from an Indian sari. An Indian Sari is a single length of cloth normally measuring 5.5 m whereas the Sri Lankan sari is made up of 3 components – a blouse piece, a wraparound with frill at the top (called neriya) and an unstitched stole or dupatta for draping. They are crafted in bright colours and you can find fine silk and batik print saris in high fashion stores in Colombo and Kandy. Surely this will make up for a unique gift for your female friend back home.
8. Spa Treatments and Ayurvedic Beauty Products
The Ayurvedic system of treatment is very popular in Sri Lanka. If you need some serious relaxation and rejuvenation of your aching bones or some nourishing scalp treatment, then there is no better place than Sri Lanka for a relaxing spa treatment. If you want to bring back the natural beauty products with you then you will get a wide range of high-quality, completely natural ayurvedic beauty products like massage oils, shampoos, hair oils, face wash and scrubs, etc. in abundance. Iris Garden is a well-known Ayurvedic brand in Sri Lanka and you can visit Vishwa Tharu Spice and Herbal Shop in Colombo for your needs.
9. Buddha and Elephant Figurines
Sri Lanka has a Buddhist majority population and the elephant is a very popular motif across the country. It is no surprise that everywhere you go in Sri Lanka you will find Buddha statues and elephant figurines in various shapes, sizes and colours. These are primarily made of wood, stone and ebony. You will find figurines of other animals like peacock and leopards as well, but elephants are by far the most popular. These figurines are great souvenirs for your loved ones back home.
Ready to Take a Trip to Sri Lanka?
We hope this tailor-made shopping guide in Sri Lanka helped you to get delightful stuffs. Check out our latest Sri Lanka inspiring itineraries, and keep in mind that everything is customized to suit your unique needs. The majority of souvenirs listed in this article can also be purchased in the departure lounge of Colombo Airport. Of course, they are priced a bit higher, and negotiating is a bit difficult here, but that does not rule out.