We travel to explore, learn and broaden our horizons. But sometimes, we travel purely for some retail therapy! Every place you visit has its own culture, local art and handcrafted goods and items that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Sri Lanka is one such shopper’s paradise, rich and thriving in its own local creations, unique finds and exquisite items for you to take home.

Blessed with a beautiful landscape and its own tiny place in the world, Sri Lanka also offers unique souvenirs that tourists often love to stock up on. From its jewelry to its tea, the country offers a lot for those who’d like to take home a slice of their holiday. Here are some of the best local items to buy from Sri Lanka’s burgeoning markets.

Ithaka Pro-Tip: Bargaining is a given everywhere in Sri Lanka, for almost every item. Prices are usually amplified two or three times, so haggle freely and firmly whenever you go shopping.

1. Gems and Jewelry

A mining heavy country with an impressive portfolio of excavated gems, Sri Lanka is often called Gem Island for precisely this reason. Some of the most popular purchases by visitors, precious gems like rubies, topazes, amethysts and aquamarines are available by the ton at the mining town of Ratnapura. Let’s not forget the country’s signature blue sapphires and moonstones. The gems are either sold individually, or fitted into elegantly designed pieces.

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Where to buy: Many gem sellers dupe tourists with colored glass instead of real gems. Buy only from sellers certified by the Sri Lanka Gem & Jewelry Association. Try the Sri Lanka Gem & Jewelry Exchange or stores in the World Trade Center in Colombo for the best gems. You can also check out some of the larger certified showrooms in Ratnapura, Kandy and Galle.

2. Ceylon Tea

Tea lovers, rejoice! Sri Lanka is a tea haven with its rolling tea plantations and tea factories in the higher altitudes. Mainly known for its signature Black Tea, other varieties like Silver, Earl Grey, White and Green Teas are also widely available. The word Ceylon comes from Sri Lanka’s former name prior to its independence, and has gone on to define its prominent place in the tea world.

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Where to buy: Dilmah is a popular brand, and is available for purchase at the Dilmah Tea Store in Peliyagoda or the Dilmah Tea Lounge in Colombo. Other renowned brands are Mackwoods and Teaeli.

3. Sri Lankan Sarees

If you’ve never worn a saree before, the Sri Lankan saree can be your first try because it’s quite easy to wear. If you’re a saree lover, you’re bound to go home with bundles of these beautiful yards of silk in flattering colors and elegant designs. Unlike the traditional Indian saree, this one comes as a three-piece set – the blouse, wraparound and dupatta – that you purchase together. You also have the option of buying single blouse pieces, to match your own saree collection.

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Where to buy: Sarees are available in almost every part of Sri Lanka, but the quality, price point and detailing on the saree may vary. You can try Selyn and Odel in Colombo or walk around the Kandy City Center for the best options.

4. Sarongs

Following close, on the heels of the saree is the sarong. A unisex garment that you may spot local men sporting; sarongs are comfortable clothing pieces that are wrapped around the waist, almost like a skirt. Ideally meant for Sri Lanka’s beaches, the sarong can also be worn in inland areas, where you’ll find many localites donning them as they go about their business.

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Where to buy: You can purchase colorful sarongs in different prints and patterns from Barefoot, Selyn and Odel in Colombo

5. Elephant and Buddha Figurines

Crafting beautiful figurines out of wood, stone and ebony is a popular art form among Sri Lankans. Buddha and elephant sculptures are the ones that you’ll see more often, in intricate designs across materials and souvenir stores. Buddhism has a lot of followers across the country and elephants are synonymous with the country’s natural landscape. Fill your shelves at home with these small and large figures for a touch of Sri Lankan ethnicity.

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Where to buy: You’ll find the best figurines in Laksala and Paradise Store in Colombo.

6. Ayurvedic Beauty Products

The practice of Ayurveda, or using nature’s bounty to cure and improve body conditions, has been deep rooted in Sri Lanka for centuries now. A branch of this ancient medicine has advanced into a huge line of beauty products like creams, hair oils, shampoos, face and body masks and packs that are known to add radiance, glow and healthiness to body, skin and hair.

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Where to buy: You can try the spas at your resort where they use these local concoctions to see if you’re comfortable with the products. To buy them, try brands like Spa Ceylon, Kemara or Iris Garden all of which you can find in Colombo.

7. Spices

Everything you eat and drink in Sri Lanka will have a smattering of locally grown spices that have been the country’s crowning glory since British rule. The citizens love the heady mix of a few spices in their meals, and same goes for visitors. Cinnamon sticks are the most bought among outsiders, followed by a few others like turmeric, pepper and cardamom. Food lovers with an affinity for Indian and Sri Lankan curries, and those who love cooking traditional dishes should definitely pick these up.

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Where to buy: Pettah Market and Kandy Municipal Market are hubs for these potent spices.

Ithaka Pro-Tip: Once the outer bark of the cinnamon tree is removed and utilized to make the spice, the inner bark is used to make cinnamon tree bowls that are then polished and used as containers. You can find them in souvenir shops and markets as well.

8. Raksha Masks

Embedded deep in Sri Lankan culture, the Raksha Masks are hand painted and hand carved grisly masks made out of wood. Traditionally used to ward off the evil, and now primarily used to grace cultural ceremonies and dances, the masks are a standard feature in every souvenir shop in the country. Available in red, blue and yellow for protection, wealth and career prosperity respectively, the wooden masks come in different shapes and sizes, as wall props, key chains, and even as magnets.

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Where to buy: Laksala in Colombo is the best place to find a wide variety of these masks. Even smaller souvenir shops in Kandy and Galle Fort will sell them.

9. Batik Print Fabrics

Garments are extremely popular among tourists in Sri Lanka, and that’s probably because of the native fabrics and prints. Of these, Batik prints are very popular and the most commonly available. The tedious process of creating these with alternating steps of waxing and dyeing is undertaken by rural women who have been in the occupation for years now. You’ll find tourists vying for the resultant, vibrant prints that you can buy in not only clothing but also in home decor items.

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Where to buy: Try Selyn, Kandygs and Laksala in Colombo and Jayamali Batiks Studio in Kandy for garments. If you don’t have the time to hunt, Fashion Market is an online website where you can get sarees and sarongs in batik prints.

10. Handlooms

Soft and comfortable silk and cotton fabrics form a dominant part of Sri Lanka’s garment industry, and this goes back centuries aided by old handloom workshops in the more rural parts of the country. Using a traditional handloom machine, weavers thread together sarees, sarongs, wall hangings, napkins, tablecloths and bedding items that are popular among shoppers.

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Where to buy: Head to Barefoot, Kandygs and Laksala for the best handloom items in the country.

11. Antiques

Vintage heads are spoiled for choice in Sri Lanka’s large antique market, almost as large as the ones selling gems. Transport yourself back in time on a visit to Sri Lanka’s many antique shops filled to the brim with large and small items for your home. Old trinkets, dainty jewelry, candle stands, metal wall art and pots and pans are aplenty, and you can easily take a few back home with you.

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Where to buy: Olanda Antiques and Small Antique Shop in Galle are popular haunts for antique lovers.

12. Moonstone Carvings

Large semi-circular pieces of moonstone are sourced and then intricately carved to be placed at the entrance of temples, spiritual places and even some heritage structures. Commonly seen in religious ceremonies, the large carvings have detailed designs featuring signature Sri Lankan symbols. When you do go and buy them, get the ones that are smaller in size, and even try other materials like wood or limestone depending on where and how you plan to use them.

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Where to buy: Laksala and Paradise Store in Colombo

13. Dumbara Products

Dumbara is a coarse fabric usually sourced from the smaller areas around Kandy, and then woven together to create durable products like bags, mats, wallets, baskets and lamps. Since it’s quite a tough material, you’ll find most products made out of this cane-like fabric in straightforward geometric patterns. There are small workshops around Kandy that produce these items.

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Where to buy: Laksala and Barefoot in Colombo will have a number of Dumbara products for you to choose from. You can also check the small local markets in Kandy for baskets and boxes.

Ithaka Pro-Tip: A similar material used to create home décor items is coir, derived from coconut husk. You can purchase rugs and bags in this material.

14. Sri Lankan Lace

The Portuguese brought the art of lacemaking to Sri Lanka, and the locals embraced it well enough to make it a popular trade today. The art has steadily evolved over the years and has gone on to adorn home decor items and clothing. The areas of Galle and Weligama are known for their lace items, handmade by local women.

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Where to buy: Shoba Display Gallery in Galle and Sujatha Lace Center or any of the lace weaving shops along the beach road in Weligama.

15. Sri Lankan Paintings

Liven up your walls with the mythological touch of Sri Lankan paintings. Depicting cultural symbols, festivals, processions and other impressions of local appeal, the paintings are created by the country’s many talented artists. The artworks are richly pigmented and display a host of colors.

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Where to buy: The Rangala House Gallery in Kandy has a good collection of paintings.

16. Porcelain Tableware

Sri Lanka has a wealth of minerals and clay and creates exquisite porcelain and ceramic ware. Tea cups, plates and even cutlery in minimal and classy designs are available extensively in certain areas of the country. You can also find brighter and more heavily designed ones, so there’s something for everyone’s taste.

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Where to buy: Japanese brand Noritake has established a strong manufacturing and retail base in Sri Lanka, and is considered the best in the business. Other options are Odel and Paradise Road Shop in Colombo.

17. Lacquerware

The ancient Sri Lankan art has transcended into numerous items of use in today’s time, bringing with it a piece of the island country’s history. Lacquer originates from the Matale area near Kandy, and is primarily a wax-like substance derived from insects. It is used to make bowls, containers and decorative home items in multiple colors.

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Where to buy: Lakpahana in Colombo and the Kandyan Art Association & Cultural Center both have a lot of interesting lacquer items.

18. Jams and Chutneys

A delectable preparation of a mix of locally grown fruits, Sri Lanka’s jams and chutneys are equal parts sweet, sour and tangy. A great accompaniment to the local fare, the condiments come in regular flavors like strawberry and mango as well as in unique combinations like mango & ginger, papaya, passion fruit &vanilla, and strawberry flavored melon etc.

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Where to buy: Local supermarkets and the Good Market Shop in Colombo will have a large selection of flavors to pick from

Ithaka Pro-Tip: Those looking to cook larger meals with a Sri Lankan touch can buy the ready made curry mixes available in supermarkets and the Good Market Shop in Colombo.

A large portion of Sri Lanka’s local finds include arts and crafts that have been passed on from older generations. Large communities of craftsmen and artisans derive their income from their skill, and tourists are encouraged to contribute in some way to their livelihood. When shopping, keep an eye out for certified products, and you can also ask the locals for suggestions on where to buy the best items from. This will authenticate your own shopping experience as well.

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