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 offers unique souvenirs that tourists love to stock up on. From its jewelry to its tea, the country has plenty 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’s Pro Tip: Bargaining is a given everywhere in Sri Lanka Prices are usually amplified two or three times, so haggle freely and firmly whenever you go shopping.

 

1. Gems and Jewelry

 

A miner’s country with an impressive portfolio of excavated gems, Sri Lanka is often called the 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 in the mining town of Ratnapura. Let’s not forget the country’s signature blue sapphires and moonstones. 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, so make sure to purchase gems 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 nestled in the higher altitudes of the country. Mainly known for its signature Black Tea, Sri Lanka also offers a variety of others like Silver, Earl Grey, White, and Green Teas. The word Ceylon comes from Sri Lanka’s former name prior to its independence and the name today is a prominent and well-renowned one 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, primarily  because it’s quite easy to wear. If you’re already 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, a wrap-around, and a dupatta. 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 almost everywhere throughout Sri Lanka, but the quality, price point, and detailing on the saree may vary. 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 even 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, a sarong can also be worn in inland areas. Don’t be surprised when you spot locals 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. Among these, the most commonly seen are the intricately carved Buddha and elephant sculptures.  This, as the two are highly significant for the locals. Sri Lanka has a huge number of Buddhism followers across the country and elephants are synonymous with the country’s natural landscape and hence revered hugely. Fill your shelves at home with these figures of varying sizes 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 Lankan culture 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 first try these products at a local spa.  If you do like them and wish to buy some, try brands like Spa Ceylon, Kemara, or Iris Garden.All of these can be found 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 the British era. The locals love the heady mix of spices in their meals. Cinnamon sticks is the most popular spice that’s picked up by tourists here, followed by a few others like turmeric, pepper, and cardamom. Food lovers with an affinity for Indian and Sri Lankan curries as well as 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’s 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 the Sri Lankan culture, the Raksha Masks are hand painted and hand carved masks made out of wood. Traditionally used to ward off  evil, and now primarily used to grace cultural ceremonies and dances, the masks are a standard item for sale in every souvenir shop across the country. Available in red, blue, and yellow for protection, wealth, and career prosperity respectively, these 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 sell these.

 

9. Batik Print Fabrics

 

Garments are another popular item picked up by tourists in Sri Lanka, and that’s probably because of the inviting 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) 

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 have formed a dominant part of Sri Lanka’s garment industry for centuries now Using a traditional handloom machine, weavers from rural areas 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

 

Collectors of vintage items are spoilt for choice by Sri Lanka’s large antique offering, which is almost as large as the ones selling gems. Old trinkets, dainty jewelry, candle stands, metal wall art, and pots and pans are aplenty here. A trip here is sure to tempt you to 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 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. Today, these are available in other materials like wood and limestone too.

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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 a tough material, you’ll find most products made out of this cane-like fabric in straightforward geometric patterns. 

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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. Teacups, plates, and even cutlery in minimal and classy designs are available extensively in certain areas of the country. You can also find bright and heavily designed ones. There’s something to suit 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

Ancient Sri Lankan art has transcended into numerous items of use in today’s time, embedding into  them a piece of the island country’s rich 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’s Pro Tip: Those looking to cook larger meals with a Sri Lankan touch can buy 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 for generations. Large communities of craftsmen and artisans derive their income from their skill, and tourists are encouraged to contribute to their livelihood. When shopping, do keep an eye out for certified products. Alternatively, 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.