Whenever I visit a new country on holiday, my first priority is to take in as much of the culture, attractions, and adventure in that country apart from taking photographs. I always carry back home a few souvenirs with me.
No doubt, Sri Lanka is a shopper’s paradise. The little island is a treasure trove of many wonderful items. You will have to bargain a bit hard as the prices are a little steep. While SriLanka has a lot of fancy malls and stores, you can indulge in street shopping if you wish to save some money. Malls and shops sell at fixed prices whereas street stores might give you a discount. Sri Lanka is rich in artistic traditions.
Make sure you don’t buy anything from Colombo International Airport unless you want to as the prices are almost doubled compared to other city stores. Also, be aware, that you’ll need a license to export any genuine antiques (more than 50 years old).
Here are some cute souvenirs you can consider buying for yourself or your friends, loved ones from Sri Lanka.
o Gems & Jewelry:
Sri Lanka is known for its sapphires and moonstones. Sri Lanka was once known as Ratna-Dweepa. One can buy the best gems in the world like aquamarines, rubies, zircon, tourmaline, quartz, topazes, amethysts etc. during their visit to Ceylon. These gems are rare and colorful. You will come across a lot of gem stores in Colombo.
o Ceylon Tea:
Green and black teas are grown in Sri Lanka. The flavors of the teas produced there like mango, passion fruit etc. serve as a great base for iced teas. What makes Ceylon tea different is that they have a thin long wire like look. Ceylon tea is orthodox tea which means they are hand processed. As per their government regulation, they use only firewood heat to produce the tea. Firewood adds a nice natural aroma to the tea. Green Tea and Black Tea consumed without sugar and milk turn out very healthy for our body. Ceylon tea offers numerous health benefits, making it a very popular choice among tourists. The high-quality variant is called Golden and Silver Needle Tea which is green tea. Their BOPF and BOP is the strong variant black tea suitable for consuming with milk. Dust Tea is their low-quality variant. The best is a tea plantation in Nuwara Eliya and Alas.
Your travel guide might take you to a nearby tea factory and tea plantation from where you can buy tea and get to know more about how tea is produced.
Dilmah is the most popular premium tea brand in SriLanka. You can also check Mlesna. You can buy them in gift packs. They even come packed in decorative ornaments like small elephants, teapots etc. where you can sip the tea and still store the ornament as a memento.
Shop Recommendations – Dilmah
o Wooden Masks & Sculptures:
SriLankan masks depict characters in popular folk tales and devil dancing. The timber used to make these decorative and colorful masterpieces is light and durable. There are many types of masks – Raksha Mask, Kolam Mask and Sanni Mask. The Raksha masks include the cobra mask (Naga Raksha), the mask of a bird (Gurulu Raksha) and the mask of the demon of death (Maru Raksha). My favorites are Mayura Raksha (Peacock) and Gini Raksha masks.
There are statues of Buddha and Lord Ganesh Indian deities and figures like elephants, fishermen, tuktuk made of wood of different species (Ebony, Sandalwood, and Teak).
o Dumbara Mats & Cane Baskets:
Dumbara is a unique Sri Lankan handicraft in the form of a wall hanging mainly produced in villages. These have a woven style and can be found near Kandy. Cane/Rattan Baskets and furniture can be found near places like Kotte and Rathgama. I found a lot of shops on the Kandy road.
o SriLankan Sarees & Batik Fabrics:
You can find a large selection of clothes with interesting hand painted ethnic prints: sundresses, shirts, skirts, shawls, sarongs and Aladdin pants. You can also buy beautiful silk scarves and stoles. Lacemaking is also popular in SriLanka.
Checkout stores in Hikkaduwa, Manjari Market, Kollupitia, and Market in Petah.
SriLankan sarees are 3 pieces, similar to Kerala Saris but in bold colors.
Shop Recommendations – Barefoot
o Maps, Posters & Paper Products:
You will find recycled paper baskets, collectible posters, Ceylon maps, stationery and notebooks made out of elephant dung.
Stone Art: You will love the rough surfaces of stones painted with elephants and dancers. Also, you will find small carvings made out of stone, marble or granite-like, tortoise. You can also buy stone pestle and mortar.
o Cinnamon Tree & Coconut Shell Bowls:
Lacquer bowls, coconut shell, and cinnamon tree containers are found everywhere. Many of these are painted and coated with varnish. You can spot work finished with lac, a soft resin secreted by insects when it punctures the bark of trees.
Most of the shops in SriLanka sell bright ethnic paintings for interior decoration and paintings on canvas. The most common depiction is the Kandy festival, mythological scenes including royal processions and epic characters.
o Spices & Herbal Beauty Products:
Sri Lanka is famous for its variety of spices. Spice section carries a wide array of spices you can choose from (e.g. Turmeric, Pepper, Chili, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Cloves etc.) You can find it in the spice garden and supermarkets. They come packaged in souvenir gift boxes as well. Visitors can also shop for Ayurveda beauty products like massage oils, body washes, shampoos, and hair scalp treatments. My favorites include Spa Ceylon and Kemara. We visited Oak-Ray Isiwara Ayurvedic Village.
o Porcelain & Ceramics:
I personally love the classy ceramic tableware that is made in Sri Lanka. The designs are interesting and incorporate their local culture. Checkout Noritake store, Dankotuwa, and the Paradise Road shop. You can buy a couple of plates, cups and tea sets.
Shop Recommendations – Paradise Road
o Fruits, Sweets and Food Essence:
Small bottles of vanilla essence can be purchased to add aroma while baking. Do try some local sweets and fruits.
o Small Gifts:
Don’t forget stuff like mugs, key chains, fridge magnets, and T-shirts. Soft toys in cotton are great for kids. I also pack a few postcards, stamps and local currency/coins for my sweet memories.
Shop Recommendations: Luv SL by Odel
o Historical Books:
You can visit any library or bookshop for buying ancient/historical books. You will come across travel guides, Ramayana related books. Do read some SriLankan books to get a special insight into the place. Though their literature is not well-known they do have a great collection of writers.
I picked up most of the souvenirs from Roshan’s Gamage Store at Kandy. The shop owner is very kind. He has a huge godown near Jayasuriya Opticals. I came to know about his shop from TripAdvisor. He was not forcing any sales and let me freely check all the items at his Godown. His godown is a wholesale hub and there is a lot of clutter and dust around. The products are nice though. The owner also gave me a free gift along with my purchase. There was no need to bargain as the prices were reasonable. I liked all the items I bought from Roshan. The Raksha mask was of second quality with Matt finish. I find that the original ones with a glossy finish that you see in Laksala are very costly. You can do a treasure hunt to pick up your favorite tiny trinkets from his store. I also picked up a few items from Go Flemingo Duty-Free Store at the Airport.
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