Ratnapura – The City of Gems
Ratnapura is a city in South-western Sri Lanka. Known as the ‘City of Gems’, Ratnapura lies at the foot of Adam’s Peak and close to Sinharaja Rain Forest.
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101 Km Southeast of Colombo, Ratnapura is also the gateway to the hill country from the Southern plains. The scenic route takes you passing paddy fields, rubber plantations and tea estates.
Throughout history, Sri Lanka has been known as a land of gems. King Solomon was said to have procured a great ruby for the queen of Sheba from Serendip (Sri Lanka’s former name). Marco Polo (1293 AD) wrote about the ruby that once graced the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba at Anuradhapura…”a flawless ruby a span-long and quite as thick as a man’s fist”. It is believed that Sinbad’s visit to the mountains of Serendib, refers to Ratnapura in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has produced three of the world’s largest blue sapphires, including the “Blue Belle of Asia”‘ (which adorned the British crown and holds the world record for any Sapphire sold at an auction); as well as the ‘Star of India’, displayed at the New York Museum of Natural History.
A visit to one of the museums or many gem workshops will give you the opportunity to see a variety of precious stone, such as rubies, sapphires, cat’s eyes, alexandrites, aquamarines, tourmalines, spinels, topaz, garnets, amethyst, zircons etc. You could also visit one of the gem mines.
Points of interest in and around Ratnapura
Visit The Gem Museum In Ratnapura
The Ratnapura Gem Museum holds a breathtaking display of samples of precious and semi-precious stones that include Sapphires, Rubies, and Amethysts. In addition there are also exhibited pictures, tools and other items that illustrate the history and methodology of this industry. The Museum is open between 8.30 am – and 5.30 pm daily.
Activities in and around Ratnapura
Climb Adam’s Peak – The Temple in the sky
Ratnapura is situated at the foot of the 2243 metre high Adam’s Peak. All four major religions claim Adam’s Peak as a holy mountain. Buddhists call the mountain Sri Pada (the sacred footprint), or Samanalakande (Butterfly Mountain) and believe the Lord Buddha has visited the mountain and set his sacred footprint. Hindu’s say it’s Lord Shiva’s and Muslims believe that it is the place where Adam first set foot on earth, after being cast out of heaven. Catholics say it is of St. Thomas’ the Christian Apostle who preached in South India.
Ratnapura is also the starting point for the ‘Classic’ Hard route up Adam’s Peak, via Gilimale and Carney estate. The Pilgrimage season starts on Poya (full moon) day in December and runs until the start of the South-West Monsoon in April. It has been a pilgrimage centre for over a 1000 years. King Parakramabahu and King Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa provided ambalamas or ‘resting places’ for weary pilgrims along the mountain route. The other more popular route is through Dalhousie (pronounced ‘Del-house’) close to Dickoya.
Other routes to Adam’s Peak.
Walk through the Sinharaja Rainforest
The Sinharaja Rainforest listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covers an area of approximately 11,000 ha. Located quite close to Ratnapura with approaches from other directions as well, this dense rain forest has an amazing variety of flora and fauna, and this has caught the attention of scientists as well as nature lovers who make excursions into the jungle to explore and appreciate its many natural wonders. Among these are cool waterfalls, rushing streams and crystal clear freshwater streams. A lot of attention and emphasis is now being placed on the conservation of this precious treasure that is Sinharaja.
Visit a Gem Mine
Sri Lanka is a land famed for producing some of the most stunning jewels in the world, the Blue Bell which adorns the British crown and the ‘Star of India’ being examples. Ratnapura is the place for gem mining in the island, and a visit to this city would enable you to see the process of digging the pits and washing the gravel containing the gems. You could easily hop into one of the many three wheelers available and travel the short distance to the mines for a very interesting and memorable experience which should not be missed.