Ratnapura, which means ‘’City of Gems’’ in the Sinhalese language, is located 103km away from Colombo in the Sabaragamuwa District. Although not exactly a tourist destination, this city is the country’s primary source of both precious and semi-precious stones such as sapphires, rubies and cat’s eye, which are mined from the Kalu Ganga. Located in the Sabaragamuwa district which is considered a wet zone, you can expect regular downpours in the area, which are unpredictable and end up leaving behind constant humidity in the area.
The higher than normal amounts of rainfall annually mean that Ratnapura is rich in its vegetation and lush greenery. The higher levels of humidity contribute to the more vibrant blossoms that you find in this region. The lush vegetation here is intermingled with flowing streams and rambling waterfalls such as the Bopath Ella Falls which is the most popular amongst tourists and is situated in the small village of Kuruvita as well as the Katugas Ella Falls and the Kirindi Ella Falls.
Ratnapura also has some interesting historical value. According to the Mahawamsa the Divaguha cave gave shelter to Lord Buddha and 500 monks following his visit to Adam’s peak because Ratnapura is the access point of one of the older routes up to Adam’s Peak. And Ratnapura is also said to be the place from where the biblical King Solomon Unearthed the greatest ruby to woo Queen Sheba.
With its fame coming mainly from its gem mining, cutting, processing and trading, Ratnapura is thought to be legendary because it is thought to have the highest concentration of gemstones anywhere in the world. And it is because of this town that Sri Lanka holds its place as one of the top five gem bearing nations in the world. Although gem mining in Sri Lanka dates back more than 2000 years, even till date the methods of mining remain traditional and small scale because mechanized mining of gems is banned in the country. So if you do visit Ratnapura and Saviya Mawatha you might encounter an earnest salesperson trying to get you to buy a gemstone.