Ratnapura is best known as Sri Lanka’s gem capital – in fact the name, Ratnapura translates to “City of Gems”. The busy town is home to numerous gem museums, where visitors can see local precious stones as well as numerous exhibits related to gem mining. At the heart of the town lies clock tower, the area around which is the best place to watch locals buying and selling gems. The huge variety of gemstones found here include sapphires, zircons, garnets, rubies and cat’s eyes.
Ratnapura receives abundant rainfall and as a result the surrounding is very green. Large tea and rubber plantation as well as paddy fields are common sight in this area. The paddy fields are dotted with gem mines, which can be organized by their wooden shacks. Mining here is still carried out in the traditional manner using hand stools such as chisels, shoves and hammers. The process begins with digging a pit in the ground, after which earth is removed, washed, sieved and gemstones are separated. Visitors cannot descent into the mine itself and can only see the working from the top. Visits to an operational mine can be arranged by local travel agents as well as by guest-houses and hotels. more