It will be obvious from the signboards you will notice on some places along the road that Ambalangoda has a deep connection with mask making.
Ambalangoda is well known for its devil masks and also for puppet making. This coastal town is situated in the district of Galle in the Southern Province. In the event you are traveling between Colombo and Galle and seeing fearsome masks on display at shops on both sides along the Galle Road, you can easily identify this town as being Ambalangoda.
The main road lies somewhat inland and runs through the town center with the bus stand, the railway station and shops, so what you can’t see from the roadside are the beautiful pristine beaches this town has. Ambalangoda doesn’t enjoy the popularity of beach resorts like Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Mirissa; but it is an oasis for tourists looking for a peaceful, relaxed beach holiday with limited entertainment noise.
From Ambalangoda many attractive and fascinating excursions can be made within the surrounding area, historically, as well as natural beauty.
The modern city of Ambalangoda is approximately 107km from Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. It is a large, bustling market town with stalls selling everything, especially fresh fish and wooden masks. Ambalangoda is a famous fish trading center, as the livelihood of most of the people in and around the town is fishing. Ambalangoda is also famous for handicrafts, hand woven cotton, finely carved wooden doors, screens, lintels etc. The city is equipped with all amenities of a modern town such as shopping complexes and (local) hotels to obtain refreshments and snacks.
Ambalangoda Sea Beach
Ambalangoda is blessed with a beautiful, golden sea beach. Although not as many as in Hikkaduwa, you can still see many tourists in this beach resort bathing in the sea or enjoying a sun bath. There are several tourist- and resort hotels located along the beach. You can see lots of colourful catamarans and fishing boats along the sea belt. In the event you want to have a sea bath, find a place where lots of people are bathing, as other places may not be safe because the sea is rough or may be shallow. Life guards are working in most of the hotels and if you are a guest of a particular hotel, they will look after your safety. This beach is calm and quiet and fine for relaxing, meditation, yogic exercises or reading. Enjoy the sunset on the beach and watch the birds and merge with the state of complete serenity.
Boat ride on River Madu
You can enjoy a boat ride in the Madu Ganga (river) which is famous and popular among nature lovers all over the world. There are facilities and high-tech motor boats available for tourists. Madu Ganga is of high ecological, biological and aesthetic importance, as many varieties of plants and species of animals are dwelling in this wetlands area. The best time is to go early morning to avoid the heat; moreover, an early journey may help you to see wildlife. The river banks are covered with beautiful flowers, plants and many varieties of birds in pure tranquility. En route you can see the local fishermen fishing in a traditional manner.
Colourful wooden masks - either comical or ferocious - are carved out of wood named "Kaduru" which is smoked and dried. Producing masks is the livelihood of the villagers in and around Ambalangoda. These masks are carved out by hand and colourfully painted by hand too by skilled craftsmen in Ambalangoda. These masks were used in exorcism ceremonies in the past era. Today these masks have become souvenirs, especially for tourists. In Sri Lanka these masks are used for several purposes. They are featured in traditional dance, drama, religious festivals and ceremonies.
Ariyapala Mask Museum
The Ariyapala Mask Museum is for preservation of the traditional art of mask production in Ambalangoda. It consists of a museum, a workshop and a library. When you visit this museum, you can see the craftsman at work. Masks signifying all the vibrant characters, demons, gods and villains who appear in traditional mask dances are on display in this museum.
Address: 426, Main Street
Opening hours: 8.30am-5.30pm
Mask Dancing Shows
At Bandu Wijesooriya School of Dancing, there are performances once a week. The show commences with a Kolam dance followed by several ritual dances, a village folk- and Indian dances. This is ideal for you to spend your evening and enjoy the traditional dancing. Your hotel may be able to provide you with the running program, dates and times.
Galgoda Sailatalaramaya Maha Vihara (Buddhist temple)
This temple is located in the village called Karandeniya, 11 km away from Ambalangoda town. Special about this temple is that it has a reclining Buddha Statue, which is 35 meters long and is believed to be the longest Buddha statue in the world. When you enter a Buddhist temple (which is a sacred place) you are expected to remove your shoes and caps and being dressed in a disciplined manner.
Sunandaramaya Maha Vihara (Buddhist temple)
This is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Southern Sri Lanka. You can see the outer wall of the shrine room decorated with some rare murals, depicting stories from the previous lives of the Buddha.
Close to Ambalangoda there is a village called Meetiyagoda, where moonstones are mined. These semi-precious gems are grey in colour and when polished they have a glow similar to the moon. These moonstones are found in Meetiyagoda, which is located between Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa. You can purchase some moonstones for your loved ones or as a souvenir (blue moonstones are the most beautiful ones, but also the most expensive ones).
How to reach Ambalangoda?
The Ambalangoda Railway Station is a major station on the Coastal Line which connects the main cities such as Panadura, Kalutara, Ambalangoda, Hikkaduwa, Galle and Matara with the capital city Colombo. All express trains stop in Ambalangoda; however there are only a few express trains daily. The train is the easiest and cheapest way of transportation from Colombo to Ambalangoda, but it is not always easy to obtain a seat. The journey takes you along a landscape of beautiful views of the Indian Ocean on one side and a green landscape with small village images on the other side. During the journey you will regularly see lagoons on each side of the train.
Public and private buses operate between Colombo and Ambalangoda. However, traveling in buses is not comfortable because the buses may be crowded in certain times of the day. On the other hand, buses run far more frequently than trains. There are three options of bus transportation to and from Colombo; the first and cheapest ones are normal and semi luxury buses; secondly a/c mini buses and thirdly Luxury Highway buses, those are the fastest ones, but terminate in the suburbs of Colombo (Maharagama or Kauduela); connecting transportation to the several city center points will be necessary. In the event you are traveling by bus, it is advisable to take an intercity air-conditioned bus for your comfort and convenience.
Van / Car
You can hire a van or rent a car with a driver, especially when you carry your full baggage with you. It is not advisable to drive the car yourself, because the traffic is extremely dangerous in Sri Lanka when you are not used to the Sri Lankan traffic culture.
Airport to Ambalangoda
The easiest way to travel between the airport and Ambalangoda is by taxi. You can hire a taxi at the Katunayake International Airport counter upon arrival or have your transfer arranged beforehand if you have already booked your hotel in advance. The distance from the airport to your destination is quite long and hence exhausting after a long haul air journey. Taxi prices from the airport are fixed.