Ambalangoda is a seaside town that during colonial times was much frequented by European residents, who appreciated the good accommodation, food, and bathing facilities. Today Ambalangoda retains its charm, the beautifully situated resthouse still stands (and there is an old Dutch church beside it), the fish remains excellent, and the sandy beach to the north of the town provides good bathing. There is also an interesting rocky islet – a sanctuary for seabirds – offshore of the town centre.
However, Ambalangoda is most famous for its mask carvers, whose workshops and sales outlets are concentrated at the northern end of the town. Those who wish to purchase Sri Lanka’s masks should be aware that quality varies. Modern masks painted in garish colours are made to cater to the tourist trade. Those decorated in natural dyes are more traditional. Best of all, seek genuine antique masks.
At the southern perimeter of the town there is a turn-off to the ancient Ambalangoda Maha Vihare, also known as Sunandaramaya, with its superb example of thorana, or archway, and rare mural of dancing girls.