Adam’s Peak is a mountain located in central Sri Lanka (known locally as Sri Pada), the mountain is famed for the “sacred footprint”, though who the footprint belongs to will differ depending on your religion.
Buddhists believe the footprint was left by Buddha, Hindus claim it belongs to Lord Shiva whilst Muslims and Christians consider it to be Adam’s first step on Earth, once he was exiled from the Garden of Eden.
For many people, climbing Adam’s Peak is a religious experience or pilgrimage important to their faith and beliefs. For us, we were eager to see the footprint, experience the pilgrimage alongside locals and check out the view.
Riddled with injuries and very little sleep we arose (at a time we would normally be heading to bed) to prepare ourselves for our climb – we. We meet a couple of friends in Nallathanniya, a small village at the base of Adam’s Peak and with our backpacks filled with water, some extra layers of clothes, and the essential roti to see us through our journey, we began, racing to the summit before sunrise.
As we trekked along, cold and barely awake in the darkness of night, we stumbled past closed stalls and market places until we hit the starting point of the stairs. There we were greeted by several Buddhist Monks who tied cotton thread around our wrists as a blessing and protection for our journey. Experiences like this are what travel’s all about!
As we gazed into the darkness, all we could see were lights illuminating stairs and with the end nowhere in sight (and reconsidering our choice) we gingerly started our climb. As we trekked up the stairs (roughly 5,200 of them), we were thankful for the benches and tea-houses scattered up the mountain – not only did they provide us with a place to catch our breath and give our legs a break from the crumbling stairs, they gave us the opportunity to people-watch. At one point, after watching several 60 year olds and a local with no shoes on wizz past us, we realised we still had a decent climb to go and hit the path again.
After what seemed to be eternity, we found ourselves only 500 hundred steps from the top. Safe in this knowledge and with some time to kill, we settled into a tea hut with a cup of tea, before making the final climb. The last 500 steps were slow but we made it to the top and met the temple housing the “scared footprint”. After a wait and a brief two second look at the footprint, we unanimously voted, whatever the engraving or mark was, didn’t look like a footprint to us! As we battled with the hundreds of others at the summit for a place to view the sunrise, we suddenly realised the temperate had dropped and were thankful for the extra clothes we brought. I layered up to watch the sunrise, taking in the sights and sounds around me.
Although there was too much cloud, causing us to miss the sunrise and the famed shadow of Adam’s Peak, it was an amazing experience and worth the walk. The walk down was much faster and it was surreal to see the beautiful scenery we had missed in the dark. As we reached the bottom, a sense of accomplishment passed over us and, once we got our first glimpse of the peak at the bottom, we were surprised by just how large it looked.
If you’re off to Sri Lanka, I would highly recommend Adam’s Peak. It’s a great hike and with the locals making their pilgrimage, it makes for a unique and memorable experience.
What You Need to Know
How to get to Adam’s Peak
Most people take the Dalhousie route (also known as the Hatton route). Hatton is a major town which is accessible by bus and train. Dalhousie (a small village) is easily reached by bus, car or tuk-tuk and is around an hour’s drive from Hatton. Alternatively there is a less trekked route to the summit of Adam’s Peak – it takes longer hence being less traveled and it starts in Ratnapura.
When to go
Pilgrimage season is between December and May – during these months the path will be well-lit and there will be several tea houses open where funnily enough, you will be able to get tea (as well as water and some also offer light snacks). Outside of the pilgrimage season it’s still possible to make the journey, only it will be depended on the weather, and you will have to be a little more prepared with torches and food, as the huts and lights won’t be operational.
How long does it take?
Depending on your fitness level, the amount of people on the track and the conditions on the day, it can take anywhere between two and a half and four hours to get to the top. Try to ensure you reach the peak before sunrise to watch the shadow of Sri Pada emerge as a reflection in front of you .
Top Tips to Make the Most of Adam’s Peak:
- Check for local celebration days (poya days), as these times become extremely busy with people choosing to make their pilgrimage, making it an extremely slow journey with long waits to reach the top.
- Take something warm for the top as it’s cold up there and depending how fast you reach the summit, you could be waiting a while for sunrise.
- Pack a rain jacket as it rains often!
- Book a nights accommodation in Dalhousie (there are many options for budget guest houses) so you can get a little sleep before the trek.
- Start your trek around 2am to see the sunrise – you want to give yourself the very best chance to see it.
Looking for other ideas for Sri Lanka? Check out my itinerary here!
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