At an altitude of 7,000 ft, overlooking the picturesque tea valleys of Sri Lanka, lies the awe-inspiring Adam’s Peak. With its ethereal mist and the soft glow of dawn, this mountain is a sight to behold. But don’t be fooled, ascending Adam’s Peak is no easy feat. The climb consists of 12,000 stone stairs that twist and wind their way up the mountainside. While technically not a difficult climb, be prepared for aching muscles in the days that follow.
The Magic of Adam’s Peak
Among the numerous splendid hikes in Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak stands out as our absolute favorite. Embarking on this adventure in the dead of night, under a sky filled with twinkling stars, alongside thousands of other pilgrims, culminates in witnessing one of the most breathtaking sunrises you’ll ever experience.
As you make your way up, you’ll encounter local devotees making their pilgrimage to the summit, including elderly individuals clutching their walking sticks, monks pausing to pray, and weary locals resting along the trail. Some complete the 9-mile loop over several days, but we managed to finish it in around 8 hours.
Climbing Adam’s Peak should be at the top of every Sri Lanka traveler’s bucket list. Here’s everything you need to know to reach the summit successfully.
What is Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada?
Adam’s Peak, also known as Sri Pada, is not your typical mountain trek. The entire ascent consists of meticulously crafted cemented stairs, ensuring a structured and safe climb. Moreover, don’t expect solitude on the trail, as this place holds immense religious significance.
Adam’s Peak is an annual pilgrimage site for Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims alike. The religious significance revolves around a footprint.
- Buddhists believe the footprint at the summit is that of Buddha himself, imprinted in a large sapphire, left during his last visit to Sri Lanka.
- Hindus believe the footprint, known as Sivan Adi Padham, belongs to Shiva, who danced while creating the world.
- Christians claim the footprint belongs to St. Thomas, the first person to bring Christianity to Sri Lanka.
- Muslims believe the footprint is Adam’s, hence the name Adam’s Peak. According to legend, Adam was placed at the peak as a punishment after being expelled from heaven. He stood on one foot for 1,000 years as an act of penance. Sri Lanka was chosen as the location because of its proximity to heaven, a point I wholeheartedly agree with.
The peak was also revered by the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka, known as the Veddas. They called it Samanala Kanda after one of the island’s four guardian deities.
It is safe to say that the peak is a shared cultural and religious symbol, attracting people from different backgrounds. However, the Buddhist temple at the summit denotes its significance, and locals often refer to it as Sri Pada.
Adam’s Peak is located in a somewhat remote area, with the nearest major town being Hatton. Here’s how you can reach the base of Adam’s Peak:
1. Take the Train to Nanu-Oya Station (Hatton)
Depending on your starting point, either from Kandy in the north or Nuwara Eliya in the south, this leg of the journey offers one of the most spectacular train rides in the world: the Kandy to Ella route.
2. Grab a Bus from Hatton to Maskeliya
Although the bus route consists of winding single-lane roads, the lush greenery along the way is a feast for the eyes. Brace yourself for the occasional discomfort caused by the speed and sharp turns.
3. Stay Overnight in Maskeliya
Staying in Maskeliya is preferable as it brings you closer to the base of the trek.
4. Middle of the Night Tuk-Tuk to the Base
If budget is not a concern, you can opt for accommodation in Hatton. However, keep in mind that the middle of the night journey to the base will be longer and costlier. Hatton, though, is more conveniently located near the railway station.
But let me tell you, we stayed at one of the most amazing places in all of Sri Lanka.
Where to Stay
During our time in Sri Lanka, we discovered some fantastic budget-friendly guesthouses, and one of our favorites was Dam House.
Dam House ticks all the boxes: it’s within walking distance from the bus stop, offers transportation to the peak, and serves the best home-cooked breakfast in Sri Lanka.
The view from the Dam House balcony, with Adam’s Peak in sight.
But the best part of this guesthouse is undoubtedly the balcony views. From here, you can admire the peak directly opposite, as well as a stunning lake nestled among Sri Lanka’s iconic and lush green tea fields. After the arduous climb, we found solace on the balcony, reveling in our accomplishment from the previous night.
What to Bring
To ensure a comfortable and enjoyable climb, make sure to pack the following items:
- Cold weather clothing: Don’t forget a beanie, gloves, a coat, pants, and long socks. The summit gets incredibly cold, especially during the middle of the night climb due to the higher elevation.
- Comfy lightweight shoes: Opt for trainers or lightweight athletic sneakers that provide arch support. Since you’ll essentially be on a stair-master for 8 hours, comfort is key.
- Blankets: Once you reach the summit, you’ll have to sit and wait for the sunrise, so having a blanket to keep warm is essential.
- Money for tea houses or snacks: Along the entire path to the summit, you’ll find tea houses offering a variety of refreshments, including tea, ice cream, roti, and other breakfast foods available 24/7.
- Camera: Capture the beauty of the journey and the stunning views at the summit.
What to Expect & Important Tips
To make the most of your Adam’s Peak experience, here are some essential things to keep in mind:
Time Your Climb: Avoid Full Moons, Holidays, and Weekends
Climbing during these busy periods can result in an extremely crowded trail. On weekends or holidays, up to 20,000 people can visit, sometimes even reaching 300,000 visitors in a single weekend. The stairs become congested, and you may find yourself waiting for over 6 hours in freezing cold temperatures just 100 meters from the summit. While the summit is always crowded, hiking on a weekday will make your experience much more enjoyable.
Sunrise view from just below the summit.
Avoid Low Season and Cloudy Nights
The best time to climb Adam’s Peak is during the high season, which runs from December to April. Outside of this period, the summit is often covered in clouds, making it impossible to witness the sunrise or enjoy the scenic views on the way down. Climbing in such conditions would leave you cold, wet, and miserable, so it’s best to plan your ascent accordingly.
Start Your Climb Early
Embarking on this long trek requires sufficient time to savor moments along the way, such as enjoying a warm cup of tea near the top. For individuals with relatively good physical fitness, leaving Dam House at 2 AM is recommended in order to have ample time before sunrise.
Climbing Adam’s Peak is Free
Unlike many tourist attractions, climbing Adam’s Peak does not require an admission fee. The temple at the base encourages donations, but they are entirely optional.
The Best Sunrise Views Are Not at the Summit
Due to the presence of the temple and other facilities at the peak, the best sunrise views are obstructed. To capture the perfect shot of the sunrise and enjoy panoramic views, start your descent just before dawn while still on the stairs.
Is the Climb Difficult? Is It Worth It?
When we took that final step, the 6,000th step, reaching the summit, I must admit I was exhausted. However, I foolishly remarked, “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.” But I soon regretted those words on the grueling descent down the 6,000 steps in broad daylight.
Descending is far more challenging. My knees and arches were aching, and the journey seemed never-ending. At times, I doubted whether I would make it. I even contemplated lying down in the sunshine and taking a nap, much like some of the exhausted local pilgrims. However, it’s important to note that people of all ages and physical abilities make this pilgrimage. Even elderly grandmothers and barefoot monks complete the trek, albeit at a slower pace. So, if they can do it, so can you.
In the end, it’s all worth it. As long as the weather conditions are favorable, with no rain or clouds, the experience is truly unforgettable.
Total Costs of Climbing Adam’s Peak
While climbing the peak itself is free, there are still some essential costs to consider. Here’s a breakdown of the expenses for two people:
Blessed by a monk with a golden dot, with Adam’s Peak in the distance.
- Unreserved 3rd Class Train Ticket from Kandy to Nanu-Oya: $0.50 per person
- Bus from Hatton to Maskeliya: $0.25 per person
- Accommodation at Dam House: $15 for a private room
- Middle of the Night Tuk-Tuk to Adam’s Peak: $5 each way (Alternatively, you can take a bus back from the peak. It’s a cheaper option, but we were too exhausted to search for it and wait.)
- Bus back to Hatton: $0.25 per person
The grand total for two people, including accommodation, is only $27.
Climbing Adam’s Peak was not initially part of our Sri Lankan itinerary. However, this trek provided us with some of the most memorable moments of our entire journey. It allowed us to delve into the rich tapestry of religion and local customs, while also treating us to breathtaking scenery and a sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit.
If you’re seeking an adventure in Sri Lanka that combines cultural significance, natural beauty, and a thrilling physical challenge, then climbing Adam’s Peak is an absolute must.
Looking for More Sri Lankan Adventures?
If you’re hungry for more amazing experiences in Sri Lanka, be sure to check out these articles:
- 22 Things That Surprised Me About Sri Lanka
- Discovering Sri Lanka’s Best Beaches: Which Beach is Right for You?
- Unique Wildlife Experiences You Can Only Have in Sri Lanka