Climb Adam’s Peak – Sri Lanka’s Sacred Pilgrimage

If there was one thing that we wanted to do when we visited Sri Lanka it was to climb Adam’s Peak and join pilgrims on this sacred walk.

Believed to be the place where Adam first stepped foot on earth when he was cast down from heaven.

Dave and I love to trekking and to be able to climb the mountain that is revered by so many religions is a unique experience.

About Adam’s Peak

Located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka near the village of Dalhousie, Adams Peak is Sri Lanka’s Holiest mountain. Each year pilgrims flock to climb its 5200 steps to the top at 2243 meters hight. .

What makes Adam’s Peak so unique is that it is believed to be sacred by many religions.

adams peak sri lanka statue along hike

Not only is it believed that Adam’s Peak was where Adam was exiled to the Garden of Eden but it is also believed that it is the place where Buddha last stepped from the earth before reaching Nirvana.

  • Adam’s peak is therefore considered the footprint of the Buddha in Buddhism.
  • Hindus believe that Adam’s Peak is the giant footstep of Lord Shiva.
  • It is considered the original Garden of Eden
  • And Muslims believe it to be the footprint of Adam.

Adams Peak is that it is a pilgrimage for every religion. 

We climbed Adam’s Peak along with Muslims and Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

Maybe it is true.  Maybe this is a holy place. Where else on earth do so many religions join together as one for a festive and spiritual journey?

Each religion believes it to be the footprint of their different deities and we feel it is wonderful that all religions can come together harmoniously during the pilgrimage season of December to May.

Here, they pay tribute to Peak Sri Pada.

Sri Lanka – The Garden of Eden

adams peak sri lanka - original garden of eden

Legend has it that Sri Lanka was the original garden of Eden.

I can believe it, we enjoyed our time in the country more than anywhere we have been on earth.  

If I were to be a believer, I could believe in this. It felt like a little slice of heaven.

The pilgrimage is a festive and lighthearted time, but believe me, the climb is difficult.

With 5200 steps reaching 2243 meters into the sky, Adam’s Peak will make your heart pump and your body sweat.  

Pack warm clothes in your day pack. Even though Sri Lanka is a tropical climate, it is cold at the top.

We had to wait for an hour for sunrise and felt a strong chill. It is quite cold and crowded at the stupa at the top of the mountain.

Our Adams Peak Hike

adams peak hike sri lanka

We started our climb up Adam’s Peak at 2:45 am.

Why do we always have to climb in the middle of the night? Oh, I know, it’s because we want to arrive for sunrise. It really does offer the most beautiful views to arrive at the peak for sunrise.

We awoke feeling refreshed and ready to go before snapping a quick shot of the mountain lit up with pilgrims already climbing.

This pilgrimage lasts for months and people climb 24 hours a day.

adams peak sri lanka pilgrimage mountain of lights

This trek is like nothing we have ever climbed before.

The Path Up Adams Peak

hiking adams peak

The path is lined with food stands and tea stalls selling everything from nuts and cakes to plastic dolls and elephant statues.

shops lead up to Adams Peak

It is well marked and maintained. 

Concrete steps lead all the way up to the peak at 2500 meters. While it is not the highest of climbs, it is still quite a challenge.

The steps make your legs burn as it is steep and steady.

Dave and I set a fast pace thinking we left too late and might miss sunrise. We ended up stopping often to take video and photos so when we did walk, we marched.

We were more than a little worried that we may not make it for sunrise.

Slow Going to the Summit

near the top of Adams Peak Sri Lanka

As we approached the summit, we actually ended up in a queue of people. 

The path narrowed and a bar was put down the centre of the steps. People were stopped to catch their breath and there was no way around them.

We had come to gridlock in the middle of the jungle of Sri Lanka.

We hopped over the pole making our way up through the people already coming down. We were like a couple of fish swimming upstream, but we really wanted to make it to the summit and the sun was about to rise!

This pilgrimage lasts for 2 months and it is not a priority for the Sinhalese to be up there for sunrise. But it definitely was for us.

Some people start their climb at 9:00 pm while others do it in the middle of the day. As we said above, the climb continues 24 hours a day seven days a week during the seaon.

shops, dining and vendors lead up to Adams Peak

It is a steady and constant stream. We pushed on as our sweat steadily started to cool down. We were prepared for this.

We refused to put on warmer clothes until we reached the summit because they would just become drenched with sweat, but we did bring and an arsenal of warm clothing.

adams peak sri lanka
Steep Steps, Deb takes a break

We have learned the hard way to bring a change of clothes up to the summit with us. 

Wearing wet clothes in cold temperatures is not fun. In the past, I have sat for hours shivering in my wet clothing and I wasn’t about to do that again.

When we arrived at the top, the temple was packed with people and it was freezing cold. 

We weren’t able to change quickly because the security guards were on us to get our boots off as quickly as possible.

sleeping adams peak

Like many religious sites, It is a temple where shoes are not allowed

It wasn’t long until I was shivering.  I pulled out my sweater and stripped off my shirt underneath. I put on layer after layer as people looked on at this crazy tourist.

They were dressed in little more than a sarong and sandals and here I was shivering with a blanket and jacket. 

pilgrimage group

What kind of Canadian am  I? I looked ridiculous.

The Wait

cold and tired at the top of adams peak

The wait was long and crowded in the wind and cold.

People huddled together to catch a glimpse of the light rising over the mountains. It almost felt like God was about to say hello.

After the sun came up, It ended as quickly as it began.

We joined the mad dash of people making their way back to the warmth of the Sri Lankan highlands below.

Stalls and Toilets at the Peak

fireworks pilgrimage

Before leaving, we encountered something different than we have on other treks. There were public washrooms up here. They had attendants and they are very clean!

We paid his 10 Rs and had a much more comfortable climb down than we expected.

Within 10 minutes flat I was hot and sweaty and quickly peeled off my layers. 

We were prepared for a tough descent.  Going down is normally the hardest part and steps can be brutal.

But it wasn’t so bad on Adam’s Peak. Before we knew it, we were at the bottom.

adams peak

We chatted with some Pilgrims, took some photos, stopped for a snack and were back at our guest house showered and packed in no time.

dave and deb at adams peak

We were on a Tuk Tuk by 10 am to take us to the train station to Kandy and it is as if Adams Peak never happened. That is until we woke up the next day and felt the shot of pain through our calf muscles. Ouch, maybe it was harder than we thought.

What to worshippers Think of Adams Peak

temple at the top of adams peak
  • Muslims and Christians  believe it is the footprint of Adam
  • Buddhist believe it is the place where Buddha took his last step from earth towards Nirvana.
  • The Hindus believe that Lord Shiva stepped here.

How to Get to Adam’s Peak

The best way to get to Adam’s Peak is to take the train to Hatton from Colombo, Kandy or Ella. We took the train from Ella and it was a beautiful trip.

When you arrive at the station you can then hire a tuk tuk to take you to Dalhousie. There is also a local bus.

What is the cost of Adam’s Peak? – Adam’s Peak is free to climb.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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8 thoughts on “Climb Adam’s Peak – Sri Lanka’s Sacred Pilgrimage”

  1. Sounds so interesting–and you are dead right about saving the warm clothes for the top–I’ve also made the mistake of putting them on too soon–and being cold takes a lot of fun out of an experience, doesn’t it?

    Reply
    • Yes it does! Even in the tropics, it gets cold at the top. We did that in Bali, we didnt’ think that Gunung Batur was high enough to be cold in this hot climate, but we froze. We used sarongs wrapped around us to help keep us warm while we had an agonizing wait for the sun to come up. Now we are prepared:)

      Reply
  2. You mentioned that this is a pilgrimage for two months of the year…what months do people do this? Or did I misunderstand and you can do it at any time. I love climbing and since I think I’ll be in Sri Lanka in March – this is a must!

    Reply
    • Hi Sherry, You can climb it any time of the year, but the actual pilgrimage is for two months of the year. From Mid Dec. to May but the main time of the year for pilgrims is January and February. It is a short climb, therefore I would recommend going during the Pilgrim time because it is fascinating.

      Reply
  3. How funny that I had just left a comment on another blog about the rare personality type who likes to climb mountains just because they are there, and it describes you both so well! It’s a good thing you both have that same love of adventure…it makes it easier to get up at 2:45am and truly enjoy the experience (of the climb, that is – does anyone really enjoy getting up at 2:45am?).
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