Sri Lanka Guide: Climbing Adam’s Peak

Climbing Adam’s Peak is one of the most important destinations in Sri Lanka. After making the pilgrimage myself, I have to say that it should be your number one priority to make it here during your Sri Lanka trip. Why?

The cultural and religious symbolism of Adam’s Peak is very important to the Sri Lankan people. The Buddhist population believes there is a footprint from Buddha himself at the top of the mountain, while the Hindu people believe the footprint is from their god Shiva. Christians and Muslims believe it is from Adam, and the first step he took after being exiled from the Garden of Eden. All four religions consider climbing Adam’s Peak to be a sacred pilgrimage, and we saw many people from every generation making the strenuous hike, from small children to barefoot grandmas and everyone in between.

This hike isn’t easy, either. Climbing Adam’s Peak means struggling up 5,000 stairs. Oh, and did I mention that the walk begins at 2 am? If you’re still interested in undertaking this sacred trek (you should be, it’s amazing!) then keep reading….

 

 

Where is Adam’s Peak?

Adam’s Peak is located in the south west part of the country, and is pretty far away from most other tourist attractions. We decided to do it between our time in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle and Ella in the Hill Country. We had a hired driver and stopped for one day at the destination. Check out my detailed Sri Lanka Itinerary to learn more about the best time to fit it into your trip.

 

When is Climbing Season?

The best time to climb Adam’s Peak is during the pilgrimmage season. This runs from January to May. For the rest of the year, the mountain “closes.” That means there are no open shops, no electricity and lights, and no people on the mountain save for a few tourists who are climbing Adam’s Peak out of season. This is more dangerous and should only be done with a lot of planning, packed food and water, and even a hired guide.

If you are going during the pilgrimage season, no guide is necessary, because there will be thousands of people on the mountain with you, and plenty of shops to buy water and food on the climb up. Just make sure you avoid the full moons and weekends. These are the most popular days, and the massive crowds can prevent you from even reaching the peak.

 

 

Which Route Should I Take?

There are multiple routes for climbing Adam’s Peak. The most popular, and the one that I took, was the route from the small town of Dalhousie. This route is lined with lights, shops, and is completely on stairs… there are no hiking trails here.

 

How Long is the Climb?

The 5,000 steps take about three and a half hours to ascend, and two and a half more to descend. We left our hostel in Dalhousie around 2 am and returned at 9 am. I am, however, a very slow walker… the route can be done faster or slower depending on your fitness levels.

 

What Time Should I Start The Climb?

The tradition is to start the climb at 2 or 2:30 am, and reach the top to watch the sunrise. I definitely suggest this because first, you will see all the Sri Lankan people making their pilgrimages, and second, you will miss the extreme heat and sun of the day. Finally, you’ll see the sunrise from the peak, where the view of Sri Lanka’s lush jungles,  rolling hills, and blue lakes is stunning.

 

What Should I Bring on the Climb?

Good hiking boots, and a few layers because the night starts chilly but will warm up as you climb and the sun rises. You should also bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer for the bathrooms, and small bills and coins to buy water and snacks on the way up.

 

 

How Long Should I Stay in Dalhousie?

There is really not too much to do in this town, and all the hostels have extremely high prices because it’s such a popular tourist destination. Because of this, we arrived in the town in the evening, ate dinner in our hostel (Slightly Chilled Guest House, very clean but definitely pricey) and tried to fall asleep early. Then we woke up at 2 am for the climb and finished around 9. We showered and ate breakfast at our hotel, then left immediately with our driver to head to Ella. If you have a private driver, I definitely suggest this. If not, you may be too tired to deal with public transport and want to spend a second night to recover before you move on.

 

Where Should I go after Climbing Adam’s Peak?

After climbing Adam’s Peak, my legs were DEAD. They have never ever been so sore in my life, and I doubt they ever will be again. I became a hobbling shell of my former self. Unfortunately, after climbing Adam’s peak we went to Ella, which is a town known for climbing little Adam’s Peak, Ella Rock, and other beautiful hikes. I chose this as our next destination in our Sri Lanka Itinerary because it was only four hours from Adam’s Peak. I’m happy we went, but I would also suggest scheduling a few days at a beach directly after your climb to really relax and recover.

 

What else can I say about climbing Adam’s Peak? Outside of these specifics, it was honestly a truly magical experience. One of those moments where you feel completely connected and united with the people around you, as you all sit and enjoy your physical accomplishment and a beautiful but fleeting sunrise. The climb was physically challenging, but so rewarding. I 100% recommend adding Adam’s Peak to your Sri Lanka itinerary. Even if you’re a little out of shape or nervous about the climb, it’s easy to go slow and steady to the top. Give it a try and I promise you won’t regret it!

All my love,
Di

 

Check Out Our Latest Posts!

What to See in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle

Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle is a unique part of the country. It is located in the center and is definitely Sri Laka’s historical capital. The “triangle” is made up of three cities: Kandy, Polonnaruwa, and Anuradhapura. Two of them are only ruins, but they all have historical and cultural significance, so there is a lot to see and do here. I spent ages pouring over reviews and itineraries before finally finding the cultural triangle to do list that worked for me.

We hired a private car, so we were picked up at the airport in Colombo and drove straight to Kandy. We spent two nights in the city, then two nights in Sigiriya where we visited the rest of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle destinations.

Daniel and I only spent four days in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, but without a time crunch we easily could have spent a few weeks here instead. Unfortunately we had to prioritize the top sites, and I think we made the right choices. Here are the top five must see’s in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle.

 

1. Polonnaruwa

Cost: About $25 per person
Time: Half day to full day trip
Location: One hour drive from Sigiriya

 

 

This was honestly my favorite day of our whole two week trip. Polonnaruwa is amazing, there’s just no other word for it. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it’s been well preserved over the years. The city used to be a capital of Sri Lanka 1,000 years ago, and now the sprawling ruins lay abandoned, slowly being taken over by the encroaching jungle.

What makes Polonnaruwa so special? It is not a widely visited tourist destination, so it wasn’t over crowded. That meant, we were able to explore areas completely silent and away from the rest of the crowds. I think that helped a lot in feeling the eeriness and weight of the history this location holds. Beautiful carvings, designs, and even giant buddha statues surrounded us and transported us back to an ancient time. We also rented bikes at the ruins, and rode them around to see a lot of crumbling temples and statues off the main road.

 

 

Polonnaruwa is only about an hour drive from the town of Sigiriya (where the famous Lion’s Rock is located) and we did our whole trip to the ruins in a half day. I could have easily spent more time exploring, but we were hit with a rain storm and decided to leave.

There’s also a nice museum at the entrance center to learn more about the ruins before you visit the site or even hire a guide to take you on a personal tour, and a beautiful lake to chill at. Just keep in mind this is an important place, so everyone needs to have their legs and shoulders covered to enter.

 

 

 

2. Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock)

Cost: $30
Time: 3 hour trip. Try to do it in the early morning or late afternoon for the best lighting and views.
Location: Just outside the town of Sigiriya

 

 

This site has two different names. The locals call it Sigiriya, and the tourists call it Lion’s Rock. This is easily one of hte most popular destinations in the entire country and for good reason. 1,500 years ago a badass king saw this giant rock and decided to build his palace on it. The rock is over 600 ft high, but that didn’t stop this dreamer. He built a kingdom on and around the rock, even carving pools into the top. The ruins of his palace still remain there today.

Now, you can enter the beautiful park around the base, and climb staircases to the top. Oh, and beware of bees. We passed multiple signs telling us to be “still and silent in the case of a hornet attack” and to walk quietly so we wouldn’t disturb the giant hives that were EVERYWHERE. If you’re allergic to bees, you honestly might want to give this one a miss.

If you do make it to the rock unscathed, the next challenge is making it to the top. It’s more of a climb than a hike, and most of the trek up was on staircases or bridges attached to the rock face. The climb only took about 25 minutes and wasn’t too hard. Finally, we reached the top.

The ruins were ok, it was the view that was so amazing to me. Lion’s Rock lies in the middle of a pretty flat area, so we could see for miles. There were lakes, rolling hills, forests, and green as far as the eye could see. Absolutely stunning. This is definitely a can’t miss location for any visitor in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle.

 

3. Dambulla Golden Cave Temple

Cost: Normally $10, we got lucky and hit it on a holiday so we got in free.
Time: We spent about 2 hours at this site
Location: Situated between Kandy and Sigirya. Best seen as a pit stop on the drive between the two towns.

 

 

The Dambulla cave temple is a really interesting site in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. It is a temple built into a maze of caves in a large rock. It’s also over 2,000 years old! These ancient caves are dark and cool, and have many large buddha statues and paintings in them. Also, on the walk up to the caves you will see plenty of monkey families hanging out on the trails and in the trees. Be careful with your belongings, because they’ve been known to snatch food and shiny things straight out of visitors hands! We spent 30 minutes just sitting and watching them all play around us.

Once in the caves, things are much more solemn. The Buddha statues and paintings are highly respected, and the caves are still an active monastery and place of worship today. Because of this, just like most other places in Sri Lanka covered knees and shoulders are required at Dambulla. We spent about an hour wandering through the caves, then returned to the base of the temple where we enjoyed a snack and the view of the largest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka.

History, monkeys, amazing views… what’s not to love about this must see site in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle?

 

 

4. Stay in a Treehouse

There are surprisingly a lot of treehouse options in the cultural triangle, and one for any budget. There were some super nice ones listed on Airbnb that were out of my price range, but luckily I stumbled upon the Inn on the Tree in Sigiriya. This “hotel” is amazing, and will make any trip to Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle go from awesome to unforgettable.

 

 

The Inn on the Tree has tree houses situated in the jungle, high up in the trees. The sides are open air, and there are balconies to relax and enjoy a drink. The beds all have nets around them to protect you from bugs, just be careful to keep them closed at all times. The Inn on the Tree also has a restaurant and provided a delicious free traditional Sri Lankan breakfast curries every morning of our stay.

If you want to relax and escape from the real world for a bit, booking a treehouse stay during your trip through Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle is a MUST.

 

5. Visit Kandy

 

 

We spent two days in Kandy at the beginning of our trip to Sri Lanka’s Cultural triangle, and we had a good time. There’s a lot to see in the town, most notably the Temple of the Tooth. This temple is painted beautifully and features an important Buddhist relic… a tooth from the Buddha himself. Spend some time here wandering the ornate hallways, saying a prayer, and exploring the grounds.

 

 

Other things to do in Kandy include visiting the lake and botanical gardens, shopping at the silk, gemstone, and wood markets, checking out the giant Buddha statue with a view of the city, enjoying the night life, and going to a cultural show. The cultural show we went to was only a few dollars each to enter, and performed by locals with beautiful costumes and dances. At the end, there were even fire walkers for the finale. It was a cool way to learn more about the traditional Kandy tribe and their culture.

 

 

Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle is an amazing part of the country’s history and heritage. I learned so much about the country, and was very surprised to see temples and ruins that were thousands of years old! If you visit, make sure you don’t miss my five favorite places and sites in the area.

PS Not sure how to start your Sri Lanka vacation planning? use my two week travel itinerary to learn the best way to travel through Sri Lanka.

All my love,
Di

Check Out Our Latest Posts!

The Best Way to Travel Through Sri Lanka

I spent two weeks traveling in Sri Lanka in spring 2016, and it was an absolutely amazing country. I knew pretty much nothing about it when we planned our trip, but we bought the flights because they were so cheap and short from Abu Dhabi. Once I got into the nitty gritty of of planning our trip, though, I realized this wasn’t going to be the super easy beach vacation I was imagining (although we did hit up the beach and it was beautiful.)

Sri Lanka is a small country, but the main tourist attractions are not that close together. There’s the hill country, which is super green and full of tea plantations, there are beautiful beaches along the coast, there’s the iconic climb up Adam’s Peak, and finally Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. All are worth seeing, but they are all spread hours away from each other.

Making sure we could get to all of these throughout the two week trip was not an easy task, and I spent weeks reading itineraries, plotting the best routes and destinations, and figuring it all out. Hopefully, my work can save you some time! Below is the itinerary we took for the best way to travel through Sri Lanka and hit all of the top tourist destinations in the country along the way.

 

 

The Best Way to Travel Through Sri Lanka

My biggest tip is to hire a private driver. I know this may not be possible for some budgets, but if it is, it is definitely worth your time. There are trains that run from town to town, but they’re often extremely crowded, and won’t get you to the farther or harder to reach places (like Polonnaruwa, my absolute favorite site in Sri Lanka.)

We hired a private driver had a good experience. Our driver spoke English and even helped us out and drove us to a clinic when we had a minor medical emergency. You can choose to do one of the many driving and tour companies’ set itineraries with hotels included in the price, or you can customize your own. I suggest customizing your own itinerary and booking your own hotels, because I personally am an avid review reader and would never entrust those choices to a company who just wants to cut costs. So, don’t be afraid to decide exactly what you want, then negotiate a price to get it. Our itinerary is below and after our trip was all said and done, I think it was the best way to travel through Sri Lanka!

Our price for 10 days of transport with a private car and guide was $375, plus an extra $10 per day for the driver’s accommodation at the hotels. Make sure you ask the tour operator you choose if there are extra costs for your driver so you don’t get blindsided by them in the end. In total, we paid $465 for private transport for 9 days. I think this was totally worth the cost because it allowed us to easily stop at Uda Walawe National Park on the way to the beach without spending a night there, and gave us the ability to leave Adam’s peak right after our climb instead of spending a second day and night there. Plus, no crowded buses, no haggling with tuk tuk drivers, dealing with trains after an overnight flight, etc. It was great choice and I definitely recommend it!

 

 

Our 9 Day Sri Lanka Itinerary

March 25th: Colombo airport pick up and drive to Kandy
March 26th: Explore Kandy
March 27th: Drive to Dambulla for day trip, continue to Sigiriya
March 28th: Hike Lion Rock, Day trip to Polonurawa, return Sigiriya
March 29th: Drive to Adams Peak
March 30th: Hike Adam’s Peak, drive to Ella
March 31st: Explore Ella
April 1st: Explore Ella

April 2nd: Drive to Uda Walawe National Park, do afternoon safari, continue to Hikkaduwa

 

After spending nine days moving from place to place, ending your trip at beach is the best way to travel through Sri Lanka. We arrived in Hikkaduwa on April 2nd, we spent 5 days just relaxing on the beach. There are a lot of beach options in Sri Lanka, but Hikkaduwa is the most built up, and has the best restaurants and nightlife around it. I also chose it because it was close to Colombo for an easy drive back to the city for our flight home. Beach-hopping is popular in this country (and the eastern coast is huge for surfers) but for me the whole point of a beach vacay is to do nothing, so just chilling on one worked best for me.

 

The only change I would make to this itinerary would be to maybe spend one day in Nuwara Eliya on the way to Ella, and cut one day in Ella to make up for it. We drove through Newara Eliya and it looked really beautiful and peaceful, there are colonial houses and bike rentals to ride around the lake, as well as the famous hike to World’s End. At the end, though, I decided the dawn wake up call for World’s End didn’t quite fit into our plans, and that we were moving around enough as is. Even though we missed out on Nuwara Eliya, I was really ready to rest and relax in Ella after the tough hike up Adam’s Peak. If you’re planning a trip to the country, use these tips for the best way to travel through Sri Lanka, and comment below if you have any more questions!

Check Out Our Latest Posts!

Pin It on Pinterest