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,
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