Adam’s Peak: One Step at a Time

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Adam’s Peak is located in the small foothill town of Nallathanniya. We had taken the train from Hatton to get to Dalhousie; from there the only options are to take a bus or a tuk-tuk to get to Nallathanniya. The bus suited us fine so we hopped on the next one to take us to town and to check into our guesthouse, Punsisi Rest which I recommend. The rooms are very kitshy with lace curtains and ruffle-laden bedspreads but they’re clean and the food at the restaurant is excellent. Also, it’s conveniently located just a few minutes from the start of the climb.

Adam’s Peak or Sri Prada in Sinhalese bears the meaning of “sacred footprint” said to be imprinted at the top of this massive rock formation. Different faiths have their own beliefs as to who the footprint belongs to. Buddhists believe it to be Buddha’s footprint, Hindus believe it to be Shiva’s footprint and Muslims and Christians believe it to be Adam’s footprint (hence the name Adam’s Peak in English). It’s no wonder this conical beauty is regarded as a sacred site.

Having such an important religious significance, climbing Adam’s Peak is part of a sacred pilgrimage mostly for followers of the Buddhist faith (and mostly for Sri Lankans). From December to April (the busiest month) hundreds if not thousands of Buddhists of all ages from the very young to the elderly make the difficult climb to the top. During this time, the stairs can get quite crowded adding significant time to your climb but one of the advantages is that candles are set to light the way. At any other time including when we climbed in November, the way up is very dark with no lights whatsoever.




The small town of Nallathanniya


Knowing it would take a few hours to reach the top, we woke up at 2:30 am to make sure to catch the sunrise in all its glory. With only a few hours of sleep, drowsy but equally excited we stumbled to the dining room where we were greeted with a variety of delicious dishes and chapatis. It might seem crazy to be eating a full meal at such an ungodly hour but it’s very important to fuel up before starting your climb.  You’ll be burning a crazy amount of energy on the way up!

Some travelers at our guesthouse told us it had been raining heavily for days prior which prevented them from ascending Adam’s Peak. We hoped the weather would be clement enough to let us reach the top and that the sun would drive away the dark clouds. Making our way to the stairs indicating the starting point, it was quite cold and pitch black. As expected, there were no lights along the stairs but, thankfully, we had thought of bringing a much-needed head lamp to guide us (you can also use a flashlight).








There are about 5200 – yup, five thousand two hundred (some say up to 5500) – steps all the way up. At the bottom the steps are wider and more spread out making the climb easier to manage but the more you climb, the more the steps get narrower and steeper – ouch! You don’t need to be superfit to climb Adam’s Peak but know that it’s a very, very strenuous climb – at times I thought my heart would fall out of my chest it was beating so fast! I might have even shed a few tears (or maybe it was just sweat rolling down my forehead). Other times, I didn’t think my knees would be able to support me one more step of the way. My legs were in pain and I was covered in sweat; I questioned several times if I would make it to the top. That was a not-so-subtle cue for me to take a much-deserved break and to catch my breath (and to let out a few curse words – sorry I know it’s a sacred site). But don’t despair – the good part is that there really is no rush and you could rest whenever and as often as your drum-beating heart desires.

It was too dark to take pictures of the stairs on the way up but here are some I took while descending.




I don’t know how this man managed to carry that heavy package to the top!






There are some rest stations along the way but they’re few and far between. You can purchase hot beverages, water and snacks but keep in mind some of them might not be open that early in the morning (or during low season) so make sure to bring lots of water (trust me you’re going to need it) and a few snacks of your own (taking into account the weight you’ll have to carry up 5200 steps).


About halfway up. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it!




After almost 3 hours of blood, sweat and tears, we finally arrived at the summit of Adam’s Peak. While we waited for the sun to rise, we found a place to sit on the stairs to take a moment to catch our breath and to get acclimatized to the altitude of 7359 ft high (and to congratulate each other on making it to the top!).




As the daylight slowly pierced through the clouds, the sun timidly started to rise revealing an array of unbelievably beautiful natural hues; golden sun rays cut through the smoky clouds and warmed our cold, dreary bodies allowing us to remove a few layers of clothing. The billowy clouds drifted along carelessly letting the blue skies peak through. It was like the whole sky was performing a seamlessly choreographed dance. It was so amazing to witness the scenery constantly changing right before our eyes. We then realized we were actually above the clouds – it was stunning and absolutely breath-taking!

From high above, we awed at the surrounding landscape draped in a canopy of mist and 360-degree views of green valleys, mountains as far as the eye could see and clusters of lakes dotting the horizon. I felt exhilarated and took in every passing moment (and a bunch of photos of course). We were so grateful that not even a single drop of rain fell during our climb and that now the sun shown in all its magnificence!












This shadow of a triangle left us speechless. Some people argue that it’s the shadow of Adam’s Peak but, to me (though I’m no science expert), it seemed highly unlikely as it’s so perfectly shaped. Others prefer to dismiss it as en inexplicable mystery or some sort of phenomenon but it’s apparently something about the way the daylight appears and reflects that creates the triangle (like I said, I’m no science expert). We didn’t know about this shadow until one of our newly-found Russian friends enthusiastically called us to follow him to the other side of the temple and pointed in the direction of the triangle. This is a regular occurrence which happens at sunrise so take note not to miss it – it’s really impressive!






This is the small temple at the top which houses Buddha’s footprint. Remember this is a sacred site therefore the same respect applies as to any other sacred site. Don’t worry, once you reach the top, you don’t need to remove your shoes unless you enter the temple area but, if I remember correctly, only Buddhists are allowed in the temple. Also, women don’t need to cover their head – I did only because it was so cold.










Climbers can ring the bell to announce their accomplishment


Visitors can stay as long as they want at the top; we stayed for about 3 hours. It was quite difficult tearing ourselves away from such an inspiring and peaceful place but we had a long way down to go so we gathered our belongings and said farewell to Adam’s Peak and all its glorious surroundings. High on euphoria and adrenaline, we began our descent. It was much easier than the climb up and now, basking in daylight and with the sun shining, we stopped frequently to take in the unobstructed views as we headed down.














We passed through pretty tea plantations joyfully (annoyingly?) waving hello to the women picking tea leaves. Adding to my utter pleasure, we encountered some funky monkeys (check out his wild hairstyle!) hanging around in a nearby tree. We spotted a duet of waterfalls from afar and Buddha statues sitting peacefully on boulders – watching us with all their wisdom. A row of prayer flags lazily swayed in the wind; I wondered if we passed these on the way up? Or had we taken a different route on the way down? All the things darkness had so selfishly hidden from us now appeared before our eyes – it was like a wonderful revelation!














Nearing the end and finally arriving to where we started off, there was a small temple (or pagoda perhaps). I noticed an inscription so simple yet so profound that, upon reading it, I was moved to tears. It inspired me to take a few seconds to stop and contemplate on how fortunate I was to be healthy enough to have conquered Adam’s Peak and, ultimately, to be able to travel to such far away places.








All the while, Adam’s Peak sat gloriously on its perch grinning at us at how foolish we were to have climbed to the top one tortuous step at a time just to momentarily bathe in the wonder of what it was like to float above the clouds.



You are a fool if you don’t climb Adam’s Peak once in your life and a bloody fool if you climb it twice


Check list:

  • lots of water
  • snacks (energy bar, nuts)
  • warm sweater or jacket
  • comfortable shoes (no flip flops!)
  • sunglasses
  • headlamp
  • a few rupees (snacks/beverages at rest stops)

Bonus: Many tourist attractions in Sri Lanka are expensive but Adam’s Peak is FREE!





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