Adam’s Peak: One Step at a Time

with 39 Comments

 

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.

 

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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).

 

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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.

 

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

 

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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).

 

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

 

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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!).

 

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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!

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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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Have you climbed Adam’s Peak? Share your experience in the comments below! 

 

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  • Subhadrika sen

    Its always great to enjoy and explore these small places and their surroundings. They have a rustic feel to it which not many places have. Their untouched raw beauty is something that you would not find in towering sky rises and deep sea explorations. P.S that monkey had quite an expression though . 😛

  • I’m actually considering a trip to Sri Lanka later this year and will definitely consider Adam’s Peak since I’m an avid hiker. The 5000+ stairs certainly seem tiring, but well worthwhile with the incredible views from the top! Love the temples, waterfalls and wildlife on the way up!

  • Wow, what a very cool and spiritual experience, 5,200 steps, holy cow I would be dying, but it looks so well worth it and the journey itself must have been energizing mentally in the end even though I’m pretty sure you were exhausted. The triangle shadow is quite peculiar and interesting, I can’t imagine a mountain would make such a perfect triangle myself, but all I can say is just wow.

  • Gokul

    Wow….5200 steps was some climb but it was all worth it because there was a beautiful view waiting for you at the top.

  • Adrianna Vogel

    That looks absolutely fantastic ! the photos! the view! amazing! Its like being at the top of the world! its definitely on my list now too !

  • Christine Krzyszton

    Such a comprehensive guide to climbing Adam’s Peak. It appears to be a truly epic accomplishment to have made it to the top and one I may not have done 🙂 Thanks for the great read and the stunning photos. Can’t believe you captured the triangle.

  • Sandy & Vyjay

    What a view! You look so cheerful even after climbing 5200 stairs. Amazing! Hats off to you

  • Well that is some perseverance you have! After reading this blog I now feel like the laziest traveller ever! But those views from the top are incredible, so worth it!

  • Kristine AARSHEIM

    Funny how all the different religions interpret the Adam’s Peak differently. It’s nice that they all agree on it being a sacred place. The view from the top looks spectacular, and I can imagine the struggle getting up there. Great post!

  • This just too perfect. We’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka in the new year. We’ll have to check out Adam’s peak. Thanks for the cool tips.

  • Clare

    This looks like an amazing hike. I am going to add to my list for when I go to Sri Lanka. The views are just amazing, so my type of thing to do 🙂

  • Kathy James

    Wow look at those monkeys. I too love the funky hairstyles. The view from the top looks amazing. Worth all the sweat and tears for sure. I love that you pulled yourself out of bed so early to make the most of the climb to see the sun rise.
    When I go to Sri Lanka I will do this for sure.

  • Julie

    Great view from the top of the Adam’s Peak. I applaud for your courage and made all the way through to the top to enjoy the nice scenery. I believe the sunrise must be very beautiful since it is above the clouds, but I will be too scared to climb up before dawn.

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      It’s really best to climb before the sun rises not only to see the views but to avoid the scorching heat. I assure you there’s really nothing to be scared of. 🙂

  • We’ve been to Sri Lanka at least 6 times ( got married there in 2003) but NEVER made it up there! I’ve always wanted to but it’s always been too wet. This is the first time I’ve seen good pictures too, so thanks for that. Next time!

  • Neha Verma

    What a beautiful place. When I go to Dalhousie, I will definitely visit here. The place is high on my bucket list for 2017

  • Smidge

    Nice post and lovely photos – I love that so much was revealed as you came back down. I always find the climb back down harder than the way up! I’d love to do this – what was the temperature when you climbed? Did it make it harder?

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      The way down was easier but my knees did feel the pain nonetheless! 🙂

      I don’t know what the temperature was exactly but it was cold enough for us to see our breath. I think the cold temperature actually made it easier to climb because our bodies warmed up from all the physical exertion. I don’t recommend climbing Adam’s Peak when it’s hot but it usually isn’t that early in the morning anyways.

  • Hendrik Hünecke

    Great post, Hiking is something that we truly love since we live in Switzerland and have some great mountains here too. The best thing in my opinion is when you finally reach the top and you have this silence there and this special feeling that surrounds you, like the world becomes very small. Its a wonderful experience andeveryboy should at least try this out once in a lifetime. Fantastic pics, you really inspired me with this place, thank you for sharing!

  • Joseph Humphreys

    5200 steps!!! Wow, that is something else and a challenge indeed – the views at the top all make it so worth it, of course 🙂 And that triangle effect is simply cool – great capture there!

  • Jackie Taylor

    What incredible views!! That sounds like quite the experience! Great post. 🙂

  • Gareth Thompson

    Wow, that looks like an absolutely incredible place and regardless of your religious beliefs, it must have been a truly humbling experience. Certainly,it is not difficult to see from your shots why people place such importance on this place. In your shot with the weird triangular shadow, is that a constant feature or is that something you captured yourself?

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Hi Gareth! The pyramid shadow is a regular occurrence but if nobody tells you about it you might miss it. 🙂

  • Allison Van de Kemp (The Lazy

    Wow! This looks amazing. I would love to visit here someday. Thank you for sharing–the triangle shadow is so cool!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Hope you make it there one day (Sri Lanka is a wonderful country). 🙂

  • Wow, this looks amazing, and congratulations! What a great feat!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Hi Kasey! Thank you – it was amazing!

  • Oh wow, amazing photos. This would be a great place to visit. I think I’d be out of breath climbing though. I’m pretty out of shape. But I’d do it to see these views.

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      I was out of breath the whole time climbing but you can take as many breaks as you like – there really is no rush!

  • Juliet Cahow

    I can’t believe you made this trip! What an experience! I really enjoyed this read, your story is so beautiful. I love that this place has so much significance!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Thank you so much! It was a wonderful experience and once you’re up there the views are reward enough. 🙂

  • J’adore Le Décor

    Oh my goodness! This is amazing! You’re so brave to climb all the way up there. I’m afraid I will have to just enjoy your pics. LOL!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      haha…..glad you enjoyed climbing vicariously through my pics! 🙂

  • How cool. You must have been sore for days after that climb but it was clearly worth it. Not only for the spectacular views but the satisfaction of knowing you did it!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Hi Julie! Strangely I was only a little sore (I did a lot of stretching on the way up) but yes it was definitely worth it! 🙂

  • Oyinkan Ogunleye

    These are seriously beautiful images! What a view!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Hi Oyinkan! Thank you – it was a beautiful!

  • megkerns

    I love how you shared the requirements, customs and honest journey of your trip up the 5000+ steps! I can’t imagine doing that many steps… way to go, YOU!

    • Lydia@Lifeuntraveled.com

      Thank you so much! I was really proud of myself – I didn’t think I would make it even halfway up! 🙂