Hiking Adams Peak, Sri Lanka

At two in the morning I am jolted to life by a clanging alarm clock, as it buzzed enthusiastically beside me. The smell from our slightly damp guesthouse reminds me I’m nowhere familiar and I open my eyes to allow reality to land.

Night hiking is something I will only exclusively do if the sunrise on the other end is promised to be prodigious. I can assure you now Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) certainly delivered.

Adams Peak Sri Pada
As the sun sets over Adams Peak from Nallathanniya.

Surely now is the time to reconsider hiking Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) 2,243m, but there is no time to lose, our tuk tuk arrives in 15 minutes to take us to the base, Dalhousie, and I desperately needed to brush my teeth.

The sanctification of Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) is revered by the four dominant faiths in Sri Lanka; the Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims alike. It is steeped in mystery, myth, legend, and chronicled history, therefore, Sri Pada is the only mountain in the world to provide refuge to the followers of all four faiths.

If you’re still wondering why?

Firstly, I like to see the world with my feet. Secondly, I will never pass up on the opportunity for spiritual enlightenment, even if in the guise of a grueling two hour vertical climb.

Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) is surrounded by exceptionally dense forest, similar to that of the lower regions of the Himalayas. A cool misty forest with giant trees and rhododendrons which put forth large red blossoms, much of it making up the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary all being revealed once sun rises for the descent.

Adams Peak Sri Pada
First, First light from the top of Adams Peak

I’d been wanting to hike Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) for years, it is on my bucket list after all. But alas, I had no idea what the catch was, there seemed to be so many different recommendations, so read below for mine. Hiked in September – the off season.

How did you get there? We had a driver, more on that at the bottom. But it’s also possible to arrive by bus (very easy from the train station, from what I’m told).

Do I need a guide? Nope! No-one does actually. It’s completely self guided.

Where to stay? Dalhousie is close to the base but it can be busy. We stayed in Nallathanniya.

What is ‘off season’? Essentially June to November. I was pleasantly surprised that hiking in September was still possible (I was assured it wouldn’t be due to heavy rainfall, but I guess we were lucky?) This did mean that there were no cafes and no obvious toilets for the entire climb. It also meant that the temple on top of the mountain was closed – no prayers for us!

How long did it take? With low crowds, it took us two hours to reach the summit, we had a gnarly hour wait on the top for first light. Many ginger biscuits and much eavesdropping of fellow travelers later, we made a slow descent and arrived back at the base by nine in the morning.

Adams Peak Sri Pada
First light from the top of Adams Peak

What’s the actual hike like? From the pictures you can see there are zero plateau’s. You are literally climbing vertically for two hours straight. The steps start nice and gradual and then about thirty minutes in, they are uneven, steep and…well… vertical. Despite all that, I didn’t mind the ascent so much (we just took rest as we needed it) but coming down was the worst. Knee, ankle and hip joints took the brunt of the descent and I felt every muscle, ligament and tendon aching for the next day or so.

Any tips for the top? Yep, when you arrive use your iphone compass to figure out which direction east is (where the sun will rise) and find a good spot if you have time to wait. It’s F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G on the top and can get windy, so pack some extra layers or a wind proof jacket.

Adams Peak Sri Pada
The never ending staircase…

Any other tips? For us there were plenty of opportunities en route for a blessing with the local monks. We felt it good to contribute… but we quickly realised how many ‘blessings’ were to be had and we stopped at two. My advice; don’t feel obliged but also, don’t be stingy.

Do NOT forget to bring snacks and water.

Rubbish bins were over flowing the day we climbed so do your bit and take your trash with you (including tissues, food wrappers and food waste)

The path is not lit during off season so a head torch is essential.

Adams Peak Sri Pada
Sunrise never felt so good

Annnnd, that’s it!

If you’re going to hike Sri Pada good luck and I hope this helps!

Now! As I mentioned above, we traveled Sri Lanka mostly by driver (due to time pressures) and we honestly had no idea what the deal was before arriving so let me fill you in, because we found this information hard to come by:

  • Usually the cost per day includes driver meals but not accommodation. Before booking your own accommodation, check if they have driver rooms. Otherwise you’re either paying an additional 1,500Rs (ish) for your driver or your paying double.
  • Usually the price is quoted in USD. Depending on the distance, you’re looking at approx U$D50-70.
  • Discuss the arrangement up front. Is the driver a guide as well or just paid for transportation? Are you and the driver content with the arrangement?
  • We found drivers hard to find because we’d avoided the tourist loop so, we had to ask our hotel for help, which always comes with it’s list of wearies.
  • Uber is here! (mostly used just in Colombo) There’s also an app called Pick Me where you can choose the type of vehicle you’d like for the distance and the price adjusts, plus you can book in advance. We found this wasn’t possible in smaller towns but really responsive near larger cities.
  • Buses are easy, you’ll always get a seat, but they stop often.
  • Unfortunately time permitting, we were unable to take the train during our travels. However they come highly recommended.

So there you have it! As always: Like, share, comment or give me a big thumbs up on Insty @whoislexiconnors

Want to read more about Sri Lanka? Why not read my Top 5 Tips!

Next week: My ramblings on learning to Kite Surf! Stay tuned….


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