The Complete Guide To Hiking Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka

Adam’s Peak, or Sri Pada, is one of the most significant sites in all of Sri Lanka. It is a holy site for a number of religions, mainly Buddhists who believe that at the top of the mountain is the footprint of Buddha himself. For the Hindu, they believe it is the footprint of Shiva. For Muslims and Christians, they believe it is the footprint of Adam, hence the English name of Adam’s Peak. For most people reading this, you probably don’t really care whose footprint it is. So for tourists, let’s just say it is the footprint of the guy who invented Instagram or whatever.

Whatever your religion or purpose of visit, Adam’s Peak is one of the best things you can do in all of Sri Lanka. The challenge, the beauty, and the unique experience makes it a type of adventure you can only find in Sri Lanka. It’s tough but it is worth it.

How To Get To Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka

Adam’s Peak is a bit of a mission to get to by public transportation. If you want to be right at the trailhead of Adam’s Peak, you are going to want to stay overnight at Nallathanniya. The most straightforward way to get to Nallathanniya is to take a bus or train to Hatton and then take another bus to Nallathanniya. Nallathanniya is about an hour from Hatton’s railway station, so it’s still a bit of a journey to get there even after you get to Hatton.

When Is The Best Time To Hike Adam’s Peak?

The best time of year for hiking Adam’s Peak is between the months of December to May. April is supposedly the best time of year to hike it, factoring into account all of the potential weather patterns. After May, you are more likely to face harsher winds, heavy rainstorms, and mist that might prevent you from seeing anything at all. It would not be fun to hike all the way up there only to be stuck in a big, fat cloud.

What To Bring When Hiking Adam’s Peak

You don’t really need to bring much at all. Streetlights and shops line the entire way up. You can bring your own water and snacks but like I said, there is a constant stream of shops and restaurants along the trail. Just bring toilet paper in case mother nature calls because in the rare chance you find a toilet, there likely won’t be any toilet paper.

Another thing to consider bringing might be warmer clothes. It does get chilly at the top so a change of clothes or a jacket might be useful to bring. A towel to wipe off the sweat might also be useful. Depending how long you plan on staying on the mountain, sunscreen might come in handy as the sun starts getting stronger.

How Difficult Is Adam’s Peak?

Despite Adam’s Peak’s intimidating height of 2,243 meters (7,359 feet), it is not a particularly difficult hike. It is one of the tallest mountains in all of Sri Lanka but thanks to its popularity among pilgrims, the trail is entirely paved, well-lit even at night, and lined with vendors selling drinks, snacks, and even proper meals. The 5,500+ stairs and a 2 AM start sound a lot worse than it actually is once you get started.

Adam’s Peak is more of a test of endurance rather than just a test of actual hiking ability. There is no scrambling, no rough terrain, no real need for proper hiking gear and so on. If old ladies can make it to the top of Adam’s Peak barefoot, so can you. It is a very well-paved trail and the stairs are not overwhelmingly steep or uneven.

The key to finishing Adam’s Peak is to pace yourself. You will struggle at times but you will get there eventually.

If you are in great physical shape, you can probably reach the top in two hours or less. If you are in average physical shape, I’d say two and a half to three hours is sufficient time. If you are in relatively poor physical shape, then give yourself up to four hours, including lots of breaks.

What Time Should You Start Hiking Adam’s Peak?

You should aim to start hiking Adam’s Peak from Nallathanniya at 2:30 AM at the latest, depending on your level of physical fitness. Check when the sunrise starts and try to get to the peak at least 30 minutes before.

The hike starts off pretty easy, with a lot of stairs but relatively little incline. It follows an uphill – flat – uphill – flat pattern for about the first third of the hike before the incline starts picking up. It gives you a good warmup for the more difficult stretches towards the top.

There isn’t much room at the peak itself but you are going to at least want to check out the foot of the Buddha and ring the bell at the top. After that, you basically just need to find a good spot to catch the sunrise. There isn’t much space at the top at all, and what little space there is will be occupied by people who decided to sleep overnight at the peak.

Finding a good spot to catch the sunrise was one of the more frustrating parts because it does get crowded and with the trail being entirely stairs, there is not much room to veer off to catch an unobstructed view of the landscapes. The lights that guide your way to the top also stay on until a little bit after the sun rises. Those bright fluorescent lights definitely take away from the stunning views.

While I don’t think there is a perfect spot to watch the sunrise, I think it’s best to slowly work your way down as soon as the first bit of light starts to hit. It is about two hours until the bottom and you are going to want to stop frequently to take pictures. Once the Sri Lankan sun gets stronger, the sizzling heat will make you miserable. There is no shortage of views on the way down so don’t think you are missing out on much by not being at the very top. The crowded chaos at the top will only ruin your experience. Basically, you get to the top just to say you’ve made it to the top, and the views are ubiquitous throughout. 

One of the best parts of this hike is that you really have no idea what you are doing all of this for until the sun starts to rise. Blindly trudging on with no real payoff for four hours can be disheartening but maintain a positive attitude because trust me, these views are breathtaking.

You don’t realize just how high up above the rest of the country you are until you start to see the silhouettes of the mountain ranges in the purpling background. The vast valleys, shimmering lakes, and lush mountains all come to sight at once as the gentle dawn slowly bursts into a fiery sunrise.

Adam’s Peak is a challenge. But it is a challenge that comes with immense rewards. The sunrise will be one of the most beautiful that you will ever see, if not the most beautiful.

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16 thoughts on “The Complete Guide To Hiking Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka

    1. Sounds like an awesome place to visit. Shall put it on my list.. I love anything that involves working up a sweat to get to the top of a decent hill.

  1. Your description of the hike itself reminds me of my experience with Table Mountain in Cape Town. Not a really difficult hike at all, but it definitely tested my endurance! I’d love to try a dawn hike though, it sounds amazing!

  2. I like the fact that you don’t have to bring so much stuff as there are shops around on the way up. That’s pretty cool, at least we can stock up snacks and water.

  3. This is truly a bucket list item! The views would be breathtaking and the villages below so interesting!

  4. My aunt went there after the tsunami several years back. I have heard tons of stories about how beautiful of a place it is. I would love to visit sometime!

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