Adam’s Peak, otherwise known as Sri Pada (or Sacred Footprint), lies alongside the small town of Dalhousie in the beautiful hill country of Sri Lanka. With a whopping 5 500 steps, Adam’s Peak has made a name for itself as being a sacred mountain and draws scores of pilgrims due to its spiritual significance.
If you’re looking for an adventure in Sri Lanka, then here’s a complete guide to climbing Adam’s Peak.
The story behind Adam’s Peak pilgrimage
The summit of Adam’s Peak sits at 2 243m and is home to a 1.8m rock formation. This is believed to be the footprint of Buddha. Christians believe that this footprint belongs to Adam, whilst Hindus believe the sacred footprint is that of Shiva.
Every year, thousands of Sri Lankans make the annual pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak to pay homage to this sacred footprint. Tourists have since joined in their numbers to experience the pilgrimage for themselves.
Where is Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka?
Adam’s Peak, Dalhousie is situated in the middle of Sri Lanka’s hill country – not to be confused with Little Adam’s Peak in Ella.
These are two completely different hikes and no, you cannot stay in Ella and do both Adam’s Peak and Little Adam’s Peak in one day.
How to get to Adam’s Peak in Dalhousie, Sri Lanka
Dalhousie: the main town near Adam’s Peak
So, let’s first get our bearings right!
The closest village to this sacred mountain is Dalhousie. This is where you’ll stay if you’re planning on climbing Adam’s Peak. You may want to search for “Nallathanniya” instead of Dalhousie as it’s more prominent on Google searches. Unfortunately, there are no trains that go directly to Dalhousie.
Hatton: the main train station near Adam’s Peak
The closest train station to Dalhousie is in the small town of Hatton. Hatton station is about 2.5 hours into the Kandy to Ella train ride. You can check out the full train schedule here.
Getting from Hatton to Dalhousie (Adam’s Peak)
Once you’ve arrived in Hatton, you can either take a public bus or tuk-tuk to Dalhousie, Sri Lanka.
If you opt for a tuk-tuk ride from Hatton to Dalhousie, it will take about 60 minutes and costs around 2 000 LKR ($11). I’d recommend you go one way by tuk-tuk so that you can stop along the way and admire the spectacular views.
During the Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season, there are direct buses from the Hatton train station to Dalhousie, Sri Lanka.
However, this is not the case out of season. If you travel to Adam’s Peak off season, the bus trip may take a bit longer as it is not direct from Hatton to Dalhousie, and there are lots of stops along the way. The bus is the slower, less comfortable option and takes over 2 hours.
However, if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, I highly advise you to travel as the locals do. I did this on my way from Hatton to Dalhousie. Although it took nearly 4 hours due to a landslide (which had blocked the road) it was certainly an experience I will never forget.
Adam’s Peak hike: 5 things you need to know
1) How hard is climbing Adam’s Peak – Just how many steps are there?
And no, it’s not!
Over 5 500 steps lead the way to Adam’s Peak. The entire route is paved and it’s easy to navigate to the top without a guide. But don’t underestimate just how many steps there are, and just how steep these stairs are.
For 2 days after my hike up Adam’s Peak, I was man-down, and I struggled to move around. Whilst hiking Adam’s Peak is manageable, it’s most certainly not an easy climb and does require some level of fitness.
If you’re looking for an easier hike in Sri Lanka, I’d suggest you try Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya or Little Adam’s Peak in Ella instead.
2) When’s the best time to climb Adam’s Peak?
Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season (December to May)
Adam’s Peak pilgrimage season runs from December to May. During these months the weather conditions are perfect for hiking, bringing with them spectacular sunrises. The stairwell leading to the top of Adam’s Peak is all lit up with tea lights and the atmosphere is electrifying.
However, climbing Adam’s Peak between December and May brings with it a large influx of pilgrims all making their way to the top of this sacred mountain. Mothers bring bags of gifts for Buddha, fathers carry their children as they sleep, and the elderly are assisted carefully up the steps by their younger relatives.
There are often queues of pilgrims and reaching the top can take over 5 hours due to traffic that comes to a stand-still. It’s best to avoid climbing Adam’s Peak over New Year, a full moon (known as “Poya” days) or on weekends.
Climbing Adam’s Peak off season
If you’re planning on climbing Adam’s Peak off season, your experience will be completely different from those who hiked during the pilgrimage.
Firstly, the route is quiet with very few people making their way to the top. Personally, I preferred this as I don’t like crowds.
However, this also meant that there isn’t that festive atmosphere and there are no lights leading to the peak. Out of season, the temple grounds at the summit are also closed and there are very few vendors along the route.
The weather can be unpredictable and you’re less likely to have that perfect sunrise. There is also a chance of rainy weather making the steps slippery so you will need to be properly prepared for your climb.
Adam’s Peak weather in October
When I climbed Adam’s Peak in October, I had a clear, starry night with only the moon lighting up the path. I often stopped dead in my tracks and just stared at the sky above as it was incredible.
However, the moment I got to the top of Adam’s Peak, massive clouds formed, and the sunrise was non-existent.
In contrast, the next morning proved to be a very different story as the people who hiked Adam’s Peak had a breathtaking sunrise. Predicting the weather near Adam’s Peak in the off season is virtually impossible.
3) How much does climbing Adam’s Peak cost?
Climbing Adam’s Peak won’t cost you a cent! There is no entrance fee, however, there are a number of points where donations can be made to the Monks.
Personally, I felt that I was bombarded by Monks asking for donations when I climbed Adam’s Peak. This could be because there are fewer people climbing the sacred mountain off season. The Monks therefore approach every single tourist, not realizing that we’ve been stopped over 10 times in the past 5 minutes!
4) How long does it take to get to the top of Adam’s Peak?
If you want to see the sunrise, you’ll need to arrive at the steps of Adam’s Peak by 02:30 am. You should reach the summit 3 hours later at 05:30 am.
Getting back down takes around 2 hours and this is when you’ll grasp just how many steps there are.
5) What to pack when you climb Adam’s peak
- Proper shoes: Trainers are sufficient as you need to climb an infinite amount of steps
- Head torch: During the pilgrimage season this is not necessary as the path is lit up. However, you will need a head torch if you climb Adam’s Peak at any other time as there are no lights and the route is completely dark
- Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen: It gets very hot on the walk back down so make sure you’re prepared for this
- Wear long socks: This should be standard with every hike you do in Sri Lanka as there are leeches everywhere
- Warm clothes: Don’t underestimate how cold it is at the top of Adam’s Peak, especially if you have to wait for the sun to rise
- Snacks and water: 1.5 litres per person should be enough
- Money: Bring some change to give as a donation to the Monks. There is also hot tea and snacks for sale along the route
Adam’s Peak itinerary
Although Adam’s Peak is in the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country, it’s still quite a detour from the main Kandy to Ella route.
1-day Adam’s Peak itinerary
If you’re pressed for time, you can easily give yourself one night to stay in Dalhousie, Sri Lanka. This is the Adam’s Peak itinerary that most people opt for.
If this is the case, you will arrive in Hatton around 11:12 am (if you’re taking the train from Kandy to Hatton). You then need to take a bus or tuk-tuk from Hatton to Dalhousie and you will arrive by 14:00, giving you enough time to explore the village.
It will be an early night for you as you’ll be up by 02:00 to start your hike. After you’ve climbed Adam’s Peak, aim to be back at your hotel by 08:00. You’ll then have enough time to get to Hatton and make either the 11:14 or 14:30 train from Hatton to Ella.
You’ll be exhausted but at least you would have made it to Adam’s Peak.
2-day Adam’s Peak itinerary
If time is on your side, I highly recommend spending another night in Dalhousie. Whilst there isn’t much else to do near Adam’s Peak, you will need the time to rest and catch up on some much-needed sleep. Climbing Adam’s Peak will take it all out of you!
Another reason to spend an extra night in Dalhousie is so that you don’t rush your Adam’s Peak hike as many people hurry back down in order to make the early train from Hatton.
The day I hiked Adam’s Peak was overcast and cloudy at the top, with no view. Most people saw this and then went straight back down. However, because I’d given myself an extra day in Dalhousie, I wasn’t so rushed to get off Adam’s Peak. After waiting about 30 minutes at the top, the sun peeked through the clouds, opening up the sky and giving us a spectacular view of the valleys below.
Adam’s Peak accommodation
You will find many hotels and homestays in Dalhousie (Nallathanniya) which is the gateway to Adam’s Peak. Most will offer an early morning service to drop you at the entrance of Adam’s Peak so be sure to confirm this with your hotel the night before.
- Subash Hotel: Subash Hotel is situated just outside Dalhousie and is about a 10-15 minute drive from Adam’s Peak. It’s close to the local villages and lies amongst the forest giving you views of the dam and surrounding valley. At only $20 per night for two people, including a hot shower, the price is extremely affordable. Subash Hotel also has its own restaurant and the food here is delicious and well-priced.
- Mountain Villa Adam’s Peak: If you’re looking to spend the night closer to the entrance of Adam’s Peak, then Mountain Villa is $36. The plus side of this spot is that you can roll out of bed, straight onto the steps leading toward Adam’s Peak.
Is climbing Adam’s Peak worth it?
To be totally honest, Adam’s Peak is a prime example of the journey being more important than the destination.
Why you should climb Adam’s Peak
The drive from Hatton to Dalhousie (Adam’s Peak) is absolutely gorgeous. Throughout my 4-weeks in Sri Lanka, this route was by far the most scenic I came across, with rolling hills and endless tea plantations.
Unlike the beaches down south, there aren’t many tourists exploring Dalhousie and I felt like I was in a country that had never experienced tourism. It was incredible.
And the actual hike?
My honest opinion – climbing Adam’s Peak was a bit of a let-down.
Why? Because unlike other hikes in Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak was literally just walking up an infinite number of stairs.
For over 3 hours you climb 5 500 steps all on a paved and “safe” route in one direction – up. I prefer the more natural hikes where you get lost on a trail.
Whilst the view from the top was spectacular, there were buildings blocking the view and barb-wire stopping people from climbing onto the structures which offered better views.
Why do you want to climb Adam’s peak?
Adam’s Peak is a holy mountain and needs to be appreciated as such.
Whilst I do think climbing Adam’s Peak off season is better because of the fewer people, I also think that it’s the pilgrims who make it such a special and unique mountain to climb. To be a part of the Adam’s Peak pilgrimage with thousands of Sri Lankans, young and old.
So yes, climbing Adam’s peak is worth it if you can appreciate the beauty in the area. If you have time to take in the views and interact with the locals as I did, or if you take part in the annual pilgrimage.
If you just want to do a hike and you’re pressed for time, rather give Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak a go.