Climbing Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) in Sri Lanka
So in order to get some exercise on your holiday you decided to climb Adams Peak (Sri Pada). Nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a popular spot and is there to be climbed. I was in the same boat and thought that being able to watch the sun rise and mist burn away from the hills as I look down on them wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a morning. This 2243mtr (7,360ft) mountain is the most famous in Sri Lanka and is a pilgrimage site for Buddhist but has meaning for other religions too. You may be surprised to hear that his is only the 5th highest mountain in Sri Lanka but as it is where Adam first set foot on earth or is a mountain Buddha visited then you can see why it is the most famous. Sri Pada means sacred foot and the written history of Adam’s Peak as a pilgrimage site goes back over 1,700 years.
How to climb Adam’s Peak – How to get there
You need to get to the town of Nallathanniya (Dalhousie) which is a long narrow windy road away from anywhere. The drive is beautiful with great scenery and plenty of tea plantations on the way but it is slow going. It is approximately 3.5hrs from Kandy (all mountains), 3.5hrs from Nuwara Eliya (all mountains) and 5hrs from Colombo.
How to climb Adam’s Peak – The town of Nallathanniya (1,200mtrs)
To sum it up – nothing. Nallathanniya is only there to house pilgrims for Adams Peak. There are plenty of stalls that sell anything from little statues to clothes to balls. Surprisingly they seem to sell an awful lot of kid’s toys which I didn’t really understand. These stalls continue from the town into the lower section of the climb. Well known accommodation like Slightly Chilled is approximately a 10min walk from the official start at the wrong end of town whereas Singh (Sing) Brothers is right at the very start of the climb just over the bridge. I stayed in Singh Brothers and they are very nice but the accommodation is basic. But if it is location you are interested in then it couldn’t be better.
My strong advice would be to leave Nallathanniya once you are finished the climb. Maybe go somewhere like Nuwara Eliya if you planned to go to Hortons Plain. You will be back from Adam’s Peak at approximately 10am so it gives plenty of opportunity to get to somewhere more productive or relaxing for the following day.
How to climb Adam’s Peak – Climbing Adams Peak
It is a 1000mtr (3300ft) accent to climb Sri Pada from Nallathanniya. There are two good things about this climb. First of all there is no altitude to deal with so altitude sickness is not a problem. The second which makes a 1000mtr climb much easier is the steps. The whole climb is completed on concrete steps which I thought were in very good condition despite what any guide book may tell you.
The climb will take between 2.5hrs to 4hrs to get to the top depending on fitness. The aim is to be at the top for sunrise which happens at about 6am. Most people aim to be at the top for around 5 to 5:30am which means leaving between 2-3am. Of course you are going to do some sweating so make sure you bring some warm clothes for the top as it can be chilly in the wind if you are waiting around looking at all the moths up there (A strange phenomenon). The earlier you get up there the better a spot you will be in for the sunrise as good vantage points are limited. Of course the downside is that you are waiting in the cold and dark for over an hour at least. Sri Pada can also be climbed during the day if you are really against getting up at 2am.
A few minutes into the climb you are scooted off the path briefly in order to pass some Buddhist monks and give a donation. They ask for 1000ruppees and it is all off tourists. This is them basically chancing their arm to get extra money. This is only a ‘donation’ and is not an entrance fee. As long as you are aware of this then you can make your own choice. But if you are surprised like I was and pushed along with it all done so quickly it seems like you have to pay it which is not the case. It left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
The whole climb is lit up by lights so there is no need to bring a torch (Out of season the lights are off, see below). There are plenty of tea stations along the way for the whole climb so you could actually get away without bringing food/water but it is better to bring something more substantial for yourself as it is mainly snacks/chocolate at the stops.
How to climb Adam’s Peak – The top and Sri Pada
From the town the temple on top looks huge and spectacular. From the top the temple is not spectacular at all. The views are wonderful but the temple is not. It has the same footprint as a helicopter pad and that is about it. You can see the temple in 10minutes. The views of the surrounding countryside on the otherhand are worth the trip and does make the trip a little spiritual. The only pity is that you can only see one side at a time and the views from the top are a little obscured by fences and bushes. If you arrive at the top early it is probably worth seeing the temple first so you can start the decent earlier after sunrise.
The toilets are at the back of the temple, the other side from the way you got up.
How to climb Adam’s Peak – When to go
Peak season is January to March but new years and full moons are to be avoided at all costs. I know of two people who went separately during these times and didn’t get to the top because of the crowds. It can take from 6-10hrs to get up! Sri Lankan new year’s (mid-April) is also to be avoided. I went on a weekday in January and had no problems with crowds. The weekends are also much busier and should be avoided if possible. The stairs is reasonably wide at the bottom but towards the top it is almost single file so with huge crowds this really backs up. The pilgrimage season lasts until around May. After this the lights are turned off and most tea-stations are not open but Sri Pada is still available to climb as normal. You just have to be a little more self sufficient.
You can be unlucky with the weather and if it is raining the whole experience can be miserable so make sure to look this up before you make your final journey to Nallathanniya. During the summer (off season) there can often be heavy rain in the evenings but this should stop before midnight.