Sri Lanka is an island that rests amidst the waves of the Indian Ocean towards the foot end of Southern Asia, upholding a great history and a rich setting with scenic beauty. This little pearl, the world-famous tourist center, showcases its beauty usually abided with a historical significance. For instance, the sacred Adam’s Peak, the second-highest mountain, adds bizarre importance to the tourism field of the country.
It is not only one of the most sacred places which hold a great history, but a peak that is also well-known for hiking, trekking, and discovering. Thus, one can see people flooding towards Adam’s Peak throughout the year for all the purposes mentioned above.
However, there can still be visitors who are not aware of this wonderful attraction. Hence, we thought of focusing this read on this beautiful destination, Adam’s Peak. So, why not? Let us get to know about this splendid location in detail!
What is Adam’s Peak Famous For?
Adam’s Peak, mostly known as ‘Sri Pada’ in Sri Lanka, is probably famous more than any other mountain in Sri Lanka, especially for both cultural and spiritual reasons.
It is sacred to at least three religions as per their beliefs; Buddhism, Hinduism, and Muslims. The ‘holy footprint’ that is rock-imprinted on the top of the peak makes this dilemma. Precisely, each religion tends to believe that this impression represents their religious leaders.
- Buddhists – It is the footprint of Lord Buddha, marked on his third journey to Sri Lanka.
- Hindus – It belongs to Shiva, and is popular as the ‘Mountain of Shiva’s Light’.
- Muslims – Adam created it, as he came down to Earth.
Hence, the peak itself blows tremendous stress down on people. It makes people climb this diversified sacred mountain and clear out their burning curiosities.
Further, the Shrine to Saman, a Buddhist ‘deity’, is next to the footprint charged to guard the mountain top and the impression. It also holds a significant role when it comes to Adam’s Peak and its importance.
Not only the footprint but also the footpath that leads the way to the top of the peak carries a considerable amount of fame, obviously because of its scenic beauty and hardness. In fact, climbing the mountain is the hardest thing that the pilgrims mostly encounter. It has different levels with unique names and unique significance to guide people and to aid in washing out their tired journeys till they reach the top.
Sneak Peek into the History of the Peak
The history of this venerated mountain peak runs back toward 89BC, the Anuradhapura Kingdom of Sri Lanka. With the commendable contribution of several Kings who reigned Sri Lanka back in the time, Adam’s Peak has become accessible and protected.
Who Built Adam’s Peak?
Long before the establishment of kingdoms and the development of religions, a set of indigenous inhabitants of Sri Lanka called the Veddas had worshipped this mountain. They had neither known about the impression or the story behind the mountain, but their homage towards the deity Saman has led them to consider this as sacred. Hence, the name they have given to the summit was ‘Samanala Kanda’.
According to ancient beliefs, however, the first person to discover the impression is King Valagamba. He discovered it when he was in exile to the mountain wilderness, better known as the ‘domain of Sacred footprint’ to retreat, ravaging Cholans. It says that a deity in the form of a stag had led him to the summit of the mountain. Hence, it is not essentially a discovery, but an accidental exploration that took place for the betterment of the Sri Lankans. Thereafter, the footprint of the Buddha had been immensely devoted by royalty to ordinary people without exception. Since then the summit has been receiving thousands of pilgrims every year.
The Historical Incidents Abided with Adam’s Peak
The first historical mention of the summit goes back to the reigning period of King Vijayabahu (1065-1119 AD). This is not a belief, but a piece of recorded historical evidence in chronicles and inscriptions related to the footprint of Adam’s Peak. He, King Vijayabahu, has dedicated a village called ‘Gilimale’ from his territory to the domain of sacred footprints. This is as a result of him seeing the hardships undergone by the devotees when they trek up the summit. Hence, giving away ‘Gilimale’ which is on the way to the Samanthakuta makes a resting area for the pilgrims who climb up to worship Buddha’s footprint. This was recorded in the stone inscriptions of Vijayabahu found in Gilimale and Ambagamuwa authenticating the words in the chronicles.
Further, he has contributed to building shelters along its route. Then the relief was continued by King Parakramabahu on the 2nd (1255-1284 AD) by clearing out the jungles and building a road and bridges to the mountain.
Aftermath the King Nissankamalla (1198 – 1206 AD) re-granted the village Ambagamuwa and built up a concrete slab to protect the footprint after having visited Samanthakuta with his four-fold army. His devotion towards the impression ultimately protected the footprint for future generations.
Other Significant Contributions to the Development of Sri Pada
The following personalities contributed on different scales to the development of Adam’s Peak.
- Devaprathiraja (Minister of Parakramabahu the 2nd)
- Constructed roads leading to the mountain while installing iron chains on iron posts to make the ascent easy
- Conducted great festivities in celebrating the worship of the Footprint.
- King Vimaladharmasuriya (1592-1603 AD)
- Built a silver umbrella over the footprint to ensure the establishment of the footprint
- King Kirthi Sri Rajasinhe (1746-1778)
- Restored the temple properties frozen by King Sitawake Rajasinghe
- The village called Kuttapitiya and the copper plate charter in support of this donation is still in existence.
The thousands of devotees who make their annual pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak today do not get a chance to realize the difficulties their ancestors had to undergo. They have the opportunity to experience a much easier journey up to the summit. Whatever route they undertook to ascend the peak their difficulties must have been almost insurmountable.
Where is Adam’s Peak?
This 2243m (7358ft) high conical summit is located in the hill country, in Central Sri Lanka. Precisely, one can find this in the Southern reaches of the Central Highlands in the Rathnapura district and Nuwara Eliya District of the Sabaragamuwa Province and Central Province. Approximately, it is located 40 km northeast of Rathnapura and 32 km southwest of Hatton.
The surrounding is largely covered with forest hills with no mountain of comparable size in the nearby vicinity. The whole area including the mountain itself is a habitat for wildlife species varying from elephants to reptiles along with many endemic species.
The peak is important as a watershed as well. The districts to both the south and the east of Adam’s Peak yield precious gems such as; emeralds, rubies, and sapphires for which the island is famous for following the name Ratnadeepa.
Further, Adam’s Peak is the origination point of four major rivers that distribute water to all four directions of the island; Mahaweli river, Kelani river, Walawe river, and Kalu river.
Thus, Adam’s peak is located in one of the highly resourceful areas that one can find on this little island, Sri Lanka.
Paths to the Peak
One can access either one of 6 possible trails to reach the mountain;
The Nallathanni and Palabaddala routes are mostly used by those undertaking the climb. Comparingly, the Kuruwita-Erathna trail is used rarely. Each of these trails is connected to major cities or towns with bus routes taking the popular use into account. The Murray Watt, Mookuwatte, and Malimboda routes are rarely used since they do intersect with the Palabaddal trail midway through the ascent. The most used trail is ascent via Hatton and descent via Ratnapura. Even though the steepest is the Hatton trail, it is approximately 5km earlier when compared with the other trails.
Once Palbadalla, Nallathannai, or Erathna, the starting ‘nodes’ are reached, the rest of the ascent has to be done on foot. It is not less than a hard journey on the steps built into the forested mountainside. One has to ascent thousands of cement or rough-stone steps to reach the summit from the base. Making night-time ascent possible, the trails are illuminated with electric light. Providing refreshments and supplies to thousands of pilgrims, rest stops, and wayside shops beside the trails.
Hiking Adam’s Peak
The considerably tough, steep hike up to the sacred summit of Adam’s Peak is indeed a challenge undertaken by many Sri Lankans. Besides, there is a belief that a Sri Lankan should take this challenge at least once in his/her lifetime. The harder the journey gets, the more the experience the traveler receives.
The season for Hiking Adam’s Peak
The pilgrimage season usually marks from December to May. During this season the route is illuminated by a dazzling ribbon of lights which is visible from miles away. Simply, it gives the look of a trail of stars leading into the heavens. Out of season, one will need a torch.
From June to November, it marks the off-season. The pathway is neither illuminated nor filled with pilgrims. Thus, the travelers are urged to do the hike at least in pairs and are expected to spend a huge amount of money on a travel guide.
How Long does it Take to Hike Adam’s Peak?
Approximately, the hike to Adam’s Peak would take 3-4 hours, yet it differs according to the path you take.
One can start the 7km climb from Dalhousie soon after dark or you can wait until about 2 am to start. The climb is up most of the way, about 5200 of them. A 2.30 am start should easily get you there before dawn, which is around 6.30 am. Start on a Poya day or a weekend, though, and the throng of pilgrims will add hours and hours to your climb.
How Hard is it to Climb Adam’s Peak?
Of course, it is hard to climb Adam’s Peak. The following sections will provide you a full overview of its ascent, and descent, along with the delight of reaching its peak.
The Ascent of the Hike
Starting from the car park, the slope is gradual for the first half-hour, passing under an entrance arch and then by the Japan–Sri Lanka Friendship Dagoba. The pathway seems steeper until it reaches a continuous flight of stairs. There are tea houses at the top; in the season they open even at night. A few are open out of season. The authorities have banned litter, alcohol, tobacco, meat, and recorded music, so the atmosphere remains reverential.
Many pilgrims prefer the longer, more tiring seven-hour ascent from Ratnapura via the Carney Estate owing to the greater merit thus gained.
It is not worth reaching the top long before dawn then sitting around shivering since the peak can be cold. As dawn reaches the holy mountain, the diffuse morning light unveils the Hill Country standing in the east and the land sloping down to the coast of the west. Hence, 65 away, Colombo is easily visible on a clear day and vice-versa.
Adam’s Peak preserves its most breathtaking moment for immediately after dawn. The sun casts a perfect shadow of the summit onto the misty clouds down towards the coast. When the sun rises higher, this fabulous triangular shadow runs back towards the peak disappearing into its foot.
It is worth staying until the morning offering before descending. Yet the sun and heat rise quickly, thus, it is better not to idle on the top.
The Descent of the Hike
Perhaps the hardest part is coming down. The never-ending steps can shake the strongest knees. Thus, if your shoes don’t fit well, you can add in crushed toes and blisters. Walking poles or even just a sturdy stick will make the descent much less jarring on your legs. It is better to stretch your legs when you finish, and having a massage is indeed essential!
How to Get Ready for the Hike?
Hiking Adam’s Peak indeed needs good preparation. The following points will let you know exactly how you should get ready to hike Adam’s Peak.
- Definitely wear hiking boots if you have them, or else good-quality sports shoes when you hike Adam’s Peak.
- Warm clothes and plenty of water are essential.
- A hat is a must since the morning sun intensifies quickly.
- Make sure you carry less stuff in your backpack other than the essentials as the journey is not so easy until it finishes.
Where to Stay in Adam’s Peak?
There is a wide array of accommodation facilities around Adam’s peak. In fact, you can find several guest houses, restaurants, lodges, home-stays, and bungalows as well. So, all you have to do is to choose a place to stay, considering your budget. The cost for accommodation varies highly based on your selection, and the facilities they offer. Thus, it is hard to mention a specific range of costs for accommodation facilities at Adam’s Peak. However, if you are planning to climb Adam’s Peak at night, and arrive at the peak at dawn, you really do not need a place to stay. The best would be to arrive at the starting point at dusk, and to hike the mountain at night!
The Bottom Line
A journey to Adam’s Peak should not remain more in any of your bucket lists now as you have all the required details from the historical importance to the experience you gain from it in this article. So, pack your stuff and get ready to tick off it from your bucket list, and experience one of the best that one can gain. So, if you haven’t climbed Adam’s Peak yet, now it is time. Happy and Safe Journey!