Adam’s Peak: Site Details

First capital of ancient Lanka

Every religious person in Sri Lanka is expected to climb Adam's Peak at least once in their lifetime, and preferably several times. As the Buddha is supposed to have left his sri patul (footprint) here, the Sinhalese refer to the mountain as Sri Pada ("Sacred Footprint"), and consider it one of the 16 most sacred places in the country. But adherents to other religions also make pilgrimages here. The Hindus see in the Buddha an incarnation of Vishnu, or believe that the footprint was left by the god Shiva, performing the dance of creation. The Christians believe the footprint belongs to the doubting apostle St. Thomas before his martyrdom in Madras (Chennai). And the Muslims say it is Adam's footprint, who was serving a thousand-year sentence on one leg for misconduct in Paradise. Whatever their religious affiliation, pilgrims have been journeying to Adam's Peak for more than 1000 years. Culminating at 2243 m, Adam's Peak is not the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, but its perfect, conical silhouette endows it with a majestic quality.

Nowadays, a long flight of 6000 or so steps, cut or built into the bedrock, enables pilgrims to make the ascent, weather permitting, between December and April, with most people beginning their pilgrimage from Dalhousie (pronounced "del-house"). For these months, the path to the summit is a long series of shops selling tea and sweets, caps to protect pilgrims' heads from the icy wind on the top, religious images and alarm clocks, against a background of loudspeakers pouring out devout blessings. At weekends and on full-moon (poya) days during the pilgrimage season, up to 20,000 people of all ages make their way up the narrow path leading to the summit. Right at the top, on the tiny platform, pilgrims take it in turns to ring the bell of the temple of the holy footprint (which is a 1-metre long hollow in the rock!) and to get blessed by one of the resident Buddhist monks.

During the calm bright months of the "season" for pilgrims (December to April), the incredible sunrise produces the famous spectacle known as the "Shadow of the Peak", which leaves all who have seen it spellbound. This extraordinary phenomenon is a projection of the mountain's shadow on the lower lying clouds as the sun rises, and if you feel fit enough to join the countless pilgrims on the summit at dawn, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your tour of Sri Lanka.

The views from here are also breathtaking, day or night. With the first rays of sun you can make out the reservoirs and tea plantations at the foot of the mountain. Towards the west on the densely wooded slopes of the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary you begin to see the triangular shadow of the sacred mountain through the morning mist. At the sight of the sunrise and the mountain's shadow, devout pilgrims excitedly chant "sadhu!" (holy). People who have made the ascent several times ring the small bell in the temple as many times as they have made the journey.

Nearby Locations

Explore the Hill Country and areas near Adam’s Peak.

“Found him [Anura] very kind, considerate and generous. He knew his stuff about history, religion, wildlife and the natural world and was always informative every time he spotted anything interesting or when we questioned him. Ravi took us to lots of places and, as with Anura, always willing to go anywhere we wished to go. As with Anura he was very friendly and obliging.”

Colin & June