Adam’s Peak Pilgrimage Climb in Sri Lanka

Are you the adventurous type looking for a holiday that encompasses a personal challenge? If so, then the Adams Peak Pilgrimage climb in Sri Lanka maybe something you would want to include on your next tour.
The Adams Peak Pilgrimage season is nearly on us – starting on the Full Moon (Poya) Day in December (12th December 2016) and finishing on the Full Moon (Poya) day in May (10th May 2017).
These Full Moon Poya Days have huge significance for Buddhists – each one is a significant day in the life of Lord Buddha.
Full Moon (Poya) day of December marks the arrival of the Bo tree sapling in Anuradhapura. This sapling was taken from the very tree under which Buddha reached enlightenment.
Full Moon (Poya) day of May celebrates the 3 key events in Lord Buddha’s life - his birthday, enlightenment and passing away.

A bit of background about Adams Peak and why there is a pilgrimage!

Adam’s Peak is the 5th highest peak in Sri Lanka at 7,360 feet (2,243 metres). It has a particularly distinctive conical shape and can be seen from many miles around. On the top there is a depression which looks like a huge footprint and many legends surround Adams Peak because of this “footprint”:

  • Christians and Muslims believe it to be the first place that Adam placed his foot on earth after being expelled from Heaven.
  • Buddhists believe these marks are the footprints of Lord Buddha (Sri Pada- this is also the name given to Adams Peak). They believe that Lord Buddha came to Sri Lanka three times and one of those visits was to Adam`s Peak. They also believe that a Hindu god called Saman lives and performs miracles at Adam`s Peak.
  • Hindus believe they are the footprints of Lord Shiva.
  • Some say that they are the footprints of St Thomas, the early apostle of India.


However, it is clear that Adams Peak is seen very much as a sacred mountain and is mainly a Buddhist pilgrimage site and has been such for many, many centuries. Most Buddhists want to do the pilgrimage at least once in their lives! First timers usually wear a white cloth round their head.

In recent years, it has become a “must-do” for many adventurous tourists wanting a challenge!

Details of the Pilgrimage

The idea is to do the walk up the Peak at night (starting the walk itself at about 2am), so you arrive in time to see the most breath-taking sunrise you have ever seen (at about 6.30am). The path is lit at night during the Pilgrimage season (but is unlit during the rest of the year, so is too dangerous to do at night then).

The climb takes 3-4hrs – we suggest you start from Dalhousie. It is by no means easy (you do have to be physically fit) as it is a mixture of incline trekking and then around 5500 stone steps, some are steep! The route to the top is approx. 4 ½ miles (7km). It can be very busy – we would suggest avoiding Full Moon (Poya) Days and the Sinhalese New Year (13th, 14th and 15th April) which are particularly busy as it is such an important pilgrimage site. There are some resting places – places to buy tea etc.

When the sun appears, a bell is rung at the summit and a priest will bring out an offering of rice which is placed on the rock.

The most spectacular sight is to see “the Shadow of the Peak” that is cast by the rising sun. The shadow remains suspended in mid-air for some 15–20 minutes and then disappears. The Shadow is of a perfect triangle whereas the mountain itself is far more irregular in shape! This phenomenon is caused by you looking along a long tunnel of shadowed air, which tapers in the distance due to the finite size of the sun. The shadow can be such a long way away from you that any irregularities are lost and the shadow of the peak seems to be a perfect pyramid.

Buddhists believe that it’s not actually the shadow of the peak, but a miraculous physical representation of what they call the “Triple Gem” (a kind of Buddhist equivalent to the Holy Trinity).

Going down is quicker, taking 2-3hrs but is hard on your knees (as you are going down steps all the time and your legs are tired).

Suggestions to help you on “your Pilgrimage”!

  • The top can be very cold and windy, particularly before dawn so extra layers are needed. As the sun rises, it heats up very quickly.
  • It is recommended you wear light comfy shoes with a good grip (it can be slippery if it has rained).
  • Plastic bags are not allowed on the hike.
  • Water, tea and small snacks can be purchased along the route.


Whatever, you believe, trekking in the middle of the night is a very special experience which is capped only by one of the most breath-taking sunrises you will have ever seen.


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