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Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka: the ultimate trekking guide

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Last updated on January 28, 2024

Trekking Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka is not for the faint-hearted. Love adventure travel? You’ll find the best tips for your hike in this post. 

Are you thinking of climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka? Well, you are not alone. Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada is the third highest mountain in Sri Lanka and a famous pilgrimage site.

With 2,243 m (7,359 ft), it is located in the Central Highlands region, home to some of the most extraordinary flora and fauna in the country.

Although the ascent to Adam’s Peak is possible through different paths, the 7-kilometre Hatton trail is the most popular among tourists as it is shorter than the others, but very steep!

Maussakelle Reservoir, Sri Lanka
Maussakelle Reservoir in the proximities of Dalhousie, near Adam’s Peak

Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka: the ultimate trekking guide

Why is Adam’s Peak important in Sri Lanka?

The footprint-shaped mark at the top of Adam’s Peak is the reason it is revered a holy site and pilgrims have been climbing it for over 1,000 years. Buddhists believe the sacred footprint was left by Buddha. Muslims and Christians proclaim that it belonged to Adam when he first set foot on Earth.

How to get to Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka?

Adam’s Peak is located 32 km (20 mi) southwest of Hatton, a major town served by buses and trains. The village at the base of Adam’s Peak is Dalhousie, where you’ll start your hike. Dalhousie is only accessible by car, bus, or tuk-tuk.

The bus from Hatton to Dalhousie (Nallathanniya) takes over an hour and costs under 1 USD. It departs from the train station. Buses leave regularly and the ride is quite scenic. There are no direct buses from Hatton to Dalhousie in the off-season, so a tuk-tuk might be the best option. With a tuk-tuk, the journey takes roughly an hour and costs around 10 USD, depending on your bargaining skills. Some people prefer to hire a driver for the duration of their trip. This is quite common in Sri Lanka, and although more expensive, it is accessible, allows for more flexibility, and reduces travel times.

When to hike Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka?

The trekking season runs from December to April. I’d advise visiting during this time. Although some may be tempted to go off-season to avoid crowds, the weather will be pretty bad. You may reach the top and find fog so thick that you can’t see past your nose. You’d also need a guide to avoid safety concerns. There may not be lights or shops operating along the way, so you’ll have to bring a torch and supplies.

Having a pleasant time hiking Adam’s Peak during pilgrimage season is possible, as long as you avoid weekends, full moons, and national holidays. Visiting then means it could take anywhere between seven to ten hours to reach the summit.

Dalhousie, Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka
Village of Dalhousie at the base of Adam’s Peak

How long does it take to climb Adam’s Peak?

How long it takes to climb Adam’s Peak will depend on your fitness level. I’d say between two and a half to three and a half hours is the average. It took me three hours and I’m not a sporty person, like at all.

Remember to check the time the sun rises before you go. The mountain is accessible at all times. I woke up at 2.30 am and was on my way by 3 am. Made it by dawn at 6 am.

It took me about an hour and a half to make my way back down, just in time for breakfast and a nap. Don’t forget to stretch before surrendering to your bed.

What to expect climbing Adam’s Peak? Is it hard?

There is no entrance fee to Adam’s Peak, but you may be encouraged to make donations along the way.

The 5,500 steps make for a pretty steep climb, especially as you get closer to the top. It will feel endless at times. But it is doable for most people. A trekking pole could be useful to some, but I didn’t think it was necessary. As long as you wear comfortable trainers, you’ll be alright. The entire trail is paved. I saw people climbing in flip-flops and barefoot even.

Expect to see a mix of tourists and locals of all ages as you make your ascent to the summit. There are plenty of areas to rest along the way, which believe me, you’ll need. You’ll also find toilets regularly. These are not the cleanest, and you’ll have to squat. You’ll also need your phone or a torch as it’ll be pitch black inside. Don’t forget to pack some toilet paper and hand sanitiser!

During the high season, the way to the summit is beautifully lit, making it easy to navigate, and you’ll find plenty of shops selling food and drinks, so there’s no need to bring a massive backpack full of supplies.

As you finally reach the top, the feeling of elation could be quickly interrupted by the anticlimactic nature of the summit. Tons of people pushing one another for the best view (and not enough space for everyone), may leave you wondering whether the journey was in fact more enjoyable than the destination.

Pro tip: before descending through the Hatton trail, watch the mountain cast a conical-shaped shadow right after sunrise across the landscape on the western side.

Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka
The summit at Adam’s Peak

What to wear to Adam’s Peak?

You’ll need some warm clothes as you leave Dalhousie in the middle of the night, as it’ll most likely be chilly. The same goes for when you reach the summit. But don’t worry about filling your suitcase with winter clothes. There are plenty of shops in Dalhousie selling jackets for under 5 USD.

Wear long socks to prevent insect or leech bites. If you visit the temple at the summit, you’ll have to remove your shoes and cover up legs and shoulders.

Pickpocketing can happen at the summit when there are large crowds, so watch your belongings.

Where to stay in Adam’s Peak?

There’s no accommodation on the actual mountain, so the closer you stay to the base of Adam’s Peak, the better. I stayed at Dalhousie Hotel for 40 USD for one night and had a comfortable stay. Breakfast was not the best and the hotel is rather basic, but it was among the best I could find in the area at the time. Location-wise it was very convenient, which was the priority.

Sunrise at Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka
Sunrise at Adam’s Peak

Is it worth climbing Adam’s Peak?

In all honesty, climbing Adam’s Peak is worth it if you are in for the physical challenge or find it appealing from a religious standpoint.

The sunrise at an altitude of 2,243 m is quite spectacular and you’ll most certainly walk past beautiful scenery of endless tea plantations as you make your descent. But the hike itself could leave some feeling slightly underwhelmed if that is the sole purpose of the trek.

Nevertheless, climbing Adam’s Peak was one of the most culturally enriching experiences I’ve ever had and one that I’ll never forget.

If you’ve already been to Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, and have some tips, please share using the comment section below.

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