Tour guide to Adam’s Peak Sri Lanka !
Adam’s Peak is a pilgrimage site on the island that is equally sacred to devotees of four different religions – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism – for well over a thousand years.
Known locally as Sri Pada, meaning sacred footprint, Adam’s Peak lies in the lush part of southern Hill Country. The mountain is also an important geographical feature of this region. The giant footprint atop the 2243-metre peak is what that attracts all pilgrims to this site. There are many beliefs associated to this feature: Christians consider it to be the mark of St Thomas, the apostle while Hindus believe it to be the footprint of Lord Shiva. To Buddhists, this is the sacred imprint of the Buddha while Muslims associate it with Adam, when he was chased away from the Garden of Eden. The unanimity of the sacredness of the mountain is complete in Sri Lanka as even the Veddas, the original inhabitants of the island, consider Sri Pada as a sacred mountain. It is no wonder hence that there is always a steady flow of pilgrims and visitors to Adam’s Peak, especially from December to May.
Adam’s Peak is also called “Samanalakande” or “Butterfly Mountain” as millions of butterflies miraculously make their way to the top of the summit and then die there.
How to get to Adam's Peak
The trail for Adam’s Peak starts from Dalhousie, a village that is easily accessible from the nearby town of Hatton. Visitors can reach Hatton by train, from where one can either take a bus, taxi or tuk-tuk to reach Dalhousie. The journey from the town to the village can take anywhere between one to three hours. For the bus journey, a change of bus is necessary at Maskeliya, which lies halfway between Hatton and Dalhousie.
Apart from Hatton, you can also take a direct bus to Dalhousie from Kandy, Colombo or Nuwara Eliya during the peak pilgrimage season.
In the village itself, no transportation is needed as you can cover it by foot.
You can choose an accommodation in Dalhousie or in Hatton for the night after your visit provided you have your own mode of transportation and you are not too tired after the descent.
Top tourist attractions in Adam's Peak
Adam’s Peak looks spectacular when it is bathed with the first rays of sunlight at dawn. At this moment, the peak of this holy mountain casts a triangular shadow below that retreats as the sun rises and eventually disappears altogether. The view of the sunrise from the peak is accompanied by religious devotion.
Most visitors start their climb at night in order to avoid the heat. There are six different trails, each consisting of countless steps to reach the top: Ratnapura-Palabaddala, Hatton-Nallathanni, Kuruwita-Erathna, Murraywatte, Mookuwatte and Malimboda. The three routes taken by the pilgrims who climb the Peak today are the Ratnapura route, the Kuruwita route and the Hatton route. To make the climb a less tiring experience, there are resting places and refreshment centres along the route.
Do keep in mind that there can be a significant difference of temperature at the peak compared to the base. So carry appropriate clothing. Also, using an insect repellent before starting your climb is a good idea. If you want a thorough explanation at each point of the ascent, you can hire a guide but do ensure that you fix the fee beforehand (in the range of 1500) and avoid any unnecessary confrontation later.
Sama Chatiya at Adam's Peak
This recently made stupa can be found within a few minutes of climbing the mountain. The Sama Chatiya or “World Peace Pagoda” was built by Japanese Buddhists and is maintained by Japanese monks.
Situated a few minutes away from the summit, the Bhagava Cave was once the refuge of pilgrims and ascetic monks. You can see two inscriptions here, one dating from the 12th century and an Arabic one from the 14th century.
Temple and Footprint
The main attraction of Adam’s Peak is the temple containing the sacred footprint. The place is singular in its simplicity. It is small and spartanly whitewashed with a promenade that surrounds it. The footprint measures 170 cm by 75 cm.
The summit also has a belfry, where pilgrims stop to ring the bell after each successful visit.
The Ancient Chains
Pilgrims making a descent through the Ratnapura track will chance upon large chains fixed into a vertical surface of rock. It was believed by many to be the work of Alexander the Great, until records showed it to be a 11th or 12th century fixture made by King Vijayabahu.
A choice of places to visit around Adam's Peak
Hatton serves as the gateway and base for visitors to Adam’s Peak as it is the nearest town that has a train station. All pilgrims and visitors to Adam’s Peak alight here and then continue on their journey either by public or private transport. Located at an altitude of 1,271 m and surrounded by tea plantations, Hatton is also one of the major centres of Sri Lanka's tea industry. For visitors, the town has a good variety of accommodation that range from budget hotels to luxury estates, including tea estate bungalows that are available for rent.
Located en route to Adam’s Peak, Dalhousie is more like a pit stop for travellers. It is also an ideal place for those who want accommodation options close to Adam’s Peak, yet stay away from the bustling ambience of the place.
Named after the Kitul palm trees that grow all over this area, Kitulgala is one of the starting points for excursions around Adam’s Peak. Gorgeous waterfalls like the Manaketi, Sampath and Hantung Falls vie for attention along with the numerous activities that beckon adventure lovers. There are a range of activities available to make your stay adventurous : cave exploration, rafting, canoeing, canyoning, hiking, mountain biking or just simply bird watching.
Incidentally, the famous Hollywood production, “The Bridge on the River Kwaï”, was shot here and not in Thailand, as it is generally believed. Unfortunately, one cannot view the bridge anymore as it was blown by dynamite for the requirements of the film. However, one can still appreciate the tranquility of the beautiful river here.
Adam's Peak offers a great opportunity to discover Sri Lankan forests
Knuckles Forest Reserve
The Knuckles Forest Reserve is one of the best spots in Sri Lanka for trekking and hiking. It is so-called as five of its highest summits (Kirigalpottha, Gombaniya, Knuckles, Koboneelagala and Dotulugala) together form a set of knuckles in a closed fist.
The reserve spreading over Kandy district and Matale district has been designated as a conservation area, called the Knuckles National Heritage and Wilderness area. The three main rivers find their source in the Knuckles Range (Hulu Ganga, Heen Ganga et Kalu Ganga) and their waterfalls and pools offer great sceneries and wonderful settings for hiking and trekking enthusiasts. The trails that pass through rivers, forests, tree plantations and lush vegetation are perfect for nature lovers who don't mind the mud and the steep climbs at places. The area is unspoilt at most places and offers quite many opportunities to enjoy Mother Nature's lovely endowments. The Forest Department site can provide you with information on lodgings available.
Wildlife reserves and natural parks near Adam's Peak
The forest of Sri Pada or the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary
Sri Pada is surrounded by exceptionally dense forest, much of it part of the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. You do not find the lush steamy cover one usually associates with the tropics but a cool misty forest similar to that found in the lower ranges of the Himalayas: branches of giant trees hang heavy with moss, rhododendrons surprise the eye with large red blossoms and wild orchids like the Regal and the Chandraraja sprout in unexpected corners. Sri Lanka's famous spices, that have long been associated with the sacred mountain, are also to be found here. It is said that the Arabs who landed here believed that these spices grew from cuttings and seeds that Adam bought with him from the Garden of Eden. A 14th century Persian poem says that Allah created all of Sri Lanka's spices and flowers so that Adam's transition from Paradise to earth would be less painful.
In the past, the forest areas around Sri Pada were home to numerous elephants. In 1840, Major Skinner, the famous engineer, actually reported finding elephant dung on Sri Pada peak early one morning. But with the establishment of the coffee plantations in the 1850's these majestic creatures were completely driven away. Pilgrims still occasionally report seeing the legendary white elephant of Lord Saman (the guardian deity of Sri Pada) as they make the nocturnal journey up the mountain.
One other creature associated with Sri Pada is the butterfly. Sri Lanka is the home of numerous species of glorious butterflies and once a year they form long chains, sometimes consisting of hundreds of the creatures that fly through the countryside. Popular legend says that they go to Sri Pada to pay homage to the Buddha's footprint.
Another creature also associated with the sacred mountain is the leech. Ibn Batuta, the Moroccan traveller who visited Sri Lanka in 1344, like many people before and since, was appalled by the tenacity and ferocity of these leeches and mentioned that pilgrims would carry lemon to keep them at bay. Today the jungle besides the paths that lead up the mountain is cleared at the beginning of each the pilgrim season thus lessening this problem.
Rock climbing in Avissawella
Avissawella, a town some 90 kilometres from Adam’s Peak, offers a great opportunity for rock climbing lovers, adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. It is one of the few rock climbing areas in the country. There are three bolted rock faces to test your mettle and fifteen different routes of varying difficulty. When it comes to safety and equipment, the facilities respect international standards.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains National Park is set in the hilly regions of Central Province, some 20 km south of Nuwara Eliya. Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, in whose honour the park was named, was Governor of Sri Lanka between 1831 and 1837. The park covers an area of 3,160 hectares and is situated at an average altitude of 2200 metres. Sri Lanka's three major rivers (Mahaweli, Kelani and Walawe) take their source within the limits of the park. Horton Plains was declared a national park in 1988 and was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 2010 as "Central Highlands of Sri Lanka”.
Visitors here are enchanted by the scenic beauty of Mother Nature. The biggest attraction here is `World's End' where the plains come to an end and the ground abruptly drops down for about 700 m. Please bear in mind however that the park gets covered by fog quite easily as early as 9 am. Hence your chances of an unhindered vision of the scenic beauty can be hindered especially during the rainy season (April to August). Temperatures are low, with an average annual temperature of 13°C. Frost is common during the coldest months (December to February).
The dry season, from January to March, is best to enjoy a visit to the park. The park entry fee is around Rs.2000. The park can be visited by jeep or on foot on your own but there are guides available for a small fee. The hiking trail here is a 9 km loop that takes you around four to five hours if done at a leisurely pace. Although you can do the loop in either direction, it is better to start at Bakers Fall and the finish at World's End to avoid a steep uphill climb. If you are travelling with toddlers, the mini trail to “Little World's End” can be very sufficient.
Horton Plains is a great hiking spot especially around the Baker's Falls. Those wishing to spot animals need to look elsewhere. Be sure to carry water (guards at entrance will forbid you from carrying water bottles with labels and plastic bags to avoid chances of polluting the park). If you have opted for a trip organised by your hotel, it is wise to order a packed lunch although there is a canteen at the entrance of the park.
Fancy staying inside the park, there are two bungalows run by the authorities: Maha-Eliya, situated on World's End Road and Ginihiriya (or Anderson Lodge) on Ohiya Road. Camping is also possible near the Park Office. For more information, contact the Department of Wildlife Conservation at +94 11 288 85 85.
Activities for children in Adam's Peak
There are a lot of activities that your children can actively participate in, one of them being mountain biking tours. These are organised all around Adam’s Peak. Some tours take bikers through scenic locations like rubber estates and tea estates from Kitulgala to Nuwara through Hatton. Bike tours are a good way for the whole family to engage in a common activity and learn about the local lifestyles, nature and environment.
Watching the interesting flora and fauna, especially birds, and going for a safari in some of the nearby national parks is another activity that children usually appreciate.
Great things to see in Adam's Peak
White water rafting
White water rafting is one of the must do activities that adrenaline junkies, or for that matter anyone with a sense of adventure should indulge in when visiting Adam’s Peak. One can get the opportunity to do this in Kitugala, where the Kelani River provides not only scenic wonders but also the ideal setting for both rookie and expert rafters. Kids aged 10 and above can also participate in specific parts of the river.
The rapids here are classified as Class III rapids, suitable for beginners as well as experts. Another option is the Sitawaka River at Avissawella, consisting of Class III-IV rapids. While the upper section of Sitawaka is meant for more experienced rafters, the lower section is suitable for a trip with friends and family.
The ideal time for going rafting in this region is fromMay to December. The facilities are usually closed during the monsoon as the water level rises and the river becomes turbulent, making rafting a dangerous activity.