Adam’s Peak is a 2,243 metres (7,359 ft) tall conical mountain located in central Sri Lanka. It is well-known for the Sri Pada “sacred footprint”, a 1.8 m rock formation near the summit, in Buddhist tradition held to be the footprint of Buddha, in Hindu tradition that of Shiva and in Muslim tradition that of Adam. Located in a beautiful area of the southern Hill Country, this lofty peak has sparked the imagination for centuries and been a focus for pilgrimage for more than 1000 years.
Variously known as Adam’s Peak (the place where Adam first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven), Sri Pada (Sacred Footprint, left by the Buddha as he headed towards paradise), or perhaps most poetically as Samanalakande (Butterfly Mountain; where butterflies go to die). Some believe the huge ‘footprint’ crowning the peak to be that of St Thomas, the early apostle of India, or even of Lord Shiva.
The pilgrimage season begins on poya day in December and runs until Vesak festival in May; January and February are busiest. At other times the temple on the summit is unused, and between May and October the peak is often obscured by clouds. During the pilgrimage season pilgrims and tourists alike make the climb up the countless steps to the top.
Walkers leave from the small settlement of Dalhousie (del-house), 33km by road southwest of Hatton, which is situated on the Colombo–Kandy–Nuwara Eliya railway and road. In season, the route is illuminated by a sparkling ribbon of lights which are visible from miles around and from afar look like a trail of stars leading into the heavens. It’s a view that cannot but fail to send a quiver of anticipation through most people. Out of season you will need a torch. Many pilgrims prefer to make the longer, more tiring – but equally well-marked and lit – seven-hour climb from Ratnapura via the Carney Estate because of the greater merit thus gained.
As dawn illuminates the holy mountain, the diffuse morning light uncovers the Hill Country rising in the east and the land sloping to the coast to the west. Colombo, 65km away, is easily visible on a clear day.
Adam’s Peak saves its most breathtaking moment for just after dawn. The sun casts a perfect shadow of the peak onto the misty clouds down towards the coast. As the sun rises higher this eerie triangular shadow races back towards the peak, eventually disappearing into its base.