Reading about walking up thousands of steps in the darkness and experiencing an epic sunrise and endless views of the Sri Lankan hill country was definitely one of the things that most inspired me to visit the country. And whilst climbing Adam’s peak wasn’t quite what I expected, it was still so memorable and absolutely one of the highlights of my time in Sri Lanka.
Nestled in the heart of the Sri Lankan hills, Adam’s peak has spiritual significance for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians, so what is your unforgettable travel experience is a religious passage for thousands of locals too. For most people, the journey will begin from the small town of Dalhousie, easily accessible by bus, taxi or tuk tuk from nearby Hatton. People usually leave Dalhousie at around 2am to begin the 1400m ascent so they can catch the famous sunrise from the top. The path is well marked and ranges from large, flat steps to small, steep ones with long railings. Along the way you’ll see temples, waterfalls and wildlife, and depending on when you go possibly hundreds of pilgrims and travellers. If you allow yourself plenty of time, you don’t have to be particularly fit to complete the climb. Just be prepared for for some serious pain in leg muscles you didn’t even know you had in the next few days!
What I should probably tell you about next is what happens when reach the top. The amazing views and the incredible sunrise. That’s certainly what I read in my guidebook, and what drew me to Adam’s Peak. But what what my guidebook didn’t tell me was that it’d be freezing, the steps and hand rails would be wet and slippery, I’d be walking through thick mist the whole time, and I would finally reached the top wet and cold and not be able to see more than a couple of metres in front of me. But hey, all this probably made the experience even more epic, and it just means I will have to go back!
To be fair, I knew that it was far from the best time of year to be making the climb, but I’d still hoped that I would at least get to see something from the top! So should you still make the trip to Adam’s Peak if you’re not there during peak season? Absolutely! Apart from being great exercise and a physical challenge, the whole experience of walking through the misty darkness at 2am was almost magical. Also, as the climb is taken as a religious pilgrimage, you are likely to bump into a few locals at any time of the year and you’ll still see some fascinating temples and other sights. Staying in the quaint town of Dalhousie is also part of the experience, and is a nice place to unwind. If you are fortunate enough to be able to plan your trip to Sri Lanka to coincide with the pilgrimage season (December to April) then all the more reason to go. And make sure you send me a picture of that epic view I never got to see!
-I opted to go without a guide, so I can’t speak from experience of the benefits of taking a one. Although I may have missed out on some inside knowledge, the climb was very well marked and certainly navigable without a guide, so I opted to save the money and take things at my own pace. However if you want some company, local knowledge or just want to support the locals, your guesthouse will be able to arrange a guide for you for a very reasonable price.
-You can get some cheap accommodation in Dalhousie, but the food is quite expensive by Sri Lankan standards. There are no cheap, local restaurants. I was happy to support the lovely family at my guesthouse, but if you’re on a really tight budget stock up on snacks before you go. I know I was happy to have some dried fruit and nuts with me.
-I took the train to Hatton and got to Dalhousie by bus. When you get off the train, walk past the taxi drivers into town and ask directions to the bus stand. You’ll need to take one of the frequent buses to Maskeliya, from where you can change to a Dalhousie bus. Of course you can just get a taki, but for me riding on local buses is a part of the experience and is a great way to save money.
-I stayed at Achinika Holiday Inn in Dalhousie. They have a variety of differently priced and sized rooms, some with stunning views (weather permitting of course). Being low season, it was actually some of the cheapest accommodation I got in Sri Lanka, and they served huge portions of yummy food in their restaurant.