Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka
January 19, 2015
The tiny town of Dalhousie, Sri Lanka, doesn’t have much to do, the food is not that great and the guest houses are pretty much the worst we’ve seen in Sri Lanka. So why hop on a train, then take a long bus ride up in to the mountains just to stay for a single night? For the same reason everyone goes there, for the chance to climb Adam’s Peak. One of Sri Lanka’s tallest and most beautiful peaks. Adam’s Peak is a near perfect conical mountain rising up above the surrounding landscape and is a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site, and famous among foreigners for climbing to the top in the dark early morning hours before sunrise to catch a glimpse of the sun’s first rays from the top.
The Road to Dalhousie
To get to Dalhousie you will need to take a train to Hatton and then board a bus, which is conveniently waiting just outside the train station exit, to take you the rest of the way to Dalhousie. The bus takes two hours and both the train from Ella train and bus pass beautiful green countryside along the way.
Dalhousie, Sri Lanka
Once you have arrived in town you won’t find much there. A couple dozen touristy shops selling mostly junk food and terrible souvenirs and a few restaurants selling below average food. Worse still are the hotels, since dozens and dozens of locals and foreigners make pilgrimages to this town, the hotels cram as many people into tiny dismal rooms as they can. No one stays more than one night in Dalhousie anyway so the hotels aren’t trying to do you any favors with amenities. So why do so many people come to such a disappointing town? Either they are Buddhist pilgrims, or tourists interested in climbing Adam’s Peak for sunrise. The tall near perfect cone shaped mountain has a Buddhist temple built at the top which each year receives thousands and thousands of Buddhist pilgrims as well as tourists each year. There are steep steps and a well maintained path leading all the way up to the top as well as tea houses, selling food and drinks, every couple hundred yards along the way.
After we checked into a our tiny room and got our hiking gear ready we set an alarm for 2:00 AM. If you forget to set an alarm or just hate sleeping in general don’t worry as you won’t be able to sleep much as the sound of people banging around starting off on their pilgrimage is pretty much constant all night long. Slower people start off earlier in the night but we figured waking up at 2:00 AM would give us plenty of time to get to the top before sunrise.
Taking off around 2:30 AM we started on the trail which was already busy with other hikers heading up the mountain. We brought our headlamps but the trail was well lit the entire distance so bringing a headlamp or flashlight is a good idea but not crucial. And with the plentiful tea houses and shops along the way carrying a ton of water is not crucial either as you can buy a bottle of water every hundred yards or so along the way.
It took us around two and half hours to get to the top and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. We stopped at the last tea house a few hundred meters from the top with dozens of others and enjoyed some hot tea in the wee hours of the morning before sunrise.
The top gets very crowded for sunrise with hundreds and hundreds of people packed in together tightly. A good tip would be to get to the top at least an hour before sunrise is scheduled to happen to be sure to get a good spot to sit or else you might end up standing pressed between others. Another good tip is to try and figure out which direction is east so you can locate the best spot to claim with a good view (Hint: East will be facing back down the stairs you just climbed up)
Sunrise on Adam’s Peak
We found a decent spot to sit and wait for sunrise and watched the spaces around us get more and more packed with tourists and Buddhist pilgrims as the sky gradually began to glow brighter.
The first rays of light are blocked in places by mountains in the distance creating long shadows radiating out from the sun. I’ve personally never been one to get too excited by a sunrise, but sunrise from Adam’s Peak was genuinely the most impressive sunrise I have ever seen.
Our camera is not the best at taking low light pictures, including sunrise and sunset pictures, so our photos don’t nearly do it justice. Soon after the sunrise the crowds will begin to descend back down the steps, but don’t leave the top without walking to the opposite side to check out the long shadow cast by Adam’s Peak.
The hike down was just as tiring as the climb up and can be hard on the knees, but at least we could see what we were hiking around, as it was all pitch black on the way up.
Once down the mountain, and not wanting to spend another night in Dalhousie, we hopped on a tuk-tuk for a ride back to Hatton to catch another train. Along the way we stopped to take some pictures of the countryside.
We were off to one more destination in Sri Lanka’s hilly tea country conveniently located on the train line, the little town of Haputale.