After spending two quiet nights in for some much needed detox- and alone-time in the horrible city of Kandy, it was time to pack up my bags again for an adventure I was very much looking forward to: Hiking up Adam’s Peak.
The hike up this holy site was one the few things I knew I absolutely wanted to do when in Sri Lanka – besides surfing and taking a cooking class. What makes this walk so special is that you have to do it in the nighttime, in order to watch the beautiful sunrise from the top.
It turned out there was no need to be worried about hiking up – and down – the approximately 5000 “stairs” that lead the way to one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites on my own: While I was waiting for my train in Kandy, another solo traveller asked me to watch her backpack for a few minutes. It turned out she was going to Adam’s Peak as well, and so Marta and I (and a sweet couple from CZ) ended up not only hiking up the Peak together, but also travelled on to Haputale together.
We stayed in the Green House guesthouse in Dalhousie, which I fully recommend to anybody who is keen on walking up the peak. The guesthouse is located a mere 30 second walk from the starting point of the hike and there really is no better location to stay in the whole town.
The rooms and bathrooms are super basic, so don’t expect anything even slightly fancy. But it really doesn’t matter, as you are only here for a few hours anyway. However, the whole place is really cosy, providing plenty of out- and indoor seating opportunities – perfect for getting some rest over tea and a good book while enjoying the fresh air and the hilly scenery.
But the best part of this guesthouse was without a doubt the food. Oh! My! God! The Food! I don’t remember what exactly was served for dinner, but – as always in Sri Lanka – it was some sort of rice and curry, with plenty of small dishes to share. All the guests had dinner together and it was such a nice evening spent at the guesthouse; exchanging travel stories with fellow travelers while indulging on this delicious meal.
We sadly had to call it a night quite early though, as we had to get up in the very early hours of the next “morning”. Be prepared to set your alarm clock at about 2 or 2:30am. For a less painful start to your day, I recommended you sleep in your hiking clothes and prepare your backpack well before going to bed. This way, you just have to brush your teeth, put on your shoes and you’re good to go.
Oh and how you will be going. Walking up the 5000 steep “stairs” all the way up to the peak might not be the most adventures hike in the world, but it still is no walk in the park. Especially if you – like me – are clearly not an early-morning person.
Luckily, you can buy delicious tea (after all, you are in the middle of tea county!) along the way, which makes the walking so much more bearable. And once you get to the top – after about three hours of walking – in order to watch the beautiful sunrise, you know that the pain was very much worth it!
While the hike can be a bit crazy – after all, the way is quite narrow and can be very crowded, especially once you get closer to the top – the atmosphere on top is very quiet and peaceful. Take a moment to consciously watch the picture perfect sunrise, which draws light on the surrounding tea plantations and lakes in a very Lord-of-the-Rings-esque kind of way.
It was up there that I realised how in our busy everyday lives, we watch sunrises far too little. That is, unless we are walking out of the club all wasted on a Sunday morning, starving for a kebab and figuring out how to find a taxi to bring us home…
Watching the planet getting back to life after a long night of darkness is one of the most perfect things to do, and Sri Lanka is without a doubt one of the best places for doing so. I am so thankful I chose Sri Lanka for this solo adventure of mine, as its beauty clearly helped me to find joy again in the small things of life.
But enough with all the sentimental talk. After all, you have to walk back down all those 5000 stairs as well! And while walking down is far less spectacular, let me just assure you that your calf muscles will be burning! By about 8am, we were back in the guesthouse and all felt so sore but so good! Not only is walking such a good way to clear your head. Also, when was the last time you got so much exercise before even having breakfast?
After all the hiking, I would have been ready to eat pretty much anything. But of course, eating a really mouthwatering breakfast after all these early morning activities makes the whole experience even more rewarding. Luckily, we were more than spoiled upon getting back to the guesthouse, with fresh tea and fruit and pancakes and several other mouthwatering servings that I can’t remember. (Sorry, but I was so hungry and couldn’t be bothered about writing down the names of all the yummy dishes).
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to get any well deserved rest after this early morning workout. Since – besides walking up and down Adam’s Peak – there is really nothing to do in the town of Dalhousie, we all decided to hit the road again the very same morning after breakfast and a quick shower.
And thank God we did, because the magical train ride from Hatton to Haputale turned out to be my favourite Sri Lankan souvenir…
Tips for hiking Adam’s Peak
Green House, Dalhousie. (The guesthouse is quite big and showing up without reservation shouldn’t be a problem. In case it’s fully booked, there are plenty of other guesthouses in Dalhousie)
How to get there:
Trains go regularly to Hatton from Colombo and Kandy as well as Ella – if you’re coming from the other side. Make sure to secure a spot next to a door or window, as you will drive by some of Sri Lanka’s most picturesque sceneries. A bus will be waiting for you outside the train station to drive you up to the town of Dalhousie. Attention, the road is very curvy, so you might want to make sure to spot a seat in the front of the bus and to avoid heavy foods just before…
What to bring:
Long trousers and a sweater, as it can be pretty chilly on top of the peak in the middle of the night. Also, a walking stick is very helpful, as your legs will probably be super sore on your way back down..
There is no need for crazy fancy hiking equipment and lots of food supplies: The locals walk up in flip flops, so hiking in regular trainers will do the deal for you. And you can buy water, foods and tea every few meters, so no need to carry more than one or two liters of water.
Keep in mind that you are on a place of pilgrimage, so please be respectful and avoid shorts and tight shirts as a girl – even if temperatures rise fast once the sun is out.
Adam’s Peak for solo female travelers:
There is no need to hire a guide to walk up with you (as recommended by some guides to solo female travellers). The guesthouses are packed with backpackers all sharing the same goal: Getting up in the middle of the night for some very-early-morning hiking. Everybody is leaving the guesthouses at about the same time, and you will surely find somebody to start walking with, as in fact you will only have to walk on a badly lit, deserted way for the first thirty minutes or so. Also, it is impossible to get lost, as there is only one way up!
When to go:
DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT WALKING UP ON A SATURDAY OR SUNDAY NIGHT!!!! This is when lots of locals go on the pilgrimage as well, and hiking up might take six hours due to the massive crowds.