Sri Pada ("Holy Foot"), Sri Lanka

On the summit of Sri Pada in Sri Lanka is a footprint that is revered as sacred by Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists alike. You can climb the imposing rocky hill via 5,000 steps and enjoy a breathtaking sunrise.

Sri Pada, a 2,234-metre-high mountain in the province of Sabaragamuwa, rises as a pyramid-shaped peak clearly above the Sri Lankan landscape. The almost symmetrical rocky hill is considered sacred in four world religions and is one of our top 10 sights of Sri Lanka.


Pilgrimage destination Sri Pada

White stupa and flags at the 2,234m high Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) in Sri Lanka - © Valery Shanin / Shutterstock
© Valery Shanin / Shutterstock

Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus make pilgrimages to its top to worship a rock formation that resembles a footprint nearly 2m long. "Sri Pada" means "sacred foot" in Sanskrit. Depending on the religion, the footprint is worshipped as the legacy of the Buddha, the Hindu god Shiva, the apostle Thomas or the Adam who descended from paradise. The mountain is also known as "Adam's Peak".

According to Buddhist Sinhalese beliefs, every Buddhist should climb to the top of Sri Pada at least once in his or her life. Accordingly, there is a lot going on on the arduous path to the top. Since great events in Buddhism have often taken place on the night of a full moon, such as the birth or enlightenment of Buddha, or the coronation of kings, the pilgrimage season on Sri Pada also extends from the December full moon to the May full moon.

On the way to the Sri Pada

Buddhist monastery at Sri Pada in Sabaragamuwa province, Sri Lanka - © Valery Shanin / Shutterstock
© Valery Shanin / Shutterstock

The hustle and bustle takes place mainly at night. Traditionally, the ascent of Sri Pada begins at two in the morning. This way you escape the heat and are rewarded with a breathtaking sunrise at the summit. In the morning, Sri Pada casts a distinctive triangular shadow on the plain below, which quickly moves across the fog or fields as the sun rises.

If the air is clear, there is a fantastic view over Sri Lanka, which in good weather can reach as far as the capital Colombo. If you choose to climb after sunrise, you will have to deal with the heat (7-8 hours of ascent and descent), but you will have the mountain pretty much to yourself.

Tip: At an altitude of more than 2,000 metres, it can get very chilly in Sri Lanka. Be sure to be equipped with long trousers and warm jackets to protect against the wind - and sturdy shoes anyway. As soon as the sun rises, however, it can quickly become hot.

Overnight and food options are available in Dalhousie, some distance away, which can easily be reached by bus or taxi from Hatton, 33 kilometres away. The shorter climb is about 1,000 metres in altitude and starts in the village of Nallathanniya right at the foot of Sri Pada. Over 7 kilometres, it takes an arduous path of stairs and via ferrata to the top.

Tip: The stories from the past, when pilgrims collapsed dead from exhaustion on the summit after the climb, or were simply blown into the abyss by a sudden gust of wind, may sound like old wives' tales today, but there are still deaths among careless tourists on the steep slopes.

The path is lined with numerous tea rooms where you can fortify yourself in between. Depending on speed and fitness, the climb takes 4-6 hours. It is amazing that even old people, pregnant women and women with small children drag themselves up the more than 5,000 steps on their backs or by hand. Especially at full moon or on weekends, the mountain path is virtually overcrowded.

At the top, you reach the footprint over which a small temple has been built. About halfway there is a monastery whose monks watch over the footprint.


Tip: The footprint and also the tea rooms are only open during the pilgrimage season, from December to May. Those who climb Sri Pada outside the season should definitely take enough water with them for the strenuous march! Climbing at night is not recommended, as the electric lighting of the pilgrimage path is not switched on. In addition, you have to reckon with dense fog, as well as heavy wind and rain.

The other route is for pilgrims with plenty of time and goes right through the jungle. It starts south of Sri Pada in Ratnapura , passes through Malawa, Palabadalla and Heramitipana and took about a week.

Related links:

Official website of the Sri Pada