Maybe it's because I've lived in a few amazing cities (Philadelphia, NY, LA, HK, Singapore), but when I'm traveling, I'm blown away by natural beauty. Sri Lanka is one of those unmistakably awe-inspiring countries. Its lush, untouched lands have appropriately earned it Garden of Eden references.
Why is it called Sri Pada/Adam's peak?
This 2,243 m (7,359 ft) mountain has the distinction of being a holy site for Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Islamics. Sri Pada means "sacred footprint" in Sinhalese (native language of the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka). The footprint shaped mark at the summit is claimed by each respective religion to be the footprint of Buddha, Hindu god Shiva, St. Thomas, and Adam. Islamics and Christians say this was the first spot Adam set foot on Earth after getting kicked out from paradise, which is why the mountain is called Adam's Peak.
How bout that footprint?
The elements have probably taken its toll on the footprint, so it's enshrined in a small temple at the top. After waiting in line to see the footprint, I stared at the area for awhile, baffled, but honestly couldn't tell what anything was supposed to be. My husband thought the footprint itself was actually covered. Online research indicates "the real footprint is believed to be set in jewels beneath the visible rock." Don't go up expecting to see the footprint, but do climb the mountain for the views.
What's the hike like?
Since it's a religious site, there is a constant flow of devotees making pilgrimages. Weekends/holidays apparently get the most crowded. We went on a weekday in March and it wasn't teeming with people. The shortest route is the Hatton route beginning in Dalhousie. Once you arrive, there are no shortcuts for the 5200 steps, but they are well paved, surrounded by safe railings, and during pilgrimage season the mountain is well lit. Hiking takes anywhere from 2.5-4 hrs. We started walking up the steps at 3am so that we wouldn't miss anything. Relatively active people can finish the hike in under 2.5hrs. It gets cold at the top while waiting for the sunrise, so bring a warm layer.
What will I see?
Travelers climb at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise and the triangle of Sri Pada, a shadow of the mountain imprinted on the clouds, only the 2nd place in the world where this phenomenon occurs.