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It is pitch black as we rub the sleep from our eyes. I can barely believe it’s 2.30am and I’m awake, pulling on woolly hats and walking socks and gulping down tea with Sanja, our guide, whose smile is the warmest thing this early in the morning.

We were headed for the top of Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka’s most sacred mountain, and a holy place of pilgrimage for the three main religions on the island, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity.

There are many different accounts as to why the mountain is so sacred, depending on who you ask.

Climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri LankaView from Adam’s peak

Sacred Adam’s Peak

It was dark as we ambled our way out of the village, following the light of a tiny torch attached to Sanja’s woolly hat.

A gigantic carved marble arch marked the entrance to the mountain path. Through it we could see other little lights, floating up and zigzagging across the hillside.

Some were moving: other pilgrims. Some were stationary: flickering candles to light the stepped pathway upwards.

Monks clad in orange robes sat alongside the stone steps of the lower path, accompanied by statues of Buddha and the occasional tea house, trying to tempt us away from our climb.

As we continued, the steps moved closer together and the path steepened. We stopped occasionally for a rest and drank the warm tea we bought from the vendors, who set up shop on any flat bit of earth they could find along the side of the path.

Sunrise on Adam’s Peak

Sanja would check his watch every 5 minutes – there was no way he was going to let us miss the sunrise. There was a huddle of stationary lights at the peak of the mountain; we had seen them as a tiny speck at the bottom of the climb, slowly growing more detailed as we ascended.

We continued ever-higher, pushing our tired legs up the last steep flight of steps. We could now make out silhouettes, and there was a low excitable murmur drifting down towards us.

We made it just in time. It was still too dark to see far ahead of you but the stars were disappearing and the sky began to turn a light orange behind the clouds.

A gong sounded behind us, people edged forwards, searching for the point where the sun would rise behind the mountains beyond.

The sky slowly lit up and the clouds turned into dreamy pinks and blues, orange rays pierced their way through on the horizon. A few minutes passed before we saw the bright orange ball poke its head from behind the peaks opposite.

Sunrise on Adam's PeakSunrise on Adam’s Peak

I understood now why this place was so spiritual – the colour, the remoteness and the feeling of looking down on a familiar world below.

I felt a touch on my shoulder, tugging at me and the faint sound of my name. I turned, was I imagining it, was it the lack of sleep? As my eyes adjusted I could make out a familiar smile, bright orange with the reflection of the sun.

Sanja beckoned us away from the crowd, down a path behind the platform where Adams footprint lies. Silently we followed, through a hole in the wall to the other side of the mountain.

It was cold this side, away from the morning sun. Below us lay a carpet of white cloud, with a sharp, distinct dark triangle rising up across them – the shadow of the mountain.

Climbing Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka The shadow of the mountain

As the sun came up and dispersed the clouds, it brought with it perspective. We could see for miles in every direction, below us the thousands of steps we blindly climbed earlier were now a clear path leading home.

We followed Sanja back down towards the village, occasionally gazing up at the quiet giant behind us, bewildered and proud at the distance we had covered.

Adam’s Peak embodies all I had experienced during my time in Sri Lanka. Enchanting colours, golden temples, lush wild jungle, and the best cup of tea you have ever had.

The diverse beauty of this country and the gentle nature of its people are all reflected in this magical mountain.

Browse all of our Sri Lanka adventures below.