Paths to the Holy mountain (Sri Padaya) - Well-Trodden and Offbeat trails

Sri Pada is the holiest and most revered mountain in Sri Lanka. Having been a holy mountain, annually millions of locals and foreigners pilgrimage to the summit during the season which falls from December to May.

It holds a sacred place in Sri Lankan’s hearts due to the religious importance and the culture, history entwined with it. For many, climbing the peak is a pilgrimage, for others, it is a profound adventure.

adams peak kuruwita erathna trail
The beginning of the end – The holy peak

What does “Sri Pada” mean? It is said that when Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka “The God of Saman” invited to place his footprint on the summit of this mountain.

Hence the name was derived “Sri Pada” which translates to “The sacred footprint”. Sri Pada mountain region is considered to be looked over by the God of Saman and he is much revered by the locals.

The Pilgrims make sure to well behave and avoid meat during the climb out of respect to this holy place.

Alternative names: Sri Pada is also called Samanala Mountain as well as Adams Peak.

Standing 2,243 m above the sea level, Sri Pada is the 5th Highest Mountain in Sri Lanka and if you consider the difficulty in climbing, this might very well be in the top 5 as well. (source)

The shape of the mountain is conical and there are many high-grade slopes close to the peak. Thanks to the staircases and railings, climbing these mind-boggling steeps has become manageable to the laymen. Even though, heart failures are not unheard of in these parts.

Sri Pada Routes

To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As with many mountains, there are many trails that lead to the Sri Pada summit as well. There are 06 known such paths have been documented.

Many local hikers make a pact to themselves to complete all of these and to find new paths to the holy summit through the undiscovered wilderness.

Here is a summary of the trails for your reference. Reliable elevation gains data are not available for some trails.

Trail Elevation
Gain
Distance Difficulty Nearest
town to the trailhead
Ratnapura
Palabaddala Trail
2000m 8.5 Km Strenuous Siripagama
Kuruwita Erathna Trail 1850m 12 Km Moderate Adevikanda
Hatton,
Nallathanni trail
1000 m 5 Km Moderate Nallathanniya
Deraniyagala, Udamaliboda (Ihala-Maliboda) Trail 1700m 12 Km Tough Ihala-Maliboda
Rajamale Trail N/A 5 Km Moderate Mulgama
Hapugastenna
(The Dehenakanda – Mukku Watta) Trail
N/A ~14 Km Tough Mukkuwatta

So that’s the summary. The most used and popular route is Hatton, Nallathanni route. If you’re a foreigner this is probably the only route you’d have heard about.

There are many articles have been written about this trail. In fact, there is nothing adventurous about this route and it is crowded to the brim.

Many tourists use it because it’s easier to get to Hatton and then Nallathanni from the hill country destinations like Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Ella. Nallathanniya is also referred to as Dalhousie.

Dalhousie or nallathanniya sri lanka
The scenic section of the Nallathanniya route.

Moving forward to more interesting routes, Ratnapura – Palabaddala route is the next famous route among locals. This trail is used by people coming from the south mostly since it is easier for them to get to Ratnapura.

Even though the elevation gain is the highest, the trail is paved with stairs and hand railings for the most parts to the ease of pilgrims.

It is the oldest route as well and Kings said to have used this route to climb the holy mountain for over thousand years and hence the name “Raja Mawatha” (King’s Road) is also used to identify this route. The famous “Dharmarajagala” as well as the headwaters of “Kalu River” can be found along this trail.

The path is continuous ascent through the peak wilderness.

sri palabaddala route to adams peak
Sri Palabaddala route -It feels like never ending but the surrounding nature is blissful

Next most used route is Kuruwita-Erathna route. Having serene footpaths through woods, stairs with railings, rocky ascends which makes your stomach turns; it can be considered a pleasant blend of the above two trails.

joining in with ratnapura trail at galwangediya
Palabaddala and Kuruwita roads meet at Galwangediya resting point

Flat sections are found in the midsections of the trail which lie through the peak wilderness. Many water sources are available throughout the trail, therefore, people don’t have to carry much water. Warnagala waterfall is a major attraction which can be found along this trail.

Here are some interesting sections of the Erathna trail.

erathna road through the woods

strenuous trek to Adams peak via erathna route

 

staircase to the adams peak

Out of the other, lesser-used three routes, Rajamale trail is the easiest and considered the shortest. If what you seek is a serene nature trail through the peak wilderness, skip this and try the other two.

Both Deraniyagala-Uda-Maliboda and Hapugatenne-Dehenakanda trails lie through the deep wilderness. Paved roads or concrete steps are unheard of these parts.

Hence as you’ve guessed by now these routes offer most peaceful and amazing journeys towards the peak devoid of chaotic pilgrims and pollution.

These also require you to be of sound in mind and body and may require camping in the jungle since there are no other accommodation options available. It’s better to accompany a guide if you intend to venture on these off the beaten paths.

Text and photos are available under the Creative Commons Non-Derivations and Non-Commercial license

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