Lured by the footprint of Buddha, pilgrims make the trek to the top of this sacred mountain in Sri Lanka every year from December to April.
But, so do Muslims, who believe the footprint is from Adam, while Christians believe it is from St. Thomas and Hindus believe it to be from Lord Shiva.
Whew! Whose footprint is it? Really, that doesn’t matter as Sri Pada has been a pilgrimage site for thousands of years, and no mater what your belief, there is a sacred aura that surrounds the mountain.
I climbed the peak in January and even with my 3am start, there were plenty of people already climbing the stairs to the top.
Along the way, little teahouses dot the trail, offering hot tea and sweets to power you on further. It’s very tempting to jsut stop and relax, but then you’d miss the show at the top – as the goal is to arrive at the peak in time for sunrise.
Watching the sun slowly rise from a top a mountain is always a special experience, but when you add the ‘holiness’ element of this mountain to the morning glow, it was really a special experience. it was also my final day in the country, I was leaving later that afternoon, so it was the perfect way to cap off a great adventure in Sri Lanka.
After ringing the bell at the peak, the most magical moment happened shortly after, with the shadow of the mountain peak slowly creeping over the cloud-covered forest below.
It was a quiet, peaceful few minutes watching the shadow crawl across the country, eventually fading away as the sun rose higher and started to burn off the morning clouds.
I had taken may great hikes around Sri Lanka to tops of temples, through rain forests and across grassy plains. But being amongst the pilgrims ascending Sri Pada was easily the most memorable trek I took in the country.
It is a bit of a challenge, but by going slowly and pacing yourself the climb up the many many stairs should be doable by almost anyone. Just know that the reward at the top is well worth it!