In the Middle Ages, the Garden of Eden was commonly believed to exist on earth—probably on top of a mountain, or on an island, in order to have survived Noah’s Flood. For those looking to find the exact location of the biblical garden, “East” was a popular direction to start looking in.
In 1358, a Florentine monk believed he had found what he was looking for on a very tall mountain on the island of Sri Lanka. Located sixteen kilometers northeast of the city of Ratnapura, Adam’ s Peak - also known as the Samanalakanda in Sinhalese and Sivanolipatha Malai in Tamil - rises 7,360 feet above sea level, and offers an unobstructed view over land and sea. Giovanni Marignolli, who traveled the East for 15 years, declared that this particular mountain was “so close to the earthly paradise that from its top one could see paradise were it not for the cloud cover that hides it from view.”
At the top, there is what looks like a fossilized footprint; Marignolli claimed it was Adam’s. The foot-shaped depression is known as the Sri Pada or “sacred footprint” and still holds religious meaning though the claim has gotten more contentious. The Hindus claim the footprint belongs to Shiva while the Buddhists claim the Sri Pada belongs to the Buddha, while Christian and Muslim Sri Lankan’s agree that the print definitely belongs to Adam’s ancient foot.
The mountain has been climbed for more than a thousand years, and boasts an illustrious list of famous pilgrims including the Arab traveler Ibn Batuta, and possibly, Alexander the Great. It remains a major shrine site and hiking trail today.