If you love traveling on foot or pedaling your way around new places, Myanmar has it all! If you love nature, do not doubt that hiking is the perfect activity for you. You will be amazed by the natural life, full of natural walks and waterfalls. You will see leafy vegetation that will make you forget for a moment the bustle and the gray cement of the city. And you will
breathe fresh air without the pollution of the industries and the exhaust pipes. Also, if you give enough attention surely you listen to the joyful song of a bird. And, hopefully, you may see some animals in the area.
Each route, each mountain and each path are different worlds. Discover the wonderful corners away from the view of the majority, that clear in the middle of the forest, that lonely rock that you will not hesitate to upload to take a photo. That little pond with crystalline waters that with some luck has fish. With each new excursion you will discover beautiful landscapes. Even on a repeating route, you will notice things that you have not seen or explore new corners and roads that will take you to new and wonderful sites.
Hiking helps you to forget all the problems, being highly recommended for people suffering from anxiety, stress or depression. Do not hesitate any longer, and when you feel overwhelmed, grab your mountain boots, grab your backpack, prepare a snack and go to a natural place to walk, disconnect and clear. Your health, your life and yourself will thank you.
As Myanmar continues to open up to visitors, so does its network of walking trails. Routes run through the whole of the country, from the Himalayan foothills in the north to the lower level rice fields of the south, with choices for hardy trekkers and occasional walkers alike. For more ardent walkers, a range of overnight treks exist, many with monasteries providing distinctive overnight accommodation. The best time for trekking is from November to March, during the cooler weather. Here are some of the routes you do not want to miss out when planning a trip to Myanmar:
The perfect area for day hikes and cycling, Inle Lake is a shimmering body of water, set among rice paddies and Pa’o villages in central Myanmar. From the main town of Nyaungshwe, follow the dirt path south towards the Pa’o Villages on the east coast of the lake. After visiting a few villages, you can hop on a boat (around 6,000 kyat) to take you back across the lake. You can also ride your bike (15 minutes) or walk (55 minutes) from Nyaungshwe to the Red Mountain Estate Vineyard for beautiful views over the lake, a tasty lunch, and delicious Burmese wine!
Inle to Kalaw
If you’re a first-time visitor to Myanmar, more likely than not your itinerary will include time in and around Inle Lake, where communities live on floating villages.
As well as exploring the water by boat, we would encourage you to take to the area’s paths on foot. I’d suggest spending at least a couple of hours meandering in the surrounding countryside and farmland of Shan State, a plateau that extends all the way from northeast of Mandalay to China. As you ascend the lake and look back on views of the traditional fishing villages grouped around its shoreline, you start to appreciate its scale and serenity.
With more time, you can trek for a full day, or even two. Heading west from Inle Lake, it’s possible to trek overnight to the former British hill station of Kalaw, or vice versa. On the route in-between, you’ll pass through the villages of the Palaung, Pa-O, Taungthu and Danu tribes. At the markets around the lake, you’ll start to recognise villagers by their clothes. The Pa-O are particularly striking, dressed in black that’s offset with a bright red turban. They live in traditional bamboo-built homes and work in the fields, sometimes joined by their children, who ride the buffalo.
There are a number of routes, with varying degrees of difficulty (your guide will be able to tailor your walk to your fitness level). One of the more challenging is between two villages — Baw Nin Khone, close to Kalaw, and Than Dang — along a shady tree-lined path where you can find respite from the sun. Until recently, this trek has been one of few, if not the only, overnight trekking options in Myanmar. As such, it’s one of the more popular trails, although you are still unlikely to see other travellers on the route.
We advise making the most of the evenings and early mornings, before the day walkers set out and at a time when you’ll have the trails virtually to yourself. The air is cooler and the dawning light or lingering light of dusk is better for photographing the bamboo groves and gnarled pine forests that the paths cut through.
The Tithein Monastery provides a rustic but friendly place to spend the night, where the monks will cook a simple meal of chicken curry, vegetables, tofu and rice for you and invite you into a way of life unchanged for generations.
Hsipaw to a Palaung Village
Hsipaw has long been a well-known hiking and trekking destination in Myanmar. Located just six-and-a-half hours north of Mandalay, Hsipaw is a stunning mountain village that, despite a recent influx in tourism, still remains delightfully Burmese. Almost every guest house in the village can arrange day treks here, but we recommend taking one of the beautiful overnight treks to a nearby Palaung Village. You’ll likely spend the night on the floor of a monastery (an experience in itself), and wake up to the sun rising on the sunflower-clad hillsides.
Monastery trek from Hpa-An
In the southeast of the country, between Yangon and Mawlamyine, Hpa-An is a growing centre for walking and trekking. Rarely visited by outsiders to Myanmar, the capital of Kayin State is surrounded by limestone mountains, which hide caves holding devotional art in the guise of thousands of tiny clay Buddhas and carvings dating from the 7th century.
The crown of Mount Zwekabin rises out of the undergrowth of the lower slopes, capped by the golden stupas of a monastery. Overlooking the town, this landmark is a pilgrimage site for local people. A reasonable degree of fitness is required to climb the steps to the monastery, but the walk is relatively short and takes around an hour. At the top, you’ll be welcomed by the monks and on a clear day, as it was in my case, a view you can trace along the Salween River out to the coast.
Bring a hat to protect from the sun, and long, light clothing for the early morning and late afternoons – when the bugs are at their worst. Always carry insect repellent and some sunscreen, and try to plan your trekking and cycling in the early morning or late afternoon, when the air is cooler and the sun isn’t as strong.