IF you’re thinking of a walking holiday Burma (Myanmar) is probably the last place in Asia on your list. But if you do like to trudge about, there are some good opportunities for doing so. I’ve listed some of the more accessible places first, followed by two entries for the more intrepid, financed and adventurous at the end. There are also hiking regions in the Kengtung area, around Inle Lake and even to the south of Yangon near Hpa’an.
Do note the situation in Burma (Myanmar) is very changeable and you may need to check if there are any issues, restrictions, problems in any area you visit before heading out. However, things are settling down and there is an ever-increasing choice of accommodation. Check rates and availability on Agoda.com.
This place in Shan state is little more than a village located near Inle but has become renowned as a centre for trekking thanks to its picturesque hillsides and small village clusters. While there is something of a production line taking groups over to Inle Lake (see the entry below) it’s possible to arrange some other day or overnight trips away from these. And if you hike out of season you’ll find few people in the area. The guesthouses in Kalaw have hiking guides.
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Kalaw to Inle Lake
This popular overnight or two-night route takes you through villages from Kalaw across to Inle Lake. There’s a lot of scenic wonders to enjoy on the way and accommodation is often at the local village monastery. The guides speak excellent English, the terrain is not too tough and your bag is transported to Inle for you where you can enjoy some chill out time at the other end at one of Myanmar’s most beautiful natural attractions. This is certainly a place you should consider hiking just out of season to escape the crowds.
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Pyin U Lwin
This hill town about two to three hours from Mandalay excudes a British colonial air with its colonial buildings and tea shops. It’s also a fair bit cooler than Mandalay – great in summer but a little on the cold side in winter. Still it’s the perfect temperature for getting about. There are a number of natural attractions outside town such as the Anisakan Falls and Pwe Kauk Falls. Both are about 8-9km out of Pyin U Lwin. There are also some Shan villages on the way to the Pwe Kauk Falls and a natural cave.
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Pronounced Thibaw in Burmese, this quaint little place to the north east of Mandalay is also renowned for trekking. Free maps are available at guesthouses to take you to hot springs and natural waterfalls. There are also plenty of rice fields and agricultural settlements to wander nearby. This could easily keep you busy for about three days. If you want to venture further afield you will need a guide. Overnight stays and jungle trekking can be arranged through guesthouses such as Mr Charles.
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Kyaukme and Namshan
These villages to either side of Hsipaw are also renowned as trekking destinations but without the infrastructure and ease of access to guides and information as in Hspiaw. This could be both a good and bad thing. Transport from Mandalay to the former passes through here so it’s easy enough to get off the bus there. To Namshan transport can be arranged in Hsipaw but could require a wait of a few days. In both you may be more on your own in terms of visiting little villages but there’s no real problem or restrictions reported in wandering about. These would be great locations for those wanting a trekking adventure.
Access to Putao can alter given what the current situation might be in Myanmar, so check this out thoroughly before you go there. In the past the only way to get there was by air and that’s probably not a bad idea, given the distance it is from Yangon and the time it would take to get there (you can only get a 28 day tourist visa). Given its remote location near other borders there is an army presence here and you usually need permits for any sort of multiple day treks. Day treks of course are possible on your own.