Myanmar has long been known as the cultural and historical haven of Southeast Asia, but if you take a sidestep off the otherwise well-trodden tourist trail, you’ll find yourself in thick jungles, remote villages, and stumble upon hidden waterfalls that can only be reached on foot, or by bike.
Trekking and cycling trails have been plotted, and as the country opens up to more and more backpackers and cyclists each year, the facilities are improving as well.
For those looking for an easy day hike in popular spots around Myanmar, here are the best destinations.
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! It’s best to only do a small wine sampling if you’re riding your bike home, though.
This is the most obvious day hike or bike that comes to mind, mainly because everyone who visits Myanmar is likely to visit this 104 km², UNESCO listed, 11th century temple wonderland.
You don’t really have to follow a specific route on this day trip: Simply grab a map (and a rental bike if you’re cycling) from a guest house, choose a few temples you don’t want to miss, and set off.
As the area is so large, you’ll be able to see a lot more from a bike, but it’s possible to walk too. Just know that it can be sweltering around midday, so it’s recommended that you go early in the morning, or late afternoon.
Late afternoon is also the best time for photographs, when the shadows of the temples grow, and the sun lights up the clouds around sunset.
If a simple day trek isn’t satisfying enough for you, there are a few excellent multi-day treks in Myanmar. Here are a couple of the best:
This is one of the most popular multi-day treks in the country, mostly due to the fact that it’s relatively easy to organize and absolutely breathtaking, but also because it’s near Inle Lake – one of the main tourist attractions in Myanmar.
Heading west out of Inle Lake, you can trek directly to the former British Hill Station of Kalaw. Even though this trek has become increasingly popular in recent years, there’s a chance you won’t see any other tourists on the path, and it’s well-worth hiring an English-speaking guide.
The trail will bring you through the villages of the Pa'O people, the Palaung, Taungthu, and Danu. If you choose the more challenging route between Baw Nin Khone and Than Dang, a great place to spend the night is at the Tithein Monastery.
This route is also possible to do by bike. There are a few outfitters in Inle and Kalaw who can set you up with a rental for the trip, and a guide as well. On bike, the trip doesn’t have to be overnight, but it’s still fun to sleep at the monastery – so you may want to leave late in the afternoon on day one, and end in Kalaw the next morning.
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.
The accommodation on many of these treks is going to be very basic. You’ll likely be sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor of the monasteries. Sometimes, you’ll have a mosquito net – other times you may be eaten alive.
Trekking and hiking in Myanmar is relatively new, so be aware that the infrastructure isn’t as set up as it is in Nepal.
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.
Hiking is always free unless you decide to hire a guide, which usually doesn’t cost more than US $20–$25/day. A simple bike will cost around 1,500 kyat/day (US $1.10), while a mountain bike can cost as much as 15,000 kyat/day (US $5) depending on where you rent it from and the quality of the bike.
While you can do many hikes, treks, and cycling routes around the country independently, it’s always nice to have a guide – not only to show you the way, but you’ll be helping the local economy by hiring them and they’ll be able to translate for you.
Often the real interactions with local people are the best experiences on these types of trips.
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