Key information: Kalaw-Inle Area
- Fine trekking around this colonial era hill station - secondary forested hills and farmed valleys; lovely views, monasteries and shrines and, of course, the idiosyncratic hill tribes who live the area. The abstract harmonies of tea plantations, even.
- Treks vary from half day to multi day and can be organized locally. An overnight expedition, sleeping in a tribal village, would be a must, if time allows. The various Kalaw to Inle Lake walks are the most popular, with good reason.
- Some way off is Pindaya, home to a famous Buddhist cave. There is lovely walking around the town, with pagodas on nearby high points and trekking out to tribal villages in the surrounding area. These can be day treks, or overnighters.
- Beautiful Inle Lake has some good walks in its environs.
- Walkopedia rating93
- Natural interest15
- Human interest16
- Negative points0
- Total rating93
- Length: Variable
- Maximum Altitude: c. 2,000m
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
The countryside around this colonial era hill station makes for fine trekking - forested hills (well, secondary forested hills) and farmed valleys with lovely views, stupas and monasteries and, of course, the endlessly interesting villages of the idiosyncratic hill tribes who live the area. Pockets of rich woodland (although sadly depleted by logging - the guide books oversell it a bit) and some animal life. The abstract harmonies of tea plantations, even.
Treks vary from half day to multi day and can be organized locally. An overnight expedition, sleeping in a tribal village, would be a must, if time allows. The various Kalaw to Inle Lake walks are the most popular, with good reason.
Day-walk routes are plentiful. Nawa Taung pagoda and the surrounding villages (of various tribes) to the north are said to be lovely and include some tea plantations; the mainly Pa-O villages south and south-east of Myin Dike railway station to the south are fascinating and the surrounding countryside magnificent; the "top" mountain, "Viewpoint" (a restaurant with, you got it, a good view) and Shwe Min Pone pagoda to the west; all are wonderful walking areas. If you have time, get yourself driven up a roadhead for access to remoter countryside.
Guides are a good idea and a must if going overnight. Consider also taking a cook if trekking overnight to remoter places - food and sanitation are basic outside town and it is very easy to get ill. Agree your requirements and the pay clearly beforehand. If feeling like doing things informally, you can simply walk out of town toward places such as "the Viewpoint". The downside is it can take a while to get out of the outskirts, which are scruffy but interesting, and can afford a glimpse of stockbroker tudor colonial rest houses, and you need to keep an eye on which way you have gone, so you can retrace your steps.
The cool(er) air (Kalaw is at around 1,300m) is welcome after the heat of the lowlands. But it can get cold at nights.
Famously lovely Inle Lake has some good walks in the hills behind it - as if you will get tired of pottering about this wonderful and fascinating watery world.
Some way off is Pindaya, home to a famous and vast cave containing a multitude of Buddha statues. There is lovely walking around the town, with pagodas on nearby high points and trekking out to tribal villages in the surrounding area. These can be day treks, or overnighters.
Lonely Planet's Myanmar has good basic information on trekking in this area.
To go or not: until recently, there were major issues with visiting Myanmar, as a result of the money and affirmation that the regime receives - with counter-arguments to the effect that money to the desperately poor locals and foreign contact is more important. These were well put in the 2009 Lonely Planet. But, with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the dabate has for the time being changed; she cautiously welcomes visitors coming to Myanmar.
THIS PAGE IS AT AN EARLY STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT: ALL SUGGESTIONS AND PHOTOS WELCOME!
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Myanmar (Burma) - Lonely Planet: overall pretty good, although lightish on this area.
Myanmar, Burma in Style – Odyssey. More poetic that the LP, but short on practicalities. It does no harm to bring both.
The Glass Palace – Amitav Ghost – a great novel in all senses. And it leaves you with much deeper understanding of the country and its history.
The River of Lost Footsteps – Thant Myin-U – a brilliantly readable history
The Making of Modern Burma– Thant Myin-U
From the Land of the Green Ghosts – Pascal Khoo Thwe: fine autobiography
Burmese Days - George Orwell. trenchant, observant, opinionated, as always. Makes uncomfortable reading for sensitive Brits.
The Laquer Lady - F. Tennyson Jesse: a wonderful novel (according to Mrs Walko) about a woman teaching in the Burmese court.
Golden Earth: Travels in Burma – Norman Lewis (can be hard to get)
The Piano Tuner – Daniel Mason – a truly badly written book, but somehow gripping (Mrs Walko won’t even grant it this) and a success (they made a film of it, so someone thinks it must be good!).
There aren’t any detailed maps available. Guide book maps plus Eddie Saw’s beautiful hand-drawn map (in our photo gallery above, open in a new tab to enlarge) are as good as is available.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
November through to early March, when the temperatures and rainfall are low. April and May are hot and roughly mid-May to September wet. Oct- Nov will see things greener, albeit possibly with the odd shower, and not as many tourists as in Dec-Feb.
Very hot and dry through March to May. Appx mid-May to Mid October are wet season. It can get cold at night.
From Yangon, it is possible to travel by plane to the local airport, Heho, or to Kalaw car or bus. We drove onward to Bagan in almost 8 hrs (2012) and it gave a fascinating insight into life in the less glamorous areas.
International flights arrive only at Yangon.
Arranging flights and hotels from overseas can be difficult. Walkopedia used Myanmar Good News Travel (myanmargoodnewstravel.com), and were delighted, except we had problems with getting an initial response to our becoming - desperate emails.
Cars and drivers can be arranged locally.
See Walk Summary above .
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself. It can get cold at night.
- Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications. Drink only bottled or boiled water and eat carefully (consider taking a cook with you if trekking overnight to remote villages).
- We have been assured there are no snakes or mosquitos around Kalaw, but we are not convinced. Beware around Inle Lake. Walk alertly.
- Although it is normally possible to take photographs, be sensitive.
- Wear sensible clothes – suited to the weather and so cool and dry, however they must also be suitable for entering religious buildings, so not revealing or unsuitable.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Guided or independent?
You can walk short local walks independently.
It is fairly easy to arrange guides; but ask around for a someone known and respected (and make sure you agree your needs and the terms in advance). (We probably overpaid a bit (in 2013) at US$20 a day, each, for a guide and cook for a Kalaw – Inle trek.) Don’t negotiate too hard!
The Lonely Planet recommends Sam Trekking Guide, and Harri and Rambo Singh, findable at the Golden Lily Guest House. We used the latter (firstname.lastname@example.org) who were a bit slow of response but organized an immaculate 3-day Kalaw to Inle Trek (see William Mackesy’s Account). We have to say they were a bit naughty about money, charging us US$20 a day when we had agreed K20,000 by email, but hey. They introduced us to one of the best guides ever, the delightful Eddie Saw (email@example.com).
Expedition organisers include:
- Audley Travel – www.audleytravel.com – can create walking holidays here.
- Kudu Travel (www.kudutravel.com) do a Myanmar expedition which includes day walking at Kalaw and Bagan. Walkopedia partners, so recommended!
Comfortable hotels and more backpackery hostels are available around Kalaw. We were delighted by the Amara Resort, a colonial-era house with a very pretty garden on the ridge to the south-west of town, although this may be military-crony owned.
A huge range around Inle Lake, from stilted delights on the lake itself to simple hostels in Nyaungshwe.
Always see what the commentary on Tripadvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.
Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are various websites with information on this area, here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- www.wikipedia.org / www.wikitravel.org
Other things to do in the area
Shopping, if you must
We don’t really do shopping, but anything bought from local people must be of some help to this desperately poor area. So, wallets out… and don’t bargain too ruthlessly!
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS
Posted on: 11/10/2013
"International flights arrive only at Yangon" Flights (from Bangkok with Thai) also to Mandalay
Name: Fat Cat
Posted on: 14/06/2014
Guides/Support Ko Min is one of the excellent trekking guide in Kalaw.He can speak good english and knowledgeable.(firstname.lastname@example.org).
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more