A Mountain Lover’s Guide to Myanmar
By June Franco
Love travelling down long winding hilly roads, soaking up the hillside greenery while enjoying cool weather? Then Myanmar is just the place for you. The country is blessed with several hills, including the Himalayas – the queen of mountains. There are many places for a mountain lover to visit when planning a nice hilly vacation in Myanmar.
Start from Mandalay
One of the most important cities in the country, Mandalay is the best point to start your journey. You can spend a day exploring the historical wonders of Mandalay before you head on to the hill stations. Explore Mandalay Palace – the last royal palace of Myanmar – climb up Mandalay Hill, enjoy the multiple pagodas on the way up and take a cruise on the mighty Ayeyarwady River. There’s a lot to do in Mandalay
Travel to Pyin Oo Lwin
The Shan Hills are sigue leyendo esto located towards the north of Mandalay. Resting in this zone is Pyin Oo Lwin, a charming colonial-style hill station that stands still in time. With British buildings and horse carriages, Pyin Oo Lwin provides an enjoyable getaway from the heat and humidity of Mandalay.
Pyin Oo Lwin is all about enjoying a few laid-back days away from big cities. You will feel like you have been transported back to 19th century England as you walk around and soak in the old vibe. You can also enjoy a ride on one of the brightly coloured old-fashioned horse-driven carriages near the town centre.
In Pyin Oo Lwin is where you’ll find the National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens, the oldest and largest botanical site in the country, enriched with 514 species of indigenous trees, 74 foreign species, 300 species of orchids and 25 species of roses. This itself deserves a visit, doesn’t it?
Take the Train to Hsipaw
Hsipaw, another hill station nestled in the lap of the scenic Shan Hills, is the next destination to visit. The travel from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw itself is worthwhile. The train route includes being on the scenic Gokteik Viaduct, a 100-metre long railway trestle built during British rule, connecting two mountains. It is an engineering marvel in itself. Make sure to sit on the left side of the train to enjoy the best views.
The main town of Hsipaw is quite small and can be easily explored on foot. Hsipaw is famous for its innumerable trekking routes that vary in level of difficulty. These trekking routes take you to hilly villages and offer a glimpse of the authentic life of the local people. Hsipaw also provides amazing views of the sunset, something to enjoy and reflect upon.
Travel to Inle Lake
After two hill stations, it’s time to take a break and head to the most scenic lake in Myanmar – Inle Lake. There are various ways to travel to Inle from Hsipaw. If you are an avid hiker, you can trek to the lake, which takes around 3 days to complete. It will be a guided trek where you will spend the nights at villages, among the local people. Bike lovers can cycle to Inle, instead of trekking. You can also take a bus or hire a taxi to go to Inle Lake.
Inle Lake is not just a lake, it is an ecosystem where people and animals live in perfect harmony. From enjoying joy rides on the lake to witnessing rare species in the Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, Inle Lake has enough to keep you busy for at least a few days.
Fly to Putao
Once you have explored Inle Lake to your heart’s content, it’s time to witness the snow-capped mountains of the beautiful Himalayas. Take a flight from Heho Airport – the closest airport from Inle Lake – to Putao, the northernmost town of Myanmar. Putao is a remote Himalayan town surrounded by snow-capped mountains on all sides.
This town is everything that a mountain lover seeks. It is isolated, untouched and uncrowded. You can simply walk around town and soak in the fresh mountainous air. Mount Hkakaborazi, the highest peak of Myanmar, is visible here.
You can visit Himalayan villages and interact with the villagers, who are pretty hospitable and will be happy to walk you around. You can also visit the Hkakaborazi National Park and view some exotic plants, animals and birds. If you are lucky, you will get to see the Black Orchid, which is not found anywhere else in the world.
As several places of Putao are restricted areas, ensure to check with the locals before heading to uncharted territories. Being a Himalayan town, Putao can get pretty cold, especially between November and February. It will be colder than Hsipaw and Pyin Oo Lwin, hence carry appropriate warm clothing.
With this itinerary, you can immerse yourself in the most beautiful highlands of Myanmar. As an added bonus, after exploring Putao, you can take a flight to Yangon and experience the city for a day or two before flying back home.