Myanmar is one of South East Asia’s most underrated countries with a mecca of fun-fuelled activities to do and incredible places to see! I guarantee you will have the time of your life when Backpacking Myanmar!
I recommend spending at least 2 weeks in Myanmar to discover everything from the rich culture and delicious cuisine to ancient temples and unique landscapes!
I have put together this ultimate Myanmar travel itinerary for Backpacking Myanmar which includes the best things to do, the best places to see, where to stay and all the logistics of how to get around the country!
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BACKPACKING MYANMAR OVERVIEW
Here is a quick overview of how to spend 2 Weeks Backpacking Myanmar in this exact order:
- Yangon (1 day)
- Bagan (3 days)
- Mandalay (3 days)
- Inle Lake (3 days)
- Hpa An (3 days)
- Yangon (1 day)
BACKPACKING MYANMAR – DAY 1:
Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar, with a population of 6 million and a mix of English, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences.
But don’t let this big city scare you because a Yangon Bike Tour with the guys at Uncharted Horizons will take you off the beaten track and it’s the best way to spend your first day backpacking Myanmar!
YANGON TOURS WITH UNCHARTED HORIZONS
Uncharted Horizons has 4 different Yangon Tour packages to choose from, 3 of which are bike tours and 1 is a non-cycling tour. Regardless of which one you choose, each tour is an incredible, off the beaten track, Yangon sightseeing adventure.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH UNCHARTED HORIZONS
We were lucky enough to have Jochen, the founder of Uncharted Horizons, to be our personal guide on the Islands & Rivers half-day tour which was truly an unforgettable adventure and cultural experience in Yangon.
Jochen has been living in Yangon for the last 6.5 years, he knows the local language and he sure knows his way around the city and the outskirts of the city. During the Yangon bike tour, Jochen not only shared with us some history and interesting facts about Yangon but also had us actively engaging with all of the locals as we rode through their rural villages.
We would have never seen and experienced the ‘Yangon’ if we wouldn’t have booked this tour with Uncharted Horizons as none of the locations that we visited are main tourist attractions and in fact, we didn’t see any other tourists during the whole tour.
By the end of the day, my butt was sore and my back was sweaty but I seriously couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. To top it all off, we enjoyed a cold beer and a raging sunset on board a local boat that took us back across the river to downtown Yangon.
Full Blog Post: Yangon Bike Tour
Yangon Bike Tour – Backpacking Myanmar
Yangon Bike Tour – Myanmar Backpacking
Sunset on the way back to Yangon
MYANMAR BACKPACKING – DAY 2, 3 & 4:
A Myanmar backpacking trip is not complete without experiencing the temple town known as Bagan!
There is no place on Earth quite as unique as Bagan, once a powerful ancient kingdom in central Myanmar, where 2000+ Buddhist temples and pagodas cover the vast African-like landscape and the Ayeyarwady River drifts down the northern and western sides.
HOW TO GET TO FROM YANGON TO BAGAN
After Day 1 in Yangon, you can take a night bus to Bagan with JJ Express leaving Yangon at 9pm and arriving in Bagan at 6am the following morning (9 hours).
Get Your Bus Ticket → Yangon to Bagan
5 THINGS TO DO IN BAGAN
#1 BALLOONS OVER BAGAN
There are several Bagan hot air balloon companies to book a flight with, however, I highly recommend flying with Balloons Over Bagan, the most reputable hot air balloon company in Bagan.
You can book a Bagan Balloon Ride online in advance to get the best rates. The Balloons Over Bagan tour is the most top-rated tour with great reviews and hundreds of bookings.
This tour includes a 5am hotel pick-up, pre-balloon flight refreshments, hot air balloon tour in Bagan, champagne breakfast upon landing, personalised certificate and hotel drop-off around 8am.
- Bagan Hot Air Balloon Season: October – April
- Bagan Hot Air Balloon Price: USD $330
Book Now → Balloons Over Bagan Tour
MY EXPERIENCE ON BALLOONS OVER BAGAN
The hot air balloon lifted our basket off the ground with ease and barely any bumpiness at all. The Balloons Over Bagan pilot steered us swiftly across the tops of countless Buddhist monuments that covered the wide-open plains of Old Bagan.
The sun begun to rise up slowly over the horizon in the far distance, emitting a magical orange glow across the entire region. I was honestly left speechless… This moment was definitely one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen!
The airspace was dotted with dozens of colorful balloons as we floated aimlessly across the Bagan Archaeological Area with distant views of Mount Popa and the Ayeyarwady River.
Balloons Over Bagan really put on a show, spinning the hot air balloon around in all directions to give you the best possible views of Old Bagan from your corner of the basket.
As the flight comes to an end you’ll float over peanut farms and rice fields being harvested by the local farmers. Don’t be shy, give them a wave and I guarantee they will give you a wave back!
The Bagan hot air balloon will then descend on the outskirts of a local village and land safely on the sandbanks near the Ayeyarwady River.
Awaiting on the sand upon landing are the crew members from Balloons Over Bagan with glasses of champagne and light breakfast snacks to celebrate! The courtesy bus will also be there waiting to kindly drop you back to your hotel.
Full Blog Post: Balloons Over Bagan
Speechless views – Backpacking Myanmar
#2 BAGAN TEMPLE HOPPING
Temple hopping was one of my favorite things to do during my 2 weeks in Myanmar!
As there are more than 2000 Buddhist temples and pagodas dotted around Bagan, it is impossible to see them all in a few days. However, a few of my favorite Bagan temples that are not to be missed on your Bagan itinerary are listed below:
- Ananda Temple
- Shwezigon Pagoda
- Dhammayan Gyi Temple
- Dhammayazaka Pagoda
- Sulamani Temple
- Ta Wet Hpaya
See All → Hotels & Homestays in Bagan
Dhammayan Gyi Temple – Backpacking Myanmar
Ta Wet Hpaya – Myanmar Itinerary
Shwezigon Pagoda – Myanmar Travel Blog
#3 WATCHING THE SUNRISE IN OLD BAGAN
Catching a sunrise in Old Bagan has been on my bucket list for years and when I first arrived, that was the first thing on my list of things to do in Bagan! Here is a list of the best sunrise viewpoints in Old Bagan:
- Bagan Tower
- Utrecht Temple
- Sunrise Pagoda
- Ta Wet Hpaya Temple
- From a hot air balloon
Balloons Over Bagan – Backpacking Myanmar
Bagan Sunrise – Myanmar Travel Blog
#4 SUNSET DINNER BY THE AYEYARWADY RIVER
The ancient temples aren’t the only Bagan attractions to be seen during your visit. A candlelit dinner while watching the sunset behind the mountains on the Ayeyarwady River is one of the best things to add to your Myanmar itinerary!
I highly recommend having dinner at the riverside restaurant attached to Bagan Thande Riverview Hotel for the most unforgettable sunset views over Ayeyarwady River.
Take your pick of a western meal or indulge in some local cuisine, complemented by a glass of wine or a cold beer.
Dinner on the Ayeyarwady River – Backpacking Myanmar
#5 BAGAN E-BIKE ADVENTURES
Renting an E-Bike in Bagan is one of the best ways to zip silently between all of the best Bagan attractions!
E-Bike Bagan rentals can be found in and around New Bagan, Old Bagan and Nyaung Yu. If you can’t find a Bagan E-Bike rental in town, simply ask your accommodation and they will be sure to help you get some wheels.
Bagan E-Bikes cost around 5000-8000 Kyat per day and the battery only lasts from sunrise to sunset, so make sure you are fully charged before heading out to explore!
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Bagan E-Bikes – Backpacking Myanmar
WHERE TO STAY IN BAGAN
Bagan has dozens of accommodations to choose from so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay to suit the needs of budget backpackers, luxury travelers and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Bagan Thande Riverview Hotel
Mid Range: Bagan View Hotel
Budget: Maya Bagan Hostel
FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY IN BAGAN, SEARCH ON AGODA OR SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
MYANMAR BACKPACKING – DAY 5, 6 & 7:
Mandalay is the second-largest city and former royal capital in Northern Myanmar. I spent 3 days exploring Mandalay City, its ancient pagodas and beautiful waterfalls when backpacking Myanmar and have put together the ultimate guide of the 10 Best Things To Do In Mandalay.
I have heard that many people skip Mandalay when backpacking Myanmar but I must say, it was one of my favorite places to see in Myanmar and it’s not to be missed!
HOW TO GET FROM BAGAN TO MANDALAY
After exploring Bagan, you can take a bus to Mandalay which takes approximately 4 hours and the cost is around $10.
Get Your Bus Ticket → Bagan to Mandalay
10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN MANDALAY
#1 MANDALAY HILL
A visit to the peak of Mandalay Hill is one of the best things to do in Mandalay. Located on the very northern end of town you can discover the Su Taung Pyae Pagoda that sits on the very top of Mandalay Hill.
HOW TO GET TO MANDALAY HILL
From the center of town, it takes no more than 10-minutes to drive up to Mandalay Hill.
There is a parking fee of 300 Kyat and an additional 1000 Kyat entrance fee to enter the Su Taung Pyae Pagoda.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT MANDALAY HILL
Ride the elevator from the parking lot to the very peak of Mandalay Hill and you’ll soon see why it is one of the best things to do in Mandalay!
At the top, you can expect to experience 360-degree views of Mandalay City and its incredible surrounding landscape of various mountain ranges and the Irrawaddy River.
The Su Taung Pyae Pagoda itself is a unique building with decorative mosaic tiles and colorful artworks throughout. I was so impressed by how much time and detail was put into the walls and shrines here on Mandalay Hill.
See More ∼ Best Camera Gear For Travel
Mandalay Hill – Backpacking Myanmar
#2 DEE DOKE WATERFALL
Dee Doke Waterfall is a hidden gem, located high in the mountains just outside of Mandalay City, Myanmar. Get off the beaten Myanmar route and take the time to visit Dee Doke Waterfall and the incredible blue lagoons for I guarantee it’s one of the top things to do in Mandalay!
WHERE IS DEE DOKE WATERFALL
Dee Doke Waterfall is approximately a 1 hour 15 minutes drive south-east of Mandalay City.
The scenic drive out to Dee Doke Waterfall will take you through small local villages at the foot of towering cliffs and eventually running parallel with beautiful Myitnge River.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT DEE DOKE WATERFALL
When you arrive at the gravel parking lot at Dee Doke Waterfall you will have to pay 3oo Kyat to park the scooter and there are no other entrance fees to visit the Dee Doke Waterfall.
It is an easy to moderate 20-minute hike from the carpark to main falls at Dee Doke Waterfall.
You will come to an intersection along the rocky trail, one path leading down to the left and the other path up to the right. Take the path down to the left for a 2-minute hike down to the main swimming area at Dee Doke Waterfall. The other trail leads up to the blue lagoons which I will mention further down in this blog post.
The main swimming area at Dee Doke Waterfall has a number of rock pools and a small waterfall breaking through the rocks halfway up the valley.
The water is a bit fresh until the sun reaches up over the mountains at around 10am lighting up the entire valley and providing some heat down in the rock pools.
There is also a small cafe built into the side of the mountain selling cold drinks and snack foods.
I hiked back to the intersection on the trail and then took the path that leads off to the right. It is a further 5 to 10 minute hike to the blue lagoons at the top of the valley.
I was in awe when I laid eyes on this crazy lagoon. The color of the water was fluorescent blue, getting its color from the towering limestone cliffs that surround the lagoon.
The lagoon was no more than 2 meters deep so I wouldn’t recommend doing any cliff jumping here, however, it would be rude not to go for a refreshing swim to cool off!
Full Blog Post: Dee Doke Waterfall
Dee Doke Waterfall – Backpacking Myanmar
Blue lagoons at Dee Doke – Myanmar Itinerary
#3 KUTHODAW PAGODA
Kuthodaw Pagoda is an incredibly beautiful Buddhist stupa that is home to the world’s largest book and it is a must-see attraction to add on your list of things to see while backpacking Myanmar.
WHERE TO FIND THE KUTHODAW PAGODA
Kuthodaw Pagoda sits at the foot of Mandalay Hill on the northern end of town. You can visit Kuthodaw Pagoda right after experiencing the 360-degree viewpoint at the top of Mandalay Hill.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT KUTHODAW PAGODA
When I arrived at Kuthodaw Pagoda, I was searching around like a headless chicken for this so-called ‘world’s largest book’ but couldn’t seem to find it.
I then asked a local man to point me in the right direction and he then began to explain that there are 729 marble slabs inscribed with Burmese script inside the white stupas and together these make up the ‘world’s largest book’. The script on the marble slabs contains the teachings of Buddha.
Search All → Tours in Myanmar with Klook
Also at Kuthodaw Pagoda is a large gilded pagoda in the center of the grounds, surrounded by the hundreds of white stupas and offers great views upwards of Mandalay Hill.
#4 SANDAMUNI PAGODA
The Sandamuni Pagoda bears a slight resemblance to the nearby Kuthodaw Pagoda because of the hundreds of white stupas and gilded pagoda on the grounds. It’s truly one of the best places to visit in Myanmar!
WHERE IS SANDAMUNI PAGODA & WHAT TO EXPECT
The Sandamuni Pagoda can also be found at the foot of Mandalay Hill and a short 2-minute walk from the Kuthodaw Pagoda.
Sandamuni is world-known for its endless white stupas (1174 shrines to be exact) each inscribed with teachings of Buddha. It is also home to Myanmar’s largest iron Buddha statue weighing approximately 20 tonnes and covered in a layer of gold.
Sandamuni also offers great views between the shrines upwards of Mandalay Hill.
Find All → Hotels in Mandalay
Sandamuni Pagoda – Backpacking Myanmar
#5 ROYAL MANDALAY PALACE
The Royal Mandalay Palace is housed inside of a walled fort and surrounded by a moat of water. Built in 1859, the Mandalay Palace is the last royal palace of the last Burmese monarchy.
The Royal Mandalay Palace is in the center of the citadel and it seems Mandalay City has since been built around the boundaries of the fortress.
The entrance fee to the Royal Mandalay Palace is 10,000 Kyat.
Royal Mandalay Palace – @thisistherightplace
#6 U BEIN BRIDGE
The U Bein Bridge is an old teakwood bridge that spans across the Taungthaman Lake and it is one of the best things to see on your Myanmar itinerary 2 weeks.
WHERE IS THE U BEIN BRIDGE & WHAT TO EXPECT
The U Bein Bridge is located approximately a 30-minute drive southwest of Mandalay City center, near Amarapura village.
U Bein Bridge was built in 1850 and it is believed to be to oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. The U Bein Bridge is a tourist hotspot, especially around sunrise or sunset to witness the incredible reflections on the lake and to see the daily commute of locals and monks that use the bridge as a passageway.
I arrived at U Bein Bridge at around 6:30 in the morning to find a good spot to take photos at sunrise. There was a lot of low lying fog on this morning but the sun did show itself for about 5 to 10 minutes and I was able to get a few good shots in the short time window.
When the sun disappeared again I took some moodier shots of the monks making the commute across the U Bein Bridge.
This particular morning was one of my most memorable moments in the 3 days that I spent here, so make sure to add it to your list of things to do in Mandalay.
U Bein Bridge – 2 Weeks In Myanmar
#7 MINGUN PAHTODAWGYI
The Mingun Pahtodawgyi is an ancient ruined Buddhist temple in Mingun Village. Exploring the Mingun pagoda was another one of my favorite things to do in Mandalay.
WHERE TO FIND THE MINGUN PAGODA & WHAT TO SEE
Mingun Pahtodawhyi is located north-west of Mandalay City and it is approximately a 1.5 hour drive from the center of town. I visited the Mingun pagoda right after watching the sunrise at U Bein Bridge.
Before entering the grounds of the Mingun temple there is a checkpoint on the side of the road for foreigners to pay an entrance fee of 5000 Kyat. This ticket will also allow you entry to the Mingun Bell and the Hsinbyume Pagoda (Myatheindan).
The Mingun Pahtodawgyi is essentially a big pile of bricks that is said to hold the record of the biggest pile of bricks in the world. It was intended to be a 500ft stupa but the construction of Mingun Pahtodawgyi was abandoned when the king died. Mingun Pagoda was then later hit by an earthquake, leaving cracks up the face of the stupa and one whole corner of the monument broke off and now lays in debris.
Mingun Pagoda is quite a popular point of interest in Mandalay so it can get quite busy, although if you take the time to walk around the backside of the temple you will most likely have uninterrupted awe-inspiring views of the ancient monument.
Don’t forget to stop in to see the Mingun Bell, located right next to the Mingun Pagoda. The Mingun Bell is the second largest bell in the world and it can be rung by striking the outside with a wooden baton.
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Mingun Pagoda – Backpacking Myanmar
#8 HSINBYUME PAGODA (MYATHEINDAN)
The Hsinbyume Pagoda is a large white stupa that was built in 1816 to represent the Buddhist mythological mountain, Mount Meru. The Myatheindan Pagoda was my favorite location to shoot photos and it’s not to be missed when backpacking Myanmar!
WHERE IS HSINBYUME PAGODA & WHAT TO DO
Hsinbyume Pagoda is located north-west of Mandalay City and it is approximately a 1.5 hour drive from the center of town. It’s a short 2-minute drive from the Mingun Pagoda and the Mingun Bell, so you can potentially visit all of these 3 locations on the same day.
The Hsinbyume Pagoda is a multi-tiered stupa that can be explored on every level. Be sure to get that classic shot walking across the arches.
Hsinbyume Pagoda – Backpacking Myanmar
#9 SUNSET AT SKY BAR
Arguably the best place to watch the sunset in Mandalay is at the Sky Bar, the best rooftop bar in the city and one of the best things to do in Mandalay!
WHERE IS SKY BAR & WHAT TO EXPECT
This particular rooftop bar is attached to the Eastern Palace Hotel, located north-east of Mandalay City center. T
he Sky Bar has 360-degree views at the top with spectacular views of Mandalay Hill, Mandalay Palace, Irrawaddy River and distant mountain ranges.
The Sky Bar is open to the public, just notify reception when you arrive at Eastern Palace Hotel that you want to visit the rooftop bar for sunset.
Happy Hour at Sky Bar is between 5pm and 7pm where they offer 2 for 1 cocktails, spirits and beer.
There is nothing better than sipping on an ice-cold beer while watching the sunset over the second-largest city in Myanmar. A perfect end to a perfect day!
Sky Bar – Myanmar Itinerary
Sunset beers – Backpacking Myanmar
#10 NOVA COFFEE SHOP
If you are a coffee connoisseur like myself then you don’t want to miss out on trying some of Mandalay’s best coffee from the legends down at Nova Coffee Shop.
Nova Coffee is located in the center of Mandalay City. Hanging out at Nova Coffee Shop is about as hip as Mandalay gets.
Let the friendly staff take care of you with their excellent coffee, great food and hi-speed wi-fi. It was the best co-working space I found in Myanmar and I spent a good 6 hours in the comfort of the lounge chairs, sipping on fine coffee and working away with no disturbances.
Search All → Tours in Myanmar with Klook
Nova Coffee Shop – Myanmar Travel Blog
GETTING AROUND MANDALAY
#1 Rent a scooter
Renting a scooter in Mandalay is very affordable and the most efficient way to get around self-guided. I rented a scooter from Mandalay Motorbike Rental and Tours for 10,000 Kyat ($7) per day. The bikes are in great condition and the guys at the rental shop were very friendly. Alternatively, your accommodation may be able to organise a scooter rental for you.
#2 Grab taxi
Grab taxi is another mode of transport in and around Mandalay City. Download the Grab app from the App Store on your smartphone in order to use Grab taxi services.
WHERE TO STAY IN MANDALAY
Mandalay has dozens of accommodations to choose from so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Mandalay to suit the needs of luxury travelers, budget backpackers and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Hilton Mandalay
Mid Range: Eastern Palace Hotel
Budget: Hotel Venus
FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY IN MANDALAY, SEARCH ON AGODA OR SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
MYANMAR BACKPACKING – DAY 8, 9 & 10:
After exploring all the best locations in Mandalay, the next destination on this Myanmar itinerary is Inle Lake!
Inle Lake is a beautiful freshwater lake located in central Myanmar that has a very special charm about it. Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar, with an elevation of 880m above sea level and surprisingly is only 3.5 meters at its deepest point. A must-see location when backpacking Myanmar!
I spent 2 nights and 3 days at Inle Lake and I have put together a list of 5 Best Things To Do In Inle Lake to help you plan your trip!
HOW TO GET FROM MANDALAY TO INLE LAKE
From Mandalay to Inle lake there is a night bus leaving Mandalay at 10pm and arriving in Inle Lake at 6am the following day (8 hours). The cost is around $15.
Get Your Bus Ticket → Mandalay to Inle Lake
5 BEST THINGS TO DO IN INLE LAKE
#1 Inle Lake Boat Tour
An Inle Lake boat tour should be on the top of your list of things to do in Inle Lake when you arrive.
I recommend taking an Inle Lake tour at sunrise or sunset to experience the true art of Myanmar’s balancing fisherman.
The Inle Lake fishermen have mastered a rather unusual method of paddling their boats with one leg, balancing on the other and ultimately having two hands free to catch fish in their conical nets.
An Inle Lake boat tour will cost you around $30 USD for a full day and can be booked online in advance to guarantee the cheapest rate.
Book Now → Inle Lake Boat Tour
Inle Lake boat tour – Myanmar Backpacking
#2 Shwe Indein Pagoda
The Shwe Indein Pagoda is a complex of ancient Buddhist stupas that lies on the western shore of Inle Lake in the small village of Indein and it’s not to be missed when backpacking Myanmar.
You can put in a request with your boat driver to take you across Inle lake to visit the Shwe Indein Pagoda, one of the best Burma temples in the country.
When you arrive in your boat to the river banks of Indein village, you’ll have to pay a 500 Kyat entrance fee before following the undercover stairway to the top of Shwe Indein Pagoda.
Inside the Shwe Indein Pagoda complex are hundreds of weather-beaten stupas, some are in rubble and covered in vines and others have been restored and freshly painted.
I spent an hour getting lost in between the colorful stupas and listening to the ringing of the bells that hang from the tops.
Shwe Indein Pagoda – Backpacking Myanmar
#3 Handicraft Workshops in Ywama Village
Next on the list of things to do in Inle Lake is to visit the floating Ywama village in the very south of Inle Lake and boat-hop your way around to all the different handicraft workshops and markets.
In the traditional craft village, you will find gold and silver jewelers, boat makers, cigar rollers, weaving workshops and woodcarvers.
It was incredible to see all of these artistic villagers getting creative and producing a high level of quality products and souvenirs.
Put your bartering skills to the test amongst the market owners trying to sell off their hand-made goods!
See All → Inle Lake Hotels
Textile weaving workshop – Myanmar Travel Itinerary
Cigar rolling workshops – Backpacking Myanmar
Inle Lake boat tour – Myanmar Itinerary
#4 Kayan Women – The Long Neck Tribe
I remember as a kid seeing these long-necked women on a National Geographic documentary and I was very intrigued. To see the Kayan women in the flesh when I was backpacking Myanmar was an unforgettable experience!
The Kayan women are very welcoming to tourists and will most likely spend the time to get to know you and tell you all about their long neck tribe, so bring with you an open demeanor. The Kayan tribe women are also happy for you to take photos of them, an exotic experience you can save forever.
The significance of the golden brass rings around the Kayan women’s necks is a sign of beauty. They begin putting the brass rings on their necks at the age of 5 and by the time they are old women they have up to 25 brass coils weighing approximately 12kg.
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The long neck tribe – Myanmar Itinerary 2 Weeks
The long neck tribe – Backpacking Myanmar
#5 Inle Lake Markets
Last but not least on the list of best things to do in Inle Lake is the famous five-day market. The Inle Lake markets work on a five-day rota system, moving between the Nyaungshwe, Heho, Taunggyi, Shwenyaung and Minethauk villages.
There is no official schedule for where and when these Inle Lake markets will be, though your hotel receptionist or boat driver will for sure know what is happening and where.
You can expect to see a mix of locals and tourists at the Inle Lake markets, jumping between the vendors for hand-made carvings, ornaments, textiles and food products.
Search All → Tours in Myanmar with Klook
Inle Lake Markets – Backpacking Myanmar
The five-day market – Myanmar Backpacking
WHERE TO STAY IN INLE LAKE
Inle Lake has dozens of accommodations to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Inle Lake to suit the needs of luxury travelers, budget backpackers and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Sofitel Inle Lake
Mid Range: Serenity Inle Lake Resort
Budget: Joy Hotel
FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY IN INLE LAKE, SEARCH ON AGODA OR SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
BACKPACKING MYANMAR – DAY 11, 12 & 13:
Hpa An is a little hidden gem located east of Yangon and it is a MUST see destination on your Myanmar backpacking route! Hpa An is not usually on everyone’s typical Myanmar itinerary but I can’t recommend this location enough as it ended up being my favorite place to visit in Myanmar.
HOW TO GET FROM INLE LAKE TO HPA AN
This leg of the journey from Inle Lake to Hpa An takes a bit longer as the distance is around 500kms and it can take up to 12 hours on the bus, just a heads up.
Get Your Bus Ticket → Inle Lake to Hpa An
5 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN HPA AN
#1 HPAN PU HIKE
Hiking to the top of Hpan Pu Mountain (Pha Bhu Taung Pagoda) for sunset was a welcoming adventure at the beginning of my 3 days spent in Hpa-An Myanmar!
The short hike up Mount Hpan Pu is more rewarding than expected with speechless views of the incredible landscape and one of the best things to do when backpacking Myanmar!
WHERE IS HPAN PU MOUNTAIN & HOW TO GET THERE
Hpan Pu Mountain (Pha Bhu Taung Pagoda) is located across the Thanlyin River, north-west of Hpa-An town.
There are 2 ways to get over the river to hike Mt Hpan Pu which I have listed below:
If you plan on renting a motorbike during your visit to Hpa-An, you can simply drive across the bridge on road 85 and take a right-hand turn on to the road that runs parallel with the river.
There is a sandy parking lot at the base of Hpan Pu Mountain to park your motorbike and you’ll see a concrete stairway leading up the side of the mountain. The drive from Hpa-An to Hpan Pu Mountain is approximately 20-minutes.
You will be able to rent a scooter from your accommodation for approximately 6,000 – 10,000 Kyat per day.
Taking a boat across the Thanlyin River is the second option to reach Hpan Pu Mountain.
Head down to Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda, which is a short walk from the center of town and you will be able to jump on board a local boat for 500 Kyat.
The boat will drop you off to the riverbank on the other side and it is a few hundred meters walk to the base of Hpan Pu Mountain.
Note: The boats stop running across the river at nightfall so you will need to coordinate with the boat driver if he will be able to wait for you or not to take you back across the river to Hpa-An after hiking Mt Hpan Pu at sunset.
Hpan Pu Hike – Things to do in Myanmar
Hpan Pu Mountain – Myanmar Itinerary
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE HPAN PU MOUNTAIN HIKE
Hiking to the top of Mount Hpan Pu for sunset on my first day in Hpa-An was one of the best experiences I had when backpacking Myanmar! The short 20-30 minute hike is steep, sweaty and thirsty work but more than rewarding once I reached the summit!
On the trail to the top of Hpan Pu Mountain, you can expect overgrown shrubs, loose gravel, sharp rocks and bamboo ladders, so your full attention is recommended during the hike as to not have any slips.
At the summit of Hpan Pu Mountain is the Pha Bhu Taung Pagoda, offering 360-degree views of Hpa-An, the Thanlyin River and distant mountain ranges!
The awe-inspiring views of the incredible landscapes in the region had me jaw-dropped and smiling from ear to ear. The fiery sunset on this day was the icing on the cake!
I recommend having at least 2 litres of drinking water for the Mount Hpan Pu hike as the humidity is quite intense. Believe me, it was thirsty work getting to the summit and back.
If you are hiking Mt Hpan Pu at sunset, you may want to pack a torch or phone light to aid you on the way back down the trail as it gets dark very quickly.
Full Blog Post: Hpan Pu Hike
Hpan Pu – Backpacking Myanmar
#2 SADAN CAVE ADVENTURE
Sadan Cave is one of the most impressive cave systems I have ever experienced and one of the best things to do in Hpa An when backpacking Myanmar.
HOW TO GET TO SADAN CAVE IN HPA AN
Sadan Cave is located 30km south-east of Hpa An city center.
There are 2 ways to get to Sadan Cave which I have listed below:
If you are renting a scooter/motorbike in Hpa An, it is approximately a 45-minute drive from the city center to the entrance of Sadan Cave. You will be able to rent a scooter from your accommodation for approximately 6,000 – 10,000 Kyat per day.
The second option of getting to Sadan Cave is by taxi/tuk-tuk. The cost of a 45-minute taxi ride should be around 5,000 – 10,000 Kyat one way.
Find All → Hotels in Hpa An
The entrance to Sadan Cave – Backpacking Myanmar
WHAT TO EXPECT AT SADAN CAVE
When I arrived at Sadan Cave I had to pay an entrance fee of 1000 Kyat before making my way down the stairs and into the cave. Shoes must also be taken off at the start and appropriate clothing is to be worn to cover your shoulders and knees.
Sadan Cave is incredibly huge inside and one of the biggest caves I have been in. There are a number of monuments at the entrance to Sadar Cave such as a golden stupa, a reclined Buddha, gold monk statues and wall carvings.
Once you have explored this area, follow the pathway deeper into the cave. The way is lit so a torch isn’t necessary.
The Saddan Cave stretches at least 500 meters from one end to the other and the floor to ceiling height, in my guess, is approximately 30 meters high. Listen out for the almost deafening sounds of the thousands of hanging bats and admire the oversized stalactites throughout the Sadan Cave.
After around 15-minutes of strolling through Sadan Cave, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel and emerge at the opposite side of the cave from which you entered. On this side of Sadar Cave is a secret lake with a dozen fishing boats and local vendors selling cold drinks and fruits.
Note: The Sadan Cave is only open during the dry season (November – April) and closed during the wet season.
Full Blog Post: Sadan Cave
Sadan Cave – Backpacking Myanmar
#3 TAUNG WINE MOUNTAIN
Hiking to the top of Taung Wine Mountain for sunrise was one of my ultimate favorite things to do when backpacking Myanmar.
If you are an adventure enthusiast like myself and looking for a bang-for-buck hike in Hpa An, then you can’t go past an unforgettable journey to the summit of Taung Wine Mountain!
WHERE IS TAUNG WINE MOUNTAIN & HOW TO GET THERE
Taung Wine Mountain (Taung Wine Pagoda) is located 13km east of Hpa An city center. There are 2 ways to get to Taung Wine Mountain.
If you are renting a scooter/motorbike in Hpa An, it is a short 25-minute drive from the city center to the base of Taung Wine Mountain. You will be able to rent a scooter from your accommodation for approximately 6,000 – 10,000 Kyat per day.
The second option of getting to Mount Taung Wine is by taxi. If you plan to hike Taung Wine Mountain for sunrise it is best to organise a taxi the day before to pick you up from your accommodation at around 4:30am.
The cost of a 30-minute taxi ride is somewhere between 5,000 – 10,000 Kyat one way.
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Taung Wine mountain – Myanmar Backpacking Route
Taung Wine mountain hike – Backpacking Myanmar
HIKING TAUNG WINE MOUNTAIN
Some friends of mine recommended the Taung Wine Mountain hike prior to my arrival in Hpa An. They raved on how insane the views were at the summit and that the hike only took them 45-minutes from bottom to top.
I left my accommodation (Keinnara Lodge) at 4:30am and arrived at the base of Taung Wine Mountain at 5am to begin the 45-minute ascent to make it to the summit for sunrise.
The hike does not ease you in at all. From the get-go the stairs are steep and the humidity is intense. I broke out in a sweat from head to toe about 15-minutes into the hike and my quads were already starting to burn.
However, I was so determined to make it to the top before the sun popped up over the horizon.
I would recommend giving yourself at least one hour to hike Taung Wine Mountain, allowing for short breaks on the trail up to catch your breath and rehydrate.
I arrived at the summit of Taung Wine Mountain about 15-minutes before sunrise, so it was nice to have a breather before getting out my camera gear to get some shots.
As the sun started to rise and light up the Hpa-An region I was in complete awe of the insane panoramic views from the Taung Wine Pagoda!
The steel stairway on Taung Wine Mountain has a slight resemblance to the Stairway to Heaven stairs in Hawaii and this is the best spot to take photos.
Full Blog Post: Taung Wine Mountain
Taung Wine mountain – What to do in Myanmar
#4 MOUNT ZWEGABIN HIKE
The hardest, the longest, but the most rewarding hike to do in Hpa An while backpacking Myanmar is the famous Mount Zwegabin hike! After hiking Mount Hpan Pu & Taung Wine Mountain, I saved the best for last and it was worth every drop of sweat to make it to the summit of Mount Zwegabin for sunrise!
WHERE IS ZWEKABIN MOUNTAIN & HOW TO GET THERE
Mount Zwegabin is located 10km south-east of Hpa An city center.
There are 2 ways to get to Mount Zwegabin which I have listed below:
If you are renting a scooter/motorbike in Hpa An, it is a short 15-minute drive from the city center to the base of Zwekabin Mountain. You will be able to rent a scooter from your accommodation for approximately 6,000 – 10,000 Kyat per day.
The second option of getting to Mount Zwegabin is by taxi. If you plan to hike Zwekabin Mountain for sunrise it is best to organise a taxi the day before to pick you up from your accommodation at around 3:30am.
The cost of a 15-minute taxi ride should be no more than 5,000 Kyat one way.
Mt Zwekabin – Myanmar Itinerary
Mount Zwekabin – Backpacking Myanmar
HIKING MOUNT ZWEGABIN
I arrived at the base of Mount Zwegabin at 4:30am, parked my scooter and paid 4,000 Kyat entrance fee to a monk at the beginning of the hike. He wrote me out a ticket and I was on my way.
There was no easing into the Zwekabin Mountain hike, especially at 4:30 in the morning. There are concrete stairs that zigzag steeply all the way to the summit of Mount Zwekabin.
The majority of the hike is dimly lit with hanging lights and safety railings are in place where needed. I would recommend packing a torch to aid you in the darker areas along the Mount Zwegabin trail.
The Mount Zwegabin hike took me 1 hour and 15 minutes from bottom to top. This was with around 3 or 4 short breaks to sip on some water and catch my breath.
I arrived at the summit at 5:45am with 30-minutes to spare before sunrise. However, I would recommend allowing 2-hours for the average person to hike to the top of Zwekabin Mountain.
Mount Zwegabin – Myanmar Itinerary
THE VIEWPOINTS AT MOUNT ZWEGABIN
There are 2 epic viewpoints not to be missed at the top of Mount Zwegabin!
When you arrive at the Mount Zwegabin Monastery (gold pagoda) take a left-hand turn down the concrete stairs towards another pagoda below, but at about halfway down there is a dirt trail leading off to the right and this will take you to a rocky hillside with insane views facing east where you’ll find the best spot to watch the sunrise. See the images above for reference!
The second best viewpoint is on the opposite side of the Zwekabin Mountain, only 5-minutes walk from the sunrise viewpoint. Look for the toilet block on the right-hand side of the Mount Zwegabin Monastery and you can actually climb on the roof for incredible west-facing views of Hpa An. See the images below for reference!
Full Blog Post: Mount Zwegabin Hike
Mount Zwegabin Monastery – Backpacking Myanmar
#5 KYAUK KALAT PAGODA
The Kyauk Kalat, also known as Kyaut Ka Latt, is a limestone pinnacle that is topped with a golden stupa. I have included the Kyauk Kalat Pagoda on the list of things to do in Hpa An because it is one of the most interesting and unique landmarks I have seen in Myanmar!
WHERE IS KYAUK KALAT PAGODA & HOW TO GET THERE
Kyauk Kalat is located 8.5 km south of Hpa An city center.
There are 2 ways to get to Kyaut Ka Latt Pagoda which I have listed below:
If you are renting a scooter/motorbike in Hpa An, it is approximately a 30-minute drive from the city center to the Kyauk Kalatt Pagoda.
The second option of getting to Kyaut Kalatt is by taxi/tuk-tuk. The cost of a 30-minute taxi ride should be around 5,000 – 10,000 Kyat one way.
Kyaut Kalat Pagoda – Famous places in Myanmar
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE KYAUK KALAT PAGODA
The Kyauk Kalat Pagoda sits precariously on top of a limestone pinnacle that looks like it is going to tip over. Kyaut Kalat is surrounded by a circular lake and is only accessible by a wooden footbridge that stretches over the water.
Kyauk Kalat is an active monastery and meditation site, so please be quiet and respectful when wandering around this location.
The famous Mount Zwegabin lingers impressively in the background of Kyauk Kalat and it is a truly impressive sight! There is also a very beautiful temple right next to the Kyauk Kalat known as the Chan Thar Gyi Buddha Temple.
On a clear day, you can see impressive reflections on the small lake in front of Chan Thar Gyi Temple.
Find All: Hotels in Hpa An
Kyauk Kalat Pagoda – Backpacking Myanmar
Chan Thar Gyi Buddha Temple – Myanmar Backpacking
WHERE TO STAY IN HPA AN
Hpa An has dozens of accommodations to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Hpa-An to suit the needs of luxury travelers, budget backpackers and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Keinnara Lodge Hpa An
Mid Range: Hotel United Hpa An
Budget: Galaxy Motel Hpa An
FOR ALL OTHER PLACES TO STAY IN HPA AN, SEARCH ON AGODA OR SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
BACKPACKING MYANMAR – DAY 14:
From Hpa An you’re going to want to make your way back to Yangon on the night bus leaving Hpa An at 4:30pm and arriving in Yangon at 10:30pm the same day (6 hours).
Get Your Bus Ticket → Hpa An to Yangon
WHAT TO DO IN YANGON
Back to Yangon for the final day of backpacking Myanmar and I highly recommend going on a guided tour around Yangon to see some of the top attractions such as the Shwedagon Pagoda and more!
BEST TOURS IN YANGON
Shwedagon Pagoda – Backpacking Myanmar
BEST TIME TO GO BACKPACKING MYANMAR
There are two things you want to avoid when planning your backpacking Myanmar itinerary – intense heat and intense rain.
Furthermore, the best time to go backpacking in Myanmar is in the winter season from October to February, when daytime temperatures are moderate and nighttime temperatures are cool.
Definitely try to avoid backpacking Myanmar during the summer months between March to May when temperatures can soar to over 40 degrees celsius and also avoid the rainy season which is typically June through to September.
ONLINE MYANMAR VISA
Before backpacking Myanmar, you will need to apply for a Myanmar Visa online. Don’t make the mistake of arriving in Myanmar without a visa and potentially being deported.
Obtaining an online Myanmar Visa is very simple, all you need to do is fill out an application form online at evisa.moip.gov.mm. The application is usually approved within 24 hours, however, I recommend applying for an online Myanmar Visa at least one week before arriving. Once your visa is approved, you will receive an email document with your Myanmar Visa that you will need to print out and present it at the airport.
The cost of a 28-day Myanmar Visa is $50 USD.
MYANMAR BACKPACKING – THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The currency in Myanmar is Kyat and the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD = 1,500 Kyat.
Good wi-fi in Myanmar is very hard to come by so I highly recommend purchasing a sim card on arrival at the airport for approximately $10 USD and it comes with 8GB of data.
BACKPACKING MYANMAR MAP
BEST MYANMAR TOURS
MORE MYANMAR TRAVEL GUIDES
Myanmar Guide: 2 Week Myanmar Itinerary
Bagan Guide: 5 Things To Do In Bagan
Mandalay Guide: 10 Things To Do In Mandalay
Inle Lake Guide: 5 Things To Do In Inle Lake
Hpa An Guide: 5 Things To Do In Hpa An
LONELY PLANET – MYANMAR
One of the best books to take on your trip is the Lonely Planet Myanmar Travel Guide!
BUY NOW ON AMAZON → LONELY PLANET MYANMAR
Another option for accommodation in Myanmar is to stay at an Airbnb, which generally has some great deals.
WANT TO SAVE $$$ ON AIRBNB? GET MY AIRBNB MONEY SAVING GUIDE
JOIN MY FACEBOOK TRAVEL TRIBE
Do you have any questions about backpacking Myanmar?
Join my Facebook Travel Tribe and send a message at any time for a quick response!
WHAT TO TAKE BACKPACKING IN MYANMAR
Everyday Backpack: One of the best backpacks on the market! The Nomatic 20L Backpack is perfect for on the go adventures. Featuring multiple storage spaces for valuables, drink bottles, chargers, notebooks and more. This sleek backpack was designed for you.
Universal Power Adapter: Don’t leave home without one! I highly recommend getting this Universal Power Adapter so that you are able to charge all of your electronics when you’re on the road. Compatible in Asia, UK, Europe, Africa, USA, SA and Australia.
Hidden Money Belt: I never go on a trip without one! The best thing is they are always out of sight, hidden beneath your clothing. With RFID blocking, they are perfectly designed to keep your credit cards, cash and other valuables safe when you’re out adventuring!
Waterproof Phone Case: A waterproof phone case is a must-have item! This universal case will keep your phone safe from water damage, sand and scratches during your adventures. Suitable for all smartphone models.
Portable Charger: One of the best portable chargers on the market! The Anker Power Bank keeps your phone and accessories charged on those longer adventures. Featuring 2 USB charging ports, rechargeable battery, works with iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Oppo and Android.
Microfibre Travel Towel: To pack a towel or not to pack a towel? A standard bathroom towel can take up a lot of space in your travel bag. Get your hands on a quick-dry Microfibre Travel Towel which is perfect for the beach, backpacking, camping and general traveling.
Rain Jacket: A light-weight rain jacket is an absolute must when traveling! North Face waterproof rain jackets come in both men and women sizes, featuring a breathable mesh lining and adjustable hood that can be tucked away inside the collar.
Kindle: The best alternative for books! Kindle e-readers are perfect for long haul flights, reading on the beach or a quiet evening away from the bars. Kindle’s are waterproof with rechargeable batteries and adjustable light settings to suit indoor/outdoor conditions.
Packing Cubes: My favorite item in my backpack! Perfect for organizing your shirts, pants, jackets, socks, underwear and more. This 5 Set Packing Cubes makes packing easier and more efficient, adding extra space in your bag for your next trip.
Activated Charcoal Tablets: Want to avoid food poisoning? Most of us have been a victim of travelers diarrhea from eating street food. Organic Activated Charcoal Tablets are fast-acting and will rid your system of the bad bacteria that causes stomach upset.
MY CAMERA GEAR
Everyday Camera: The most affordable mirrorless camera on the market! I personally use the Sony A7ii Mirrorless Camera on all of my adventures. It’s compact, lightweight and super easy to use for all levels of photography. A 28-70mm Sony lens is also included.
Drone Camera: Take your photography to new heights! The DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone is at the top of the game when it comes to high-quality images and video, easy to control functions and traveler-friendly capabilities. I guarantee you won’t regret purchasing one.
GoPro Hero 8: One of the most popular cameras on the planet! I love using the GoPro Hero 8 for all of my underwater shots and fast-paced adventures. The GoPro Hero 8 captures the best moments with its wide range of functions that are very simple to use!
Camera Bag: My favorite camera bag I have ever owned! The Lowepro Protactic 450 AW II Camera Bag features a waterproof rain cover, drink bottle holder, padded compartments for cameras, drones, lenses, accessories and it also has a laptop pocket.
Selfie Stick: Everyone loves a good selfie, right!? The Sandmarc Metal Edition Selfie Stick is sleek, stylish and can extend to 1.2m. I find it much easier to take photos and videos with the GoPro when it is mounted to the Sandmarc Selfie Stick!
Camera Tripod: The Joby GorillaPod is suitable for all cameras. This tripod is easy to use and perfect for setting up a time-lapse video or even using it as a selfie stick. The legs are flexible so you can wrap it around a tree or a pole to get creative with your shot.
GoPro Dome: Have you ever wanted to capture those under/over water shots with the GoPro? This epic underwater GoPro dome housing is the best camera accessory to have to create the perfect 50/50 shot. I use mine every time I am in the ocean!
Memory Card: The best thing about SanDisk Extreme Pro is that it delivers maximum speed for images and videos. Having 64GB of storage means that you can store hundreds of files on this SD card for 2-3 days and not have to worry about running out of space.
External Hard Drive: As a photographer, my images and video files take up a lot of space on my MacBook so I use the WD Elements External Hard Drive to store everything. With 4TB worth of storage space, this is more than enough for 1 years worth of content.
ONLINE ENGLISH TEACHING
Do you want to travel full-time and get paid along the way?
Teaching English online is one of the easiest and most flexible jobs out there! Become a Digital Nomad, choose your own hours and work remotely from anywhere in the world by teaching English online. All you need is a laptop, good WiFi connection, a TEFL certificate and you’re good to go!
Before you go from this backpacking Myanmar post, don’t forget to check out My Online Shop!
I’ve got a wide range of digital products for sale and I’m sure you’ll find something that will come in handy during your travels!
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FINAL THOUGHTS OF BACKPACKING MYANMAR
Thanks for reading this article and if you have any questions about Backpacking Myanmar, please leave me a comment below and I will respond as soon as I can!
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