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Trekking in Kalaw - Trekking Itineraries

By Wendy Updated Apr. 22, 2021

If you are already at the stage of planning a trekking trip in Myanmar, "trekking in Kalaw" is a phrase that might keep popping up on your search results. At 1,320 meters above sea level, Kalaw was the hill station where the British fled to escape the hot plains of Myanmar. Will it be part of your Myanmar trip and if so, what should you expect? This article should help you plan a well-rounded trekking trip in Kalaw.

Why Kalaw for Me

Mild climate, colorful landscapes, interesting local lifestyles and the chance to meet local minority people going about their daily lives; if all these are things that interest you, Kalaw is definitely going to be a candidate for your itinerary.

Kalaw is within easy reach of Inle Lake, only an hour's drive from the starting point. Kalaw is known as one of the few places you can trek without permission and is also one with a wide diversity of experiences, given its different footpaths.

Travelers often add a trekking trip of 1 or 2 days to their stay at Inle Lake, hoping to enrich their Myanmar travel experience. Such a trek takes you around some small villages and mountains. For experienced trekkers, less than 3 days may just seem too insipid. Overnighting at a local home or monastery, setting off early in the morning and trekking for 6 hours nonstop are all optional features of a trek.

You don't have to be immensely fit to trek as long as you choose the right route. Below is a taste of what we can offer.

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1-day trekking option: good for travelers in general

Morning pick-up at your hotel in Kalaw and trek along the 9 km road to a village named Taryaw, home to the Palaung people. The Palaung are good at building long houses, where up to 8 generations live together under one roof.

After exploring the village and a simple lunch, take a different road back to Kalaw. On the way, travelers can have a dip in the cool water of a stream in the jungle. Be back to the hotel before evening. Add another hour if you start from a hotel at Inle Lake.

2-day trekking option: good for travelers with more than 10 days in Myanmar

A 2-day option can also start with either Kalaw or Inle Lake. Get up early on the first day to visit a local market near Kalaw. This on-land market might not the focus of as much hubbub as the floating ones in Inle Lake, but it may be a good start to ease you into local life.

Start a 20-km trek to the Danu and Pa O communities, which will probably take 6 hours. Lunch will be some basic local cuisine, such as noodle soup and Burmese pancakes prepared in a local dinette. Stay overnight in a village home in Pa O village, after a homemade dinner. Sleeping arrangements are just basic – a bed, a pillow and mosquito net – but that's enough for a good night's sleep.

We advise you to turn in early, as the next day will involve another adventurous trekking journey in the Shan mountains; about 10 km long, and taking 4 to 5 hours depending on your physical condition. It ends at a jetty, where you hop on a boat back to Inle Lake.

More than 2-day trekking option: good for travelers who are up for the challenge

Trekking trips of more than 2 days always start in Kalaw. A textbook outline for a multi-day trek is described below. The first day starts with an easy trek of 2 hours to Lupyin village, a peaceful home to the Pa O people. A short visit in Lupyin is followed by another 1-hour trek to Sharpin village, where you have lunch in a monastery with local monks.

The trekking pace slows down in the afternoon, and it might take you 3 hours to reach your night-base, a monastery in Nanthalathe village. Your trekking guide will take you to a hilltop to observe the sunset before your host monk calls you back for dinner.

Wake up on the second day to the monks' early-morning chanting in the monastery. Bawhinnkone village 8 km away, awaits your visit. It is a big village with over 300 houses and you will talk to one of the Pa O elders to learn about the daily lives of the people.

Compared to Bawhinnkone, the neighboring Konehla village is quieter, a nice place for your lunch and a nap. Afterwards, carry on to Htethein village, passing through bamboo forest and a Danu village called Pat Hto Puk. Have dinner and spend the night at a local home.

The trek becomes more varied on the third day, as you are already used to the mountain trails. Spend 2 hours on the rugged road to Kyauksu village, where you meet some shy but friendly dwellers. The trek ends after a simple lunch in the village and you will then be taken to Indien village by Inle Lake. A boat trip to visit the famous pagoda complex in Indien may be possible, if time allows.

Luckily Inle Lake is a mecca for leisure vacationers. After 3 days of trekking, you won't need to feel guilty adding at least one extra day doing nothing, apart from sitting in the porch of your riverfront cottage.

When to Trek in Kalaw and How to Prepare

Kalaw enjoys a relatively cool climate compared with other places in Myanmar and it is possible to trek there all year round. That said, the dry season from October to April is the most pleasant time to organize your trekking trip in Kalaw. Below are some specific tips for trekking in Kalaw.

Be prepared both mentally and physically

Don't expect too much luxury. Village homes are only endowed with simple bedding and food, the bathroom is clean but in Asian style, with squat-type toilets and only rarely a tap-water shower. To allow yourself time to recover from the walking, add some extra days afterwards at Inle Lake or at a beach resort.

Choose your route smartly

Evaluate your physical condition carefully before you set your mind on a trekking tour. It's wise not to be too ambitious as a first-timer. We always suggest a 1-day trek if you are new to the country. You might like to talk to our travel advisors, to discover your best option.

Have an open mind and respect the local culture

There will be times when you need to turn to the locals for help; whether it's your trekking guide or your home-stay host. Traveling on the less-beaten tracks of Kalaw exposes you to some utterly different lifestyles and cultures.

When entering a religious site, take off your footwear and wear a longyi (a skirt-like stole). At meals in local homes, wait for the elders to start. It helps to be open-minded. After all, you are looking for special experiences in a different culture in the first place, aren't you?

When entering a religious site, take off your footwear and wear a longyi (a skirt-like stole). At meals in local homes, wait for the elders to start. It helps to be open-minded. After all, you are looking for special experiences in a different culture in the first place, aren't you?

Want to add a trekking trip in Kalaw to your Myanmar holiday? Check out our sample tour 16-Day Myanmar Tour in Depth

Visit Myanmar with Asia Highlights

We provide tailor-made tours to Myanmar. Tours typically start or end in Yangon or Mandalay and last approximately 9 days; visiting Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake.

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