Kalaw is a former British colonial era hill station located at an altitude of 1310 metres above sea level in Shan state in Myanmar. Kalaw is a small charming town, and a good starting point to visit major local attractions such as the Pindaya Caves, however, the main reason most foreign visitors come to Kalaw is because it’s the main trekking centre of Myanmar.
About Trekking in Kalaw
Before we talk about the specifics of trekking in Kalaw, there are a few general points to note. Trekking in Kalaw is different to trekking in Nepal, Thailand or pretty much anywhere else in a few ways:
- Generally you aren’t trekking up and down hills but through farmed countryside with a limited amount of forest cover.
- Accommodation tends to be home stays. There are no lodges of the same type as in Nepal and camping is not a popular option.
- You really do need a guide. Navigation is difficult and very few people outside of Kalaw speak English or pretty much any other language than Burmese.
- It’s very cheap to go on a guided tour in a group. If you book locally then expect to pay the equivalent of $10 to $15 a day, inclusive of meals and accommodation.
- You need to carry your own drinking water and a change of clothes, but little else. For longer treks you can get your bags delivered to your destination (for a small charge).
- On the more popular treks, such as the one to Inle Lake, you are likely to encounter a number of other walkers which may detract from the experience. This problem can be reduced by setting out earlier than in the morning than other groups following the same route.
- On any given trek there are a variety of routes you can take to your destination. Same guides have a more extensive knowledge than others and you should discuss what options they can offer you before setting off.
The most popular trek from Kalaw is to Inle Lake, which is about 50 km away. The trek involves 3 days walking which means 2 overnight stays. Some of the route will be on paths and some of it on track wide enough for cars with an earth or concrete surface. On arrival at the lake most group tours (which cost around $40) include a boat trip in with the price when you arrive at the lake to take you to the road to get a car into the town of Nyaung Shwe, where there is a long distance bus station and hotels with the kind of amenities you won’t get on your trek. There are also some other 1 to 3 day treks during which you are less likely to run into other walkers. The other long trek which is generally on offer is the trek to Pindaya via Taung Ni which also takes three days, but a tougher three days as you do more walking up and down on route. Popular places to walk to on 1 day treks include the Myin Ma Hti Cave, the Pa-O, Danu and Taung Yo villages, and Patingone to the south of Kalaw.
Location of Kalaw
- Kalaw is 269 km by road from Mandalay.
Travel to Kalaw
For trekking in the region you should first travel to Kalaw Town: