While traveling around Myanmar, the small quiet town of Hpa-An is often overlooked. Away from the usual backpacker’s trail heading to places like Bagan, Mandalay, and Yangon lies this beautiful and peaceful town surrounded by rice fields.
Known as the former capital of the Kayin State, Hpa An is located around 6 hours away from Yangon. If you’re crossing over from Thailand by land, this place is an awesome first stop as it is only a 3-5 hour drive from the Maesot-Myawaddy Border.
Surrounded by limestone mountains and caves, if you’re looking for a place to unwind and experience the incredible local life and culture in Myanmar, here are the top things to do in Hpa An.
Go Biking Around Hpa An
Similar to exploring the temples of Bagan, one of the best ways to explore the town of Hpa-An is through a bicycle tour. You can hit up famous sites while biking through local villages and monasteries. Companies like Flymya offer biking tours around Hpa An which take you to Kaw-Ka-Mate village, Saddam Cave, and a few other pagodas like Kyauk Ka Latt and Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda. The entire loop takes about 17 miles showing off the beautiful countryside that this area is known for.
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Hike Up Mt. Zwe Ka Bin
Making it on our list of adventurous things to do in Myanmar, the trek up to Mt. Zwe Ka Bin takes 2-3 hours long depending on your fitness level and takes you through a Buddha forest with a sweeping viewpoint overlooking Myanmar.
There are a few cheeky monkeys along the way to make the viewpoint more interesting-just remember to keep all your belongings with you at all times as these monkeys can easily swipe loose items like sunglasses if you get too near to them.
Previously, travelers had the chance to sleep in the monastery at the top which added to the allure of the entire trip but reports have said that this is no longer permitted so make sure you double check with the locals to get confirmation if your plans include an overnight trip.
Walk Around the Hpa An Morning Market
If you’re like me who loves to take in the local life in any place we go to, the local morning market in Hpa-An is the perfect place to go. Here you can quietly observe or even politely take snapshots of the locals selling fresh vegetables, meat, fish, and local souvenirs like beautifully woven Karen fabrics.
The morning market is located in the Hpa-An town center and although it isn’t very large, there are heaps of local life and cultures to observe.
Important: Wherever you are traveling to, it’s always important to be respectful of the local culture. Before you snap photos of people, it’s always best to ask them if this is okay. If you are in a local town where English isn’t as common, you can very easily catch their attention while showing them your camera while smiling! Remember, smiles are a universal language so use them as often as you can when traveling!
Editor’s Note: Heading here soon? Check out our Myanmar Packing List to make sure you don’t miss out on bringing anything.
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Visit Kan Thar Yar Lake
If you want a little break from the city, we recommend paying a visit to Kan Thar Yar Lake. If you stick to the North Western edge of the lake, you will find a wooden footbridge with a seating area in the middle.
Here, you can mingle with the locals who usually sell bread to feed to the fish lingering along the dock of the bridge. There are also local street food stalls in the South of the lake where you can enjoy some food and cheap beer! Watching the sunset from the river banks is also is a great way to unwind from a day of sightseeing.
Taking the time to speak to the locals and asking questions is one of our best travel tips in Myanmar as even though their English isn’t great, you will meet such amazing personalities that will make your trip even more special.
Explore the Caves in Hpa-An
One of the highlights of the area is Sadaar Caves which is easily accessible as you follow the footpath for around 20 minutes. As soon as you reach the entrance, you will see an impressive natural entrance full of various statues and Buddhas situated around the cavern walls.
After you hike through some underground passages and cavers, you will come out to a lush view along the far side of the mountain where you can opt to return by wooden boat. The entire experience is really quite unexpected and worth doing during your time in Hpa-An. Do note that some parts of the cave can be slippery so do be careful as you make your way through.
Other Caves in Hpa- An
- Bayin Nyi Cave
- Ya Thay Pyan Cave
- Kaw Ka Thaung Cave- this place has a natural pool and is highly recommended to visit!
- Kawgun Cave
- Bat Cave
Visit the Kyauk Kalat Pagoda
Reminding me of a few of the unusual attractions in Thailand, the Kyauk Kalat Pagoda is a sight to see and is worth visiting if not for an hour or so. With Mount Zwegabin glimmering in the background, this beautiful stupa is located on a limestone rock set on a small isle amidst a beautiful lake. Kyauk Kalat can easily be reached by a motorbike from Hpa-an and is worth going to during a day trip.
Day Trips from Hpa- An
While there are certainly a number of things to do within Hpa-An, there are a few longer day trips worth doing while you’re there. Two sights that I don’t recommend missing which can easily be reached from Hpa-An are Mawlamyine and Kyaiktiyo Pagoda otherwise known as the Golden Rock. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is a little bit further but is halfway between Yangon and Hpa-An but can easily be reached by bus.
The Golden Rock is one of the most iconic attractions in Myanmar and is a rather well known Buddhist pilgrimage site. Mawlamyine, on the other hand, is about an hour and a half drive from Hpa-An. Here, you can see the largest reclining Buddha which is rather impressive.
Hopefully, this article has given you heaps of ideas on things to do in Hpa-An. In our opinion, even though Hpa-An is a little bit out of the way, spending a few days here exploring is worth your time. Among its many natural attractions and the low key vibe within the village, this place is a stunner.
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