After being blown away by the temples in Bagan, Myanmar, I didn’t think anything could top that experience. However, after spending a few days trekking and making my way to Inle Lake from Kalaw, I stand corrected. After an arduous 3 hour bus ride (trust me, buses in Myanmar are like no other!), I arrived in the small mountainous town of Kalaw. With no real plan, I wandered around the streets in search of a trekking company. The sleepy town of Kalaw is known for being the start of one of Myanmar’s best experiences, a highlight that every traveler who passes through talks about. Between the varied and diverse scenery during the three day trek and the fact you are able to experience the simplicity of life in the villages that you trek to, makes this is an experience that I highly recommend to anyone heading to Myanmar.
How to Choose a Trekking Company in Kalaw Myanmar
As soon as you get to Kalaw, you will see a decent amount of trekking companies and local guides, all offering similar things. You can pay anything from $25 all the way to $45 a day so choosing a good tour guide and trekking company is essential. Overwhelmed with options, we decided to go for the company which our hostel recommended. Although we had a few qualms with the company that we went with (we almost ran out of drinking water on the third day!), our guide at the time, Krishna has since put up his own trekking service and I cannot personally recommend him enough. Krishna Trekking Service now offers all inclusive three day treks from Kalaw to Inle Lake providing his guests with Burmese food, accommodation, and his awesome guiding/entertaining skills throughout three days. For flights and other tours around Myanmar, Flymya.com is a company that I found that offers various flights and tours at reasonable prices.
If you are looking for where to stay in Kalaw, booking.com has a lot of reasonable options on where to stay. Click here to browse options.
My Trekking Experience from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar
Trekking Day 1: Kalaw to Ywa Pu village or Kyauk Su village (Danu tribe) | 19 KM
On the first day, we trekked for a total of 19km across a lush forest. Although the distance didn’t seem far, the trek was long and challenging but the scenery made up for it. We walked through forests and tea plantations boasting of incredible rolling hills and mountainous views. During this first day of trekking, we also encounter the Palauang tribe village which is home to many beautiful tea and orange plantations. What I loved most about this trek was the varied scenery throughout the three days. One day we were trekking through a lush forest and the next we were walking through deserted lands. (READ: Why you Should Live Local while Traveling)
We end the night by staying in a Danu tribe members home. Although their home was nothing more than paper thin walls, our hosts made sure that we had warm blankets and were comfortable enough. Huddled together, we ate our meals (which were delicious by the way) surrounded by candles as we enjoyed the simple life. Krishna, our guide thoroughly entertained us with his ammunition of riddles, jokes, and party tricks which soon became one of the things we looked forward to every evening.
Trekking Day 2: Ywa Pu village or Kyauk Su village (Danu tribe) to the Thi Taein monastery (Pa Oh tribe) | 21 KM
We woke up bright an early after a well deserved rest. Although we slept on thin mattresses on the floor, somehow, we were all well rested and ready to conquer our day. The second day, we trekked through farmland and rice paddies which stretched out as far as your eyes can see. The trek was roughly about 21km long and was challenging due to the hot climate. I went during the first two weeks of April so the sun was scorching. We walked through fields of vegetables and villages as little kids came out to play with us along the way.
Insider Tip: One of the highlights of this trek is playing and interacting with the children from the villages that you pass. The kids shriek with excitement and like to run along and play with you. I suggest buying a small toy when in Kalaw (rubber balls, bubbles, etc.) and leave it with them as they absolutely love it. I ended up leaving my large billabong towel because:
a) I was a tool for bringing such a huge towel instead of a small travel one.
b) The look of excitement on this kids face as he started running around waving the towel was priceless.
Our day ended with us sleeping in yet another locals home where we feasted on delicious dishes which were meticulously prepared by our host families.
Trekking Day 3: Thi Taein Monastery – Inle Lake | 16 KM
By the third day, we were feeling tired and our legs were pretty exhausted but the thought of seeing Inle Lake kept us going on. The landscape during this day was pretty barren and deserted which was a large contrast to the last couple of days. After what felt like ages, we saw a glimpse of the gleaming blue lake shining brightly. Soon, we found ourselves enjoying a well deserved ice cold beer by the lake, talking and reminiscing about our journey over the last three days. After a light lunch, we got on a motorized longtail boat which traveled across the lake to take us to the town of Nyaungshwe. The achievement of completing the trek and seeing the beautiful scenery around us made those three days one of my most memorable experiences in Myanmar.
What to Bring on Your Three Day Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake
The trekking company will transport your big backpack to Nyaungshwe so all you need is a small day pack with a few essentials. Here are some things that I recommend you pack with you.
- Clothes for three days (pack according to the weather and season)
- Hiking boots (the trek is quite challenging so it’s best to have the right equipment with you)
- sunhat/ headbuff
- Toiletries (they have very basic outdoor showers which you can use)
- Travel towel
- Mosquito repellant
- Ipod/ phone for music
- Cameras and other travel essentials
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Overall Experience Trekking in Myanmar
Overall, I had a fantastic time trekking in Myanmar. I hadn’t expected much which was great because this trip blew me away. I loved huddling at night around a few candles as my trekking group and I talked about life and travel. In fact, our group of friends bonded so much during that trek, that I have met up with 3 of them in different parts of the world since. Our guide Krishna completed the experience for us with his many entertaining tricks and card games. However, what I loved the most was the seeing the happy faces and smiles of all the people we met along the way. No matter where we went, people would stop what they were doing to wave or give a friendly smile. Despite living such simple lives, they were happy. The kids were running around and playing outside, being actual kids who enjoyed the outdoors rather than being glued to the TV/ video games. People who didn’t have much were all very happy and welcoming which really struck a cord with me.
Overall, this trek is something that I highly recommend doing as the experience was very memorable. Between the kindness of the locals who opened up their homes, the beautifully diverse scenery, and the challenging trek, this trip would easily be one of the highlights of your trip to Myanmar.
If you want to contact Krishna Trekking Service, you can reach him here:
Website | +959252169030
Looking for more inspiration while traveling in Myanmar? Check out our guides:
- Reasons Why Not to Visit Myanmar
- Best Places to Stay in Bagan | Top Hotels & Hostels
- 10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss Doing While in Myanmar
- 10 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Myanmar