Hpa-An is a quiet village surrounded by limestone mountains, lush green rice fields and a huge amount of caves. It’s a destination often overlooked because Hpa-An is a bit out of the usual Myanmar route. But it’s a perfect place for a stop over from Yangon to Inle Lake, or the other way around. In Hpa-An you can combine adventure with culture. There are some great hikes, beautiful pagodas and caves to explore, and the overall vibe in Hpa-An is very laid back. Read everything you need to know about Hpa-An in this complete guide with the 10 best things to do!
About Hpa-An Myanmar
Hpa-An (pronounce as Pa-An) is located in the Kayin state where mostly Karen people live which is one of the largest ethnic minorities in Myanmar. These indigenous people to the Thai-Burmese border region are mostly farmers who cultivate “hill rice”. Rice is a major staple food and the main export of Myanmar. The government is making continuous efforts to boost the country’s rice production, in anticipation of healthy exports.
10 best things to do in Hpa An Myanmar
Hpan Pu mountain
One of the best ways to experience Hpa An and watch an incredible sunset is from the Hpan Pu mountain. A short hike of 20- 25 minutes will bring you to the top of the mountain with an incredible view over Hpa An, the mountains and the river. The hike is quite interesting with a mix of stairs, rocks and dirt steps leading to the top. You will also pass a pagoda and locals homes. When we did the hike in February 2020, the bamboo ladder was broken. However we could still enjoy the view from a little lower viewpoint on a cement platform.
Read more about Hpan Pu mountain hike in this complete guide
The reason why you should avoid burning season in Myanmar… Not the best view because of the haze created by smoke!
Kyauk Kalat Pagoda
Set on top of a limestone pinnacle on a tiny isle in a lake, Kyauk Kalat Pagoda is a very unique sight. Also known as Kyauk Kalap or Kyaut Ka Lat Pagoda, this place is a great stop for a little hour with stunning views on Mount Zwegabin. You are allowed to go inside the pagoda to reach as high as it’s shrine that’s located about halfway up to the top. But make sure to dress properly with your knees and shoulders covered. Best time to visit for the best light is in the morning until 10 AM or with sunset.
Visit the caves in Hpa-An
Hpa An has many caves to explore. The four most well known are listed below. Important thing to know is that the caves are usually closed during rainy season.
Saddan Cave, or also written as Saddar Cave, Sadar Cave and Sadan Cave, is the largest cave in Hpa-An. It is 30km south-east of Hpa-An city center located. Before you enter you have to pay 1000 Kyat per person entrance fee. Shoes must be taken off at the start and appropriate clothing must be worn to cover your shoulders and knees.
There are many monuments at the entrance such as a golden stupa, a reclined Buddha, golden monk statues and wall carvings. You’ll have to walk through the 500 meters long cave for about 15 minutes to reach the other side. Then you can either walk back or rent a boat for an extra 3000 Kyat. This boat ride will take you back to the main entrance on the secret lake.
The Kawgun cave is of great value for history, religion, culture, and architecture to study for the Burmese as it dates back as far as the 7th century. Thousands of Buddha statues in Kawgun cave are still in excellent condition with various ages, shapes, expressions, and poses. The most spectacular things in this cave are the wall sculptures. Many small Buddha images were carved unbelievably sophisticated on the wall all the way to the ceiling.
Yathaypan Cave is another beautiful cave that’s just a 5 minute drive from Kawgun Cave. You can walk through the cave for 10 minutes to reach the other side from where you’ll have a nice view on the surroundings.
The bat cave is a small cave near the Thanlyin River that can’t be entered. But every evening right after sunset, thousands of bats fly out which is an incredible spectacle. With bats zigzagging through the beautiful coloured sky performing their act for about half an hour, this is a great thing to enjoy along the riverside.
Hike Taung Wine Mountain
This was the absolute highlight for us in Hpa-An. It was also the main reason that we went to Hpa-An, because the view from this mountain on the surrounding area is incredible! Be prepared because the hike is very steep and strenuous, but for the fit people it is doable in about 45 minutes – an hour depending on the pace and stops you make. You can hike the mountain in the very early hours to watch the sunrise, or in the afternoon to watch the sunset. Because you will have a 360 degrees view from here, both are great options. Make sure to bring a headlamp if you choose one of these options and wear good hiking shoes because you need really good grip here. Obviously I didn’t hike in the sandals and white dress I wear on these photos.
Read all the details about the Taung Wine hike in this complete guide
The views from the top of Taung Wine mountain are just incredible!
Enjoy the views of Lake Kan Thar
Kan Thar Yar Lake is located just on the south side of Hpa-An. If you are looking for a quiet hide away or a good place to watch the sunset close to the centre of Hpa-An, Kan Thar Lake is a great place. A pleasant stroll around Hpa-An town can take you from the central market past the Clock Tower to the lake.
Check out Mawlamyine
A 1.5-hour drive from Hpa-An is Mawlamyine located. A more developed but less touristy city which was the former main harbour of Myanmar before it moved to Yangon. You can visit the biggest reclining Buddha in the world (Win Sein Taw Ya), which is 180 meters long! Another great thing to do is to watch the sunset from the Kyaik Than Lan Pagoda.
Watch sunset from the Thanlyin River
Another great place to watch the sunset in Hpa-An is from the Thanlyin riverside. See the locals passing by, little boats returning home and watch the sun disappearing behind the mountains. On some days there is a even a local market! Great to try some local snacks or a complete meal.
Visit the Golden Rock
This is something you should only put on your list if you really want to put in the effort to get there. Halfway from Yangon to Hpa-An, there is Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, better known as Golden Rock. It is one of the most important Buddhist sites in Myanmar, but, getting to the Golden Rock is quite a long ride. From the base, you have to take a very simple bus filled with locals and a few tourists which takes about an hour to reach the top of the Golden Rock. But the views from the top are beautiful, although it can be very busy with local people.
How to get to Hpa An
From whether side of Myanmar you’re coming, Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay or Inle Lake, there are daily buses going directly to Hpa An. Some are night buses which will save you a night at a hotel, but a (very) uncomfortable night of rest. You can book the buses via your hotel or check the times and do bookings yourself via several websites. We used Oway and it worked perfect!
Best time to visit Hpa An
The best time to visit Hpa An to admire its true natural beauty is right after the rain season. The whole landscape will be lush green then and temperatures very pleasant to hike and explore. Since rainy season in Myanmar lasts from June until September, that means the very best months to visit are October, November and December. In January – February the burning season starts which means that farmers burn their land what results in a lot of smoke in the air and less green landscape. Sunrises and sunsets will be very hazy which makes it less attractive to make beautiful pictures. The hot season in Myanmar is from March until June, which is the worst season to go because temperatures can get up to 40 degrees! You certainly don’t want to hike or explore with that heat! But you also shouldn’t be discouraged to go to Myanmar in rainy season because it might only rain for 3 days in one month.
How many days to spend in Hpa An
If you have little time to travel around in Myanmar, 1.5 or 2 days are enough to see the highlights of Hpa-An. But it’s definitely worth it to spend some more time in this beautiful region. Especially if you love hiking and going off the beaten path. You can stay busy for around 3 to 4 days in Hpa An, but it just depends on your interests and the time you have. You can also book a day tour to see the highlights, but you won’t enjoy the beautiful surroundings fully with such short time.
How to get around in Hpa An
The best way to get around in Hpa An is by renting a scooter. For 10 000 Kyat a day we rented a scooter and we were free to go wherever we wanted! Most of the Hpa An attractions are some kilometers outside of the city situated. So if you are not confident to drive a scooter yourself, you can also rent a private TukTuk for a full day trip for around 35 000 Kyat.
The roads in Hpa An are pretty good, but for some locations you have to drive on unpaved roads. These can be a bit bumpy and very dusty, especially in burning season! So whether you are on a bike or in a TukTuk, wear a mouth mask to prevent yourself from the dust.
Best places to eat in Hpa An
The options to eat in Hpa-An are limited, but we found some great restaurants and cafes to get healthy food and a juice! There is a lot of local food in Hpa-An, but the choice is up to you if you try it or rather play safe!
Our favourite restaurants to eat during our time in Hpa-An:
- Veranda Youth Community Cafe. Healthy juices, good coffee, tasty Thai food with a Burmese twist and a very relaxing garden.
- Wadee restaurant. Local and Thai cuisine in a simple restaurant.
- Bamboo House Bar & Sea food. Nice bamboo restaurant, very extensive menu with many choice of local and Thai food. Sea food is their speciality.
More Myanmar travel guides
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