no guide needed

Myanmar: Day Walks From Kalaw Without A Guide

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Walkers Behold.....

If you’ve made a trip, or are planning one, to Myanmar we are sure that Kalaw will be on your list. Famed for expansive walking routes across lush dynamic terrain, Kalaw is the perfect spot for some walks in nature. But while most guide books or guesthouses will tell you to book a local guide to set off on day walks, we will explain how you can enjoy Kalaw's amazing nature for free. Read on to explore our 3 day, guide free, walking itineraries....

Agricultural fields outside Kalaw

Agricultural fields outside Kalaw

3 x 1 Day walks From Kalaw With No Guide Needed

Thank you Marc from Thitaw Lay House for providing this amazing information as it really let us explore the area on a low budget without having to pay for a guide, not that there’s anything wrong with booking guides! You could include both the cave walk and mountain walk in one if it’s just a short visit to Kalaw but expect to walk for 6-8 hours.

Walk 1: Walk To The MyinMathi Caves Without A Guide - 4-5 hours

Tips: You may want to bring a torch or a fully charged phone as there can be power cuts in the caves! Remember the route as you walk, it will make the return voyage much easier. For extra fun you could leave markings on the route to aid you return journey :-) Bring water because there aren’t any shops until you reach the caves. Expect the walk to take 4-5 hours including 45 minutes in the cave visitor area.

The internet is very slow in Kalaw so you may want to download these notes in Bagan or Mandalay before you arrive.

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the left path.

• The path lightly descends and gradually become an ox-cart road, for those compass welding walkers you should be walking south to south-east.

• Expect to pass a little brook before leaving the forest area and arrive at a lush green agricultural valley. 

• Follow the ox-cart road until you reach the MyinMathi Village where you will meet friendly villagers and high-fiving groups of children.

• Continue walking into the village for around 500 metres and take a right where the road splits. Keep walking and you’ll pass an old bridge and then the path starts to climb a small hill towards a huge monastery. Turn a slight left at the monastery to the top of the hill and then down until you reach the National Road.

• The Pagoda is visible from the road, follow the road into the cave visitor entrance where there will be many locals who have come to enjoy this religious site. We were the only westerners in cave during our visit. Give a small donation.

• Return using the same directions or grab a motorbike taxi.

kalaw - walking routes

Walk 2: Additional Walk To The Mountains Near MyinMathi Caves Without A Guide - 5-6 Hours

Tips: Remember the route as you walk, it will make the return voyage much easier. Bring water because there aren’t any shops until you reach the caves. This a whole day trek so expect the walk to take 5-6 hours. If you have already walked to the caves the first 1.5 hours is the same walk.

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the left path.

• The path lightly descends and gradually become an ox-cart road, for those compass welding walkers you should be walking south to south-east.

• Expect to pass little brook before leaving the forest area and arrive at a lush green agricultural valley. 

• Follow the ox-cart road until you reach the MyinMathi Village where you will meet friendly villagers and high-fiving groups of children.

• Continue walking into the village for around 500 metres and take a right where the road splits. Keep walking and you’ll pass an old bridge and start to climb a small hill. Halfway up the slope take the second (horizontal) road to the right and climb and descend for 20/30 mins until you reach a hill tribe village.

• You’ll soon spot 2 lion statues guarding the stairs to the hilltop. Climb for an hour or so and enjoy the stunning view at the top.

• Return the way you came back to Kalaw or you could continue onwards to MyinMathi Caves by following the guide above.

Ox and cart on the way to MyinMathi

Ox and cart on the way to MyinMathi

Walk 3: Peaceful Walk To A Hill Top View Without A Guide - 2 Hours

This is a short easy walk just outside of Kalaw, we haven't drawn it on the map as its easy to find by following the instructions. 

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the right path (the left path will take you to MyinMathi caves).

• Follow path up to the Telecom compound where you should walk a few step up the concrete path but don’t not enter the compound. Instead, turn right passing a few alters and spectacular trees until the path circles the hill top.

• Enjoy the great views as you reach the meditation cabin, why not relax and take in the stunning environment. Afterwards, continue to the pagoda and the hill top. 

* Walk back the way you came or take the 585 steps down from the pagoda to the road below.

Sun passing through the trees near Kalaw

Sun passing through the trees near Kalaw

We hope you have found Thitaw Lay House’s instructions, presented by Studio Mali, helpful. With this information you should feel confident in tackling local day walks on your own without having to pay for it. We found the routes incredibly beautiful and surprisingly diverse and we would go as far as saying they are as idyllic as some of the landscapes on the highly rated 2/ 3 day treks from Kalaw to Inle Lake.

As you can see from the map above, the Kalaw day walks bring you within very close distance to the starting point of the 2-day trek to Inle Lake. If you’re interested, and adventurous, you could tackle the 2-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake on your own without a paid tour, we have written up our advice on the 2-day trek here:  Myanmar: 2-Day Trek From Kalaw To Inle Lake Without A Guide Or Tour

How To Get To Kalaw 

Bus

Kalaw is easy to access, most travellers will journey from either Bagan or Mandalay then trek on to Inle Lake. There is the option to travel in reverse from Inle Lake to Kalaw but be prepared to walk against the continual tide of trekkers coming towards you! The preferred route is the 2 or 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. From Bagan you can book a VIP air conditioned coach for around 12,000 kyat (£6.50) pp. This is a 3 seat across coach that fully reclines if you need to sleep on it. They leave in the morning at 7.30am and the journey takes around 8 hours. There is also a night coach, ask in Bagan for timings and costs, all guesthouses can book a seat for you but always get a second price for comparison.

Train from Thazi to Kalaw

Train from Thazi to Kalaw

Train

We traveled to Kalaw from Mandalay by train which was a cheap, slow and scenic way to get there. It also includes a stopover in Thazi so it would suit a traveller on a low cost 2 week trip like us. We have written about the Mandalay, Thazi and Kalaw train ride in our 2 week itinerary here: Myanmar: The Ultimate 2 Week Travel Itinerary For Backpackers

Our beautiful room at Thitaw Lay House

Our beautiful room at Thitaw Lay House

Where To Stay

We stayed in one of our favourite guesthouses of our entire round the world trip in Kalaw! Thitaw Lay House and it’s smaller Thitaw II site are incredibly relaxing and well priced guesthouses. Another benefit (that became a benefit by chance) is that it’s not in the centre of Kalaw, which means you get to relax in quiet green gardens just 15 minutes walk from the train station/ city centre.

There were a few reasons we loved staying at Thitaw Lay House. Firstly, the owner Marc and the team are really friendly, runs a tight ship and provides all the information you’ll need to enjoy anything from a 3 day to a 5 day stay in Kalaw. The breakfast was also very good, imagine freshly baked banana bread along with homemade bread, jams, egg and rice all served in traditional Burmese lunch pots. We booked a standard room but by a strike of luck were upgraded to a family room at 4 times the price.  Even with a standard room the Thitaw Lay House is cheaper than most double bedrooms in Kalaw centre, our room was 26,940 Kyat (£14.61) per night.  

Although the best part is that Marc provides detailed information on the local walks that can be done without a guide.  We are using his information to help others enjoy some the amazing local walks out of Kalaw.

700 Kyat / 37p Shan noodles at Parami

700 Kyat / 37p Shan noodles at Parami

Where To Eat

If you’ve been on your feet all day you'll be wanting some good grub to refuel in the evenings. We stayed in Kalaw for 4 days, which gave us time to try out a few options and we found some really tasty cheap food we’d like to tell you about. Of the more touristic restaurants we enjoyed was Paradise Spa which sells yummy Mexican food at medium prices, around 2,500 Kyat (£1.30) per dish.

But our favourite spot was Parami restaurant in the centre of Kalaw (see map below). Parami sold tasty, cheap, Burmese and Indian food like the chapati and daal for 500 Kyat (23p) and Myanmar's ubiquitous Shan noodle soup for 700 Kyat (37p). If you’re on a budget you can’t do better than Parami, you can see the menu here. Other cheap fun can be found by grabbing bottled beers and watching the sun go down in the town park, you might be lucky enough to be joined by a local cow as we were. 

 

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