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Once you start researching things to do in Myanmar it’s guaranteed that you will stumble across Myanmar trekking. It’s widely popular in the country among tourists and for good reason. These treks show you a part of the country that is untouched by tourism. Though you may be going through as a tourist, the trekking companies do a good job by making sure you leave only your footprints in the mud.
The Kalaw to Inle Lake trek is the most popular trek in the country as it acts as an easy add-on to any trip from Bagan to Inle Lake, both of which are must-visit destinations in Myanmar for any Myanmar trip. So instead of heading from Bagan to Inle Lake, trek part of the way! Less popular treks are done further North of Mandalay and since so few tourists go there many have the chance to be the first Westerner that people in the villages see.
As beautiful as that would be, it didn’t fit into my itinerary so I decided trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, where multiple trekking companies were set up was the next best thing.
Check out this video to see some shots of trekking in Myanmar and be sure to read my Myanmar travel tips since things are a little different here!
Getting to Kalaw
The most popular option is to take a bus from Bagan. You can book these buses pretty much anywhere in the area. They range from larger more comfortable buses to shuttle buses that fit about 14 people. These range in price from 10,000 to 20,000 kyats (approx. $10-20USD). Overnight buses will land you in Kalaw at around 2:30AM and day buses should have you there by 3PM.
Be aware that the roads to Kalaw are extremely bumpy (girls I seriously recommend wearing a sports bra) and are not for the faint of heart with the hairpin turns going up the mountains.
There is not much to do in Kalaw as it acts mostly as a quick stay for backpackers heading out on a trek the next morning. There are no hostels in Kalaw but the most popular hotel in Kawal is The Golden Kalaw Inn which I recommend.
Trekking Kalaw to Inle Lake
Most companies in Kalaw will offer a two or three-day trek, both of which are the same but the two-day trek skips the first day of trekking through tea plantations and instead takes a tuk-tuk to the village where the three-day trek will spend their first night.
From there you’ll walk through the luscious green countryside of Myanmar, see locals farm, and have your guide teach you about the plants that you pass. The views are absolutely spectacular. Rice paddies and rolling hills will treat your eyes for the entire trek, but you’ll find yourself staring at your feet a lot. The trek is constantly up and downhill and is not always on a footpath.
Expect to be trekking for a minimum of three hours at a time, with a break for lunch and then more. If it happens to be wet it will take longer. A three-hour trek once took eight because it was so muddy!
Both treks stop at a local village in the mountains for a homestay where a family in the village welcomes you into their home and makes traditional Burmese food for dinner and breakfast. You also stop in a different local village for lunch each day.
I promise you won’t be hungry with the amount of delicious Burmese food that is put in front of you. All the food was fresh and included lots of fruit. It ranged from fried noodles to curry dishes, rice and cooked plants that were picked by our guide during the first days trek. For breakfast was a potato mixture with more fresh fruit and our last lunch was vermicelli with a fried egg.
It is not an easy trek and it does require you to be in decent shape. It is constant up and down hills, balancing on thin pieces of land between rice paddies, and jumping to avoid as much mud as possible. Much of the land is a red clay that can really add extra weight to your feet if you slip or get stuck in some.
I am not in the best of shape and I had a cold while doing the trek. I managed to get through it just fine even with my “running shoes” which were just mesh Nike’s that had almost no grip. At some points it was definitely a struggle because of my lack of proper footwear and to keep up with my poor excuse for endurance.
Be prepared to get dirty, sweaty, and meet lots of interesting people. There will be slips and falls (I lost count of how many times I fell), you will get dirty, and you will be tired. It’s hard work, but it only adds to the experience.
Who to Trek With
I highly recommend Eversmile Trekking, a company that more that exceeded my expectations. Eversmile has been running for 18 years and focuses on smaller groups, plus it’s significantly cheaper than the bigger companies.
What to Pack
Included in the price your big bag will get moved to your next accommodation for you. All you need is the following:
- Small backpack
- Water for a minimum of half a day
- Bug spray/deet-free bracelets
- Change of clothes
- Hiking shoes
Why You Should Try Trekking Kalaw To Inle Lake
Trekking Kalaw to Inle Lake is truly is a remarkable experience that can’t be experienced in many other places. The landscape is pretty hard to beat and the long treks will put things in perspective for you. You get to see another part of life that tourists don’t get to and you get to be a part of local life, if only for a night.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact Toe Toe from Eversmile Trekking at [email protected], she is an absolute delight and will make sure trekking in Myanmar is the highlight of your trip!
Other posts about Myanmar:
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