If you’re planning a trip to Myanmar, chances are you’ve already heard about Bagan, Yangon, Inle Lake or Mandalay. But what about Hpa An?
Hpa An is an emerging tourist destination and a treat for those who are looking for a bit of adventure combined with culture. Make your way through the rice fields, climb the mountains, wonder at the incredible pagodas or visit the biggest reclining Buddha in the world. One thing is sure: you should definitely include Hpa An in your Myanmar itinerary.
After spending a few days in this incredible place, I’ve decided to share with you the top things to do in Hpa An and other details you need to know in order to plan the perfect trip (where to stay in Hpa An, day trips to nearby cities and much more). Enjoy!
Are you planning to backpack Myanmar? Check out my complete guide about budget, destinations and more.
Quick jump list
1. Is Hpa An worth visiting?
Hpa An was the last destination we visited during our one-month trip around Myanmar. After spending some time in Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake, I honestly thought that nothing can impress me anymore. I was definitely wrong.
With temples and caves scattered around the city and some of the most incredible views in Myanmar, Hpa An has so much to offer to the adventurous visitor. The thing that I’ve loved the most is that Hpa An is still untouched by mass tourism, unlike the more developed Yangon or Mandalay.
Surrounded by nature and home to many temples, Hpa An is a true spiritual and cultural melting pot. You’ll love exploring the rice fields, seeing the local fishermen in action, discovering hidden temples or climbing the mountains. One thing is sure: Hpa An has something to offer to every traveler who decides to visit it.
Is Hpa An worth visiting? My answer is a big, fat YES.
2. The best time to visit Hpa An
If you want to avoid both the hot (March – May) and the rainy season (June – September), the best time to visit Hpa An is during middle October – February. However, from my personal experience, I think that you shouldn’t get discouraged by the rainy season.
We’ve spent one month all around Myanmar during the rainy season and out of 30 days it rained just three days. Plus, the biggest advantage of visiting a place off-season is that there won’t be that many tourists around. 🙂
No matter when you decide to visit Hpa An, just check the weather forecast a few days in advance and decide on the spot if you should visit it or not. The worst case scenario is that you’ll spend a few more days in Yangon instead of visiting Hpa An. To check out the most important things to see in Yangon, click here.
3. How many days should you spend in Hpa An?
I definitely recommend spending at least two days in Hpa An. In the first day you can rent a tuk tuk and explore the incredible limestone mountains, beautiful caves and the local life. In the second day, I recommend visiting the biggest reclining Buddha in the world (180 meters!) and Mawlamyine.
Hpa An is a beautiful, underrated destination and it would be a shame not to see everything that it has to offer.
4. How to get around Hpa An – rent a tuk tuk
The best way to get around Hpa An is to rent a tuk tuk with a driver for one day. There is not much to see in the city center, most of the Hpa An attractions being situated at a few kilometers away from the city. The tuk tuk is convenient, cheap and a great way to explore the nature around.
Where to book a tuk tuk tour in Hpa An
We’ve booked our tour at our hotel’s reception but I am sure that most of the hotels in Hpa An provide such services. The easiest way is to ask at your hotel’s reception. If not, you can try and ask here – Little Hpa An Boutique.
How much does the tuk tuk cost?
To rent a tuk tuk in Hpa An for one day it costs 35,000 Kyat ($23). The price is for a private tour meaning that there won’t be any other people in the tuk tuk with you. I think that renting a private tuk tuk driver in Hpa An is the best choice since the itinerary is pretty packed.
Hpa An tuk tuk itinerary
If you are booking a private tuk tuk for your trip around Hpa An, you can negotiate with your driver the desired itinerary. In one day we’ve seen all the attractions below. I recommend this Hpa An itinerary to anyone who is looking for a bit of culture (visiting the temples, local fishermen) and incredible sightseeing places. Read below about the top things to see in Hpa An.
5. Things to do in Hpa An
Below are the top 12 tourist attractions in Hpa An that you should explore. Be prepared to be amazed as these places will make you want to return to Hpa An again and again.
Good to know: Before entering any temple in Hpa An or Myanmar in general, you will have to take off your shoes. Also, you will have to dress conservatively in order to comply to the local customs and show respect to the local traditions. To read more about how to dress in Myanmar, click here.
Hpa An map
Below is the map with all the temples, caves and attractions in Hpa An.
Hpa An Clock Tower
One of the few attractions which is located inside the city, the Hpa An Clock Tower is the city’s symbol and a meeting place for locals. The Clock Tower is also the place where most of the buses stop so if you are arriving in Hpa An by bus, this might be the first place you’ll see.
Although there’s nothing fancy or spectacular about it, the tower is the perfect place to sit for a few minutes and observe the local life – people doing their groceries, locals waiting for buses and children playing.
Kawtka Taung Cave
One of Hpa An’s hidden gems is Kawtka Taung Cave. As most of the caves around Hpa An, the Kawtka Taung Cave is filled with Buddha Statues. Many of the statues are situated at the ground level but there also some statues sculpted right on the cave’s walls.
If you want, you can follow the sculptures outside the temple, along the lake to a smaller shrine. Don’t forget to take your shoes off whenever you are entering a temple or pagoda. To find out more about the differences between temples, pagodas and stupas, click here.
One of the must see attractions in Hpa An is the Saddan Cave. You will have to walk for about 20 minutes through the cave to reach the other side of it. There, you will have to pay 3000 Kyat to rent a boat that will take you back to the main entrance. The boat ride is quite beautiful and relaxing – I definitely enjoyed it!
If you are sensible to dirt, maybe you should skip visiting this cave. Saddan cave is full of thousands of bats (don’t worry, they won’t attack you or something) and you will have to take your shoes off when entering the cave. This means that you will have to walk through a lot of dirt and bat poop when visiting the cave.
Good to know: the cave is closed during the rainy season but depending on the weather conditions, it might be accessible.
We stopped for lunch at the Waterfall Village. I was surprised to see many children and locals enjoying the sunny weather while swimming and playing in the nearby river. Go on the other side of the river and you will find some small, beautiful stupas.
1000 Buddha Images
Get ready to experience one of the most impressive sights in Hpa An at the 1000 Buddha Images. Right at the base of Zwekabin Mountain there are hundreds and hundreds of Buddha Images sheltered under golden roofs. You can walk between the statues and enjoy the view towards the mountain which watches over the entire Hpa An area.
Entrance fee: 4000 Kyat per person
Kyauk Kalat Pagoda
Set on a tiny island, the Kyauk Kalat Pagoda will definitely make you wonder at its beauty. The limestone pinnacle where the pagoda is situated looks like it’s going to break any second. There are many incredible temples around Myanmar such as the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon or Hsinbyume Pagoda in Mandalay and Kyauk Kalat Pagoda is definitely one of the most incredible structures in the country.
There is no set entrance fee to the Kyauk Kalat Pagoda but you will be required to leave a donation. In return, you will receive an orange bracelet knotted around your wrist. Leave it until it falls off by itself and it will bring you good luck.
To see which are the most beautiful destinations in Myanmar, click here.
Tip: For the most incredible views over the pagoda, visit it during the sunset.
See the local fishermen
If you are visiting Hpa An during the rainy season, you will most probably have the chance to see the local fishermen fishing in the flooded fields around Hpa An. What can be so interesting about fishing, you might ask. Well, it’s the technique they’re using.
Fishermen in Hpa An use big, round nets which they hold with their hands and teeth before throwing them in the water. Watching them catching fish was one of the highlights of my trip to Hpa An.
My favorite cave out of all the caves we’ve visited in Hpa An was the Kawgun Cave. Filled with hundreds of Buddha Statues dating back from the 7th century, this cave definitely has the wow factor. I loved that all the statues were well preserved and beautifully painted.
Towards the exit of the cave you can choose to climb some stairs for about 10 minutes in order to get on the top of a hill where you will be rewarded with one of the most incredible Hpa An viewpoints. All in all, the Kawgun Cave is definitely one of the most interesting and surprising places to see in Hpa An.
Entrance fee: 3000 Kyat per person
Admire the Rice fields
As you will make your way through all these amazing Hpa An tourist attractions, you will pass by incredible scenery, worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Yangon or Mandalay. With no soul around to interrupt your thoughts, you can enjoy the breathtaking rice fields surrounded by tall mountains. Once you will see these places, you will understand why Hpa An is becoming an increasingly popular tourist attraction.
The last cave on our Hpa An itinerary was the Yathaypyan Cave. Honestly, I liked more the other caves but the Yathaypyan Cave has its own charm. With small and big Buddha statues scattered around the cave, the cave is a great way to end your Hpa An tuk tuk tour.
Shwe Yin Hhyaw Pagoda
Probably the best place to watch the sunset in Hpa An, the Shwe Yin Hyaw Pagoda is a place overlooked by tourists and kept a secret by locals. Situated right on the banks of the Thanlyin River, this pagoda offers some incredible views. Just wait for the sun to set and enjoy the pink skies.
Tip: head towards the round shrine for the best view. Here you will also find some benches facing the river.
Hike Mt. Zwekabin
If you have an extra day in Hpa An, a hike to the Mount Zwekabin is a great choice for the adventurous traveler. This 772-meter tall mountain is a must for people who enjoy hiking. The hike to the top takes about two and a half hours but you will be rewarded with an incredible view over the entire Hpa An area.
Tip: if you are planning to hike Mount Zwekabin, make sure to start early in the morning since the temperatures during the day can become unbearable. Also, bring plenty of water with you.
6. Day trips from Hpa An
If you have more than one day to spend in Hpa An, you should definitely take a day trip and explore the nearby villages and attractions. Below are some of the most incredible places to see around Hpa An.
Take a day trip to Mawlamyine
Mawlamyine is the forth largest city in Myanmar and even though not many tourists visit it, I would definitely recommend exploring it for one day. Here you will find one of the most beautiful temples I’ve seen in Myanmar, situated on top of a hill, watching over the city. This temple is called Kyeik Than Lan Pagoda.
Check out these 10 awesome things to do in Mawlamyine.
Right near this temple there is another incredible pagoda called Mahamyatmuni Pagoda. To enjoy some of the best views over the city, take a walk on Phettan Street (you can find it on the Maps.me app).
You can get to Mawlamyine from Hpa An by bus. The ride takes about 2 hours and it costs 1200 Kyat per person.
Visit the biggest reclining Buddha in the world
From Mawlamyine central bus station you can take a tuk tuk (35,000 Kyat both ways) to the biggest reclining Buddha in the world. This huge Buddha statue is 30 meters high and 180 meters long. On the way to this huge statue, you will pass by 500 real-sized monks which appear to be walking towards the Buddha statue. The whole view is surreal.
The statue is not finished yet but you can go inside and take a look (you will have to take your shoes off when entering the site). Right on the other side of this statue there is another statue which was meant to have the same size. Unfortunately, the construction for the second Buddha image is not even close to be finished.
I really enjoyed my visit to the biggest reclining Buddha in the world – it was an unusual and fascinating sight. Check out my full guide about this statue.
Visit the famous Golden Rock
Half way from Yangon to Hpa-An you’ll find the famous Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as the Golden Rock. This rock seems to defy the gravity laws, being placed right on the edge of a tall mountain. According to the legend, the Golden Rock is perched on a strand of Buddha’s hair.
The ride to the Golden Rock is an adventure itself since you will have to take a truck filled with tourists and locals from Kin Pun Sakhan through narrow valleys and bumpy roads.
Click here to check out the most beautiful temples in Myanmar.
7. How to get to Hpa An from Yangon
From Yangon, the bus ride to Hpa An will take around 6 hours and it will cost you 6000 Kyat. You can book the bus through your hotel. Keep in mind that due to the AC, it can get pretty cold inside the bus so do bring a jacket with you (this happens all around Myanmar).
8. Where to stay in Hpa An
When it comes to accommodation, you won’t find that many options in Hpa An compared to Yangon or Mandalay. I’ve searched for the best accommodation for every budget. Below are my recommendations:
Low Budget – Little Hpa An Boutique – clean, good breakfast, good location
Mid Budget – Hpa An Lodge – beautiful surroundings, friendly staff, good service
I hope that you’ve found my Hpa An guide useful. There are many fascinating things to do in Hpa An and you should definitely add this destination to your Myanmar itinerary. If you were wondering what to do in Hpa An, I hope you’ve found the answers in this article.
For me, Hpa An was one of the highlights of my trip to Myanmar and I would love to go back sometime. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments section below.
May the travel bug bite you!
More about Myanmar:
- Backpacking Myanmar – all you need to know – click here
- Things to do at Inle Lake – the perfect itinerary – click here
- The most beautiful temples in Bagan – click here
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