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Mt Kyaiktiyo, the Golden Rock, sounds bizarre: an enormous, precariously balanced boulder covered in gold and topped with a stupa. But this monument is a major pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists and it's the presence of so many devotees that makes the place so special.

The atmosphere during the pilgrimage season (November to March) is charged with magic: pilgrims chant, light candles and meditate all through the night, while men (only) are permitted to walk over a bridge spanning a chasm to the boulder to affix gold-leaf squares to the rock’s surface. And the boulder itself is stunning, especially when bathed in the purple, sometimes misty, light of dawn and dusk.

During the rainy season (May to October), the mountain is mostly covered in a chilly coat of mist and rain, although people still flock here. The area's hotels are open during this period, but some restaurants shut down.

1 - Its strong symbolism is bigger than its size and golden color 

The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is a giant golden rock which is defying gravity thanks to a Buddha’s hair. No matter if you are Christian, Muslim, atheist or agnostic.

Whether you are a believer, superstitious or you believe or not in myths, the point is that this is a holy place for Buddhists and people in Myanmar fully believe in this legend.

The rest does not matter. You do not need to believe in it. So strong is the symbolism that hundreds of thousands of Burmese come every year to be able to feel closer to Buddha by just touching it with their hand. When you are there, you can feel this symbolism through their excited faces, happiness and their high devotion.

2 - Mount Kyaiktiyo still belongs to Myanmar off the beaten track

Even though the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is explained in detail in all travel guides, only a few bunch of people come to visit this treasure. On the contrary, you will be meeting dozens of thousands of Burmese tourists who come from all over the country to offer their prayers and offerings to Buddha.

People from all social levels and ethnicity, although most of them are obviously from a very low class. They travel for hundreds of kilometers at the back of very small vans. They get there with all their luggage, full of clothes and food as they are planning to stay for many days. There are camping areas all over the place.

3 - Beautiful hikes

From the village located at the bottom of Mount Kyaiktiyo (Kinpun), everyone goes to the top by bus, especially tourists. But there is also the off the beaten path alternative of going by foot. It is a 16km hike all the way up to the top. At a normal pace and with generous stops, it should not take you more than 4h.

Yes, the trip can be exhausting but along the way, you are going to meet up with so many pilgrims who are hiking on barefoot and are a photographic festival. It was here where I probably took the best picture of all my trip.

You will pass by small villages whose inhabitants live from offering water, food, and souvenirs to the pilgrims. All Burmese people will wave at you. They will smile at you and they will be glad to see a Western dude walking happily among them.

4 - And yes, it is only a golden stone but an impressive one at that

Its size and the way it is defying gravity is shocking to see. During sunset, the rock shines in all its glamour. You can just spend hours sitting there admiring it and looking at how all people are venerating it.

By season, the best time to visit Myanmar Golden Rock in its glory when the weather is fine and skies clear is during the pilgrimage season (November – March). It can, however, be very busy during these months as many locals make the journey to one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Myanmar.

Between June and October, when the monsoon reigns supreme over the land, the rock is often covered in mist and is, therefore, difficult to see; it is much less impressive at this time.

By day time, Mt. Kyaiktiyo Temple is best to visit during sunset or sunrise which offers the precious panoramic view over the area whilst the sun is setting/rising over the horizon.

Below is the current weather condition in Mt. Kyaiktiyo area and the forecast for the next 7 days.


Getting there

There are a number of options to getting to Mt. Kyaiktiyo - Myanmar Golden Rock

By public bus

A number of bus lines operate from the Highway Bus Station (also know as the Aung Mindalar Bus Station) in Yangon to the town of Kyaiktiyo and Kinpun which is a town 10km (6 mi) from Kyaiktiyo right at the base of Mt Kyaiktiyo. You can usually organise the bus from the reception where you're staying.

If you want to see the Golden Rock then do not get off at Kyaiktiyo (except in wet season, when you will be transferred to a pickup for the leg to Kinpun), disembark early at Kinpun, if in doubt tell the conductor you want to get of at Kinpun, their English is limited but they should be able to tell you when to get off.

The first bus leaves at 06:30 and then go at hourly intervals until 14:30 (maybe later in high season). The fare is MMK8,000 and the trip takes 4½-5 hours.

By train

You can also take the train from Yangon. Trains leave throughout the day with the earliest departing at 07:15 (and at 18.25 and 21.00). Upper Class seats (basically padded seats with footrests rather than the wooden benches in "ordinary class") cost about MMK2,450. The fare for ordinary class is MMK1,200 (As of April 1, 2014 foreigners pay the same price as locals for trains and can pay in kyats.)

You can buy the tickets directly at the train station or at the office just across the street from the Sakura Building Downtown, but remember to bring your passport (or at least know your passport number).

The train leaves on time from Yangon and supposedly takes four hours but expect delays. It is a very old train and travels quite slowly with rocking and bumping along the way. Nevertheless, it offers a great chance to see the countryside and interact with locals.

Drinks, snacks, cigarettes, and betel nuts are all on offer from sellers who wander up and down the aisles. On the way back trains supposedly come through Kyaiktiyo every hour until around 18:00 and then not until around midnight. Expect delays for these trains returning to Yangon as they are coming all the way from Dawei Port and lose time on the way. The Pick-Up up to Kinpun takes about 20min and costs MMK1,200.

There are direct buses from Mawlamyine to train station.

From Bago you can take a bus/pickup to Kyaiktiyo that costs about MMK3,000, takes 3.5 hours and stops close to the train station.

Group tour

Last but not least, you can get to Kyaiktiyo Pagoda by taking a Golden Rock Group Return Day Trip From Yangon.

This group tour costs around US$65 per person, and includes hotel pickup and drop-off, transportation by private air-conditioned vehicle, and an English-speaking driver.

The tour departs at 5am and returns to Yangon at around 5pm the same day. Contact us for more detail.

Getting around

To get from Kinpun to the Golden Rock you have to take a truck and/or walk. The truck stop is just up from the town centre, to the left of the Sea Sar Hotel/Restaurant.

The trucks are dump trucks rebuilt with seats to fit passengers.They are usually packed to the brim with 7 rows of 6 people, so you will end up sitting on each other, and won't leave utill they are full.

Try to choose a truck with seat-backs rather than just benches as they will be much more comfortable for the steep ride up. The trucks have a metal cage at the back for storing larger objects such as backpacks or extra passengers.

The last trucks depart the mountaintop just before sunset at 6pm (the drivers claim it is against the law for them to drive at night -- and on the dark, meandering road it is not hard to understand why) so make sure you don't miss the last trucks departing. If you miss the last trucks, you will either have to to walk down (about 3 hours) or stay in one of the hotels at the mountain top.

The trucks are all pretty similar, though two types of seats are available. There are 5 seats in the more comfortable air-conditioned cab. These are 3000MMK each, and can be pre-purchased at a small desk in the truck station.

For a more authentic experience take a ride packed in the back with the locals. These seats are 2000MMK each. Simply board the waiting trucks without a ticket, part-way up the mountain the truck will stop and money will be collected from each passenger.

A number of times along the route the convoy of trucks will appear to stop for no reason, this is to allow trucks coming from the other direction to pass sections of the road to narrow for two-way traffic. While your waiting street-vendors will offer food and drinks for sale.

The trucks stop a 15 minute walk from the top. From there it is an easy walk to the top though Sherpas are available, who will charge you a fee (MMK6,000) to carry your stuff (they can also carry you up for about MMK 15,000.

It's also possible to walk the entire way up which is a 5 hour very steep climb. It is possible to get carried up the mountain on a Palanquin, an oriental transport cart powered by the legwork of two persons bearing the cart's and the occupant's weight on their shoulders, for around USD8. How happy the Burmese are with this mode of transport remains questionable. Not advised for overweight tourists.


The legend associated with the pagoda is that the Buddha, on one of his many visits, gave a strand of his hair to Taik Tha, a hermit. The hermit, who had tucked it in the tuft of his hair safely, in turn gave the strand to the king, with the wish that the hair be enshrined in a boulder shaped like the hermit's head.

The king had inherited supernatural powers from his father Zawgyi, a proficient alchemist), and his mother, a naga serpent dragon princess. They found the rock at the bottom of the sea.

With the help of the Thagyamin, the king of Tawadeintha Heaven in Buddhist cosmology, found the perfect place at Kyaiktiyo for locating the golden rock and built a pagoda, where the strand was enshrined. It is this strand of hair that, according to the legend, prevents the rock from tumbling down the hill.

The boat, which was used to transport the rock, turned into a stone. This is also worshiped by pilgrims at a location about 300 metres (980 ft) from the golden rock. It is known as the Kyaukthanban Pagoda or stupa (literal meaning: stone boat stupa).

Legends also mention that pilgrims undertaking the pilgrimage by trekking from the Kinpun base camp three times consecutively in a year will be blessed with wealth and recognition.


Kyaiktiyo Pagoda or Golden Rock has become a popular pilgrimage and also tourist attraction. At the peak of the pilgrimage season, during November to March, an atmosphere of devotion is witnessed at Kyaikhtiyo pagoda. As the golden rock gleams in different shades from dawn to dusk (the sight at dawn and at sunset are unique), pilgrims' chants reverberate in the precincts of the shrine.

Lighting of candles, meditation and offerings to the Buddha continues throughout the night. Men cross over a bridge across an abyss to affix golden leaves (square in shape) on the face of the Golden Rock, in deep veneration. However, women are not allowed to touch the rock so cannot cross the bridge. Pilgrims visit the pagoda, from all regions of Myanmar; a few foreign tourists also visit the pagoda.

Even disabled persons who are staunch devotees of Buddha visit the pagoda, walking up the track on crutches. Old people, who can not climb, are carried on stretchers by porters to the Pagoda to offer prayers to Buddha. The Full Moon day of Tabaung in March, is a special occasion for pilgrims who visit the shrine. On this day, the platform of the pagoda is lighted with ninety thousand candles as reverential offering to the Lord Buddha. The devotees visiting the pagoda also offer fruits, food and incense to the Buddha.

Currently, women are not allowed into the inner sanctuary of the rocks vicinity, maintained by an employed security guard who watches over the gated entrance. Women are permitted in the outer balcony and the lower courtyard of the rock. The belief stems from the practice of women forbidden to make physical contact with male monks, who are vowed under chastity as the rock itself represents of the Buddhist monk resembling its head.

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Festival

The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda Festival (also known as the Nine Thousand Lights Festival) takes place at Mount Kyaiktiyo late in the year and features food offerings at dawn and candle lighting after dark, illuminating the mountaintop. Check here for more information on Myanmar festivals.

Things to See

The Golden Rock 

The colour of the rock and the surrounding area filled with thousands of pilgrims on top of a mountain is already very impressive. The legend is that the rock is held in balance by two hairs of Buddha. Near the rock you can buy gold leaves to put onto the Golden Rock, but not allowed for women, 5 leaves cost 1,800 kyat. No camera allowed. Recommended to arrive early for viewing at sunrise, athought this is not possible from Kinpun. In rain season be prepared to only see the rock as a dark shape in the mist. 10,000 kyat (valid 1 day).

Kyaiktiyo village(s)

The village(s) behind the Golden Rock are interesting and allow for some relaxing but also steep walks up and down along the ridge. You can buy little things, have a coffee, a sweet coconut drink or a Burmese meal, or get frightened by the dead animal shrines put up in the stalls every 50 m or so. Since this is on the opposite side of the pagoda area, don't leave your shoes in the lockers at the beginning if you want to do some walking. Ask for the way to waterfall if you are not busy enough yet

Things to Do

There is a pilgrim path up to the golden rock, which takes about 4-5h up and about 3h down and climbs roughly 1000m of altitude. The path is mainly in the shade and is therefore also manageable during hot and sunny days. Do not attempt it after dark. Many teashops with views of the countryside are on the path.

If you walk through the village at the mountain top you can ask around to find the path that leads to a small waterfall.

Beer River (Walk down from the Golden Rock Mountain Road in Kinpun until you reach the river. Nearby Lotus Da Dar Hotel.) Beer River is a small swimming area with several restaurants and bars. You can sit on some tables that are in knee-deep water, others that are in the shade. The water is relatively clean and it is a great place to cool off on hot days. 

Smile World - a tiny amusement park located just north of the truck station in Kinpun. It seems uninteresting until you try the ferris wheel (4000 kyat) - one of the fastest in the world, and the cars actually rock back and forth giving the feeling of it going upside down at any time. Even if only one person tries it, they will turn it on. Not for the faint of heart and possibly the most exhilarating experience in Myanmar. Good place to blow some time at night.

You have the options to stay in Kinpun or at the mountain top.

Accommodation in Kinpun

In Kinpun, 10km from the town of Kyaiktiyo, you can find affordable guesthouses. The disadvantage of staying there is that you have no possibility of seeing the sunset and/or sunrise at the mountain top as the first truck from the base leaves at 06:00 and the last one from the top departs at 18:00.

  1. Lotus Da Dar - Kinpun - English-speaking staff, great WiFi, great food, okay rooms. The rooms are very cheap, and have air conditioning and private bathrooms. Also, the location is great, just at the base of the mountain and right next to the river. On google maps it is labeled as "the Eternity Resort". 25,000 kyat twin room
  2. The Eternity Resort - Kinpun - This is the real Eternity Resort. English-speaking staff, great rooms, but a bit off from the main part of town. Wifi can be a bit limited. Staff are extremely helpful with bookings and other things. Don't look for "the Eternity Resort" on google maps, but simply continue along that road and pass the checkpoint and you will see the resort. A normal room (2 beds) is around $40.
  3. Pann Myo Thu - Kinpun - English-speaking staff, but electricity on and off. A tiny double with shared bathroom and fan is USD6 (or 10000k) per person, while a bigger aircon room with ensuite bathroom is USD20 (or 21000K). Airconditioning does not operate during the day, and the shower takes a while to warm up but is very hot. They also have a bungalow for USD30. Basic breakfast is provided for some rooms - clarify which beforehand.
  4. Sea Sar Guest House - Kinpun - Has a very helpful employee often greeting passengers coming off the bus from Yangon. They have rooms from USD8. Single room 8 usd or 10 usd; very old and dirty rooms. Double room 20usd(fan) or 25 usd (AC).
  5. Emerald Villa - Kinpun - double room with shared bathroom 15,000 kyat. No WiFi.

Accommodation at the mountain top

On the mountain top accommodation is limited and expensive. There are a few alternatives:

  1. Mountain Top Hotel - Finest hotel on the mountain top. Very clean and spacious with polite English speaking staff. Rooms start at USD85 for a standard room and $100 for a superior suite - includes breakfast. Wi-Fi is available for USD3/h.
  2. Golden Rock Hotel - Located at the base camp 4km from the rock. Is a quieter alternative to the hotels at the very top as it sometimes can get quite noisy there. The hotel is currently (Apr 2013) closed for renovations.
  3. Kyaikhtiyo Hotel - Rates are USD107 for a superior room and USD160 for a deluxe. If you want luxury accommodation you're better off staying at the Mountain Top Hotel which is both nicer and cheaper.
  4. Yoe Yoe Lay Guest House - Located very close to the Golden Rock past the foreigner check-point in the no-shoes zone. Double rooms are quoted at USD50 (the price is actually MYK40,000 which is closer to USD45) and come equipped with fan and TV. The staff have very poor English skills. You're better off going a bit further to the Yoe Yoe Lay Hotel which has Wi-Fi and complementary breakfast at the same price.
  5. Yoe Yoe Lay Hotel - Probably your best budget alternative on the mountain top. Rooms start at USD50 for a double room at the back, USD60 for a twin room with a view and USD100 for a family room with a double plus a single bed. They also have 4-person rooms. Includes breakfast (fried rice with egg) and Wi-Fi. The manager is very friendly and speaks good English. To get there you actually have to walk past the golden rock and continue until you see a neon sign that says "hotel". It can be hard to find when you first get there as you don't expect to find anything past the Golden Rock but there's actually a stairway leading down to an entire village. The hotel is right in the middle of the stairs.
  6. Kyaw Kyaw - For accommodation at the Golden Rock, already inside the no-shoes area, call Mr. Kyaw Kyaw 09.8625177 or 09.401580555. The guesthouse is open for foreign tourists. Free internet access.

In "Kyaikto", about 500 m from the train station and the bus stop, there are two cheap and nice guest houses: "Happy guesthouse", double room with fan and AC, shared clean bathroom, free Wi-Fi, breakfast included (coffee, 2 slices of toast, jam, fried egg), 13.000 kyat for cheapest room (Feb 2017). For address see or Google Maps. Behind the Happy GH there is a new guesthouse named "Shwe Hintar" with prices starting with 8000 kyat double room (Feb 2017).

Entrance ticket: MMK10,000/person (~$7)

Bus ticket from Yangon: The first bus leaves at 06:30 and then go at hourly intervals until 14:30 (maybe later in high season). The fare is MMK8,000 (~$6) and the trip takes 4½-5 hours.

Shuttle truck from Kinpun to the entrance: MMK2,000 ~ 3000 (~$2-2.5)

Pilgrimage path from Kinpun to mountain top: 7Km | 4-5 hours

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