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Closed to visitors for decades and unravaged by mass tourism, Burma has some truly beautiful and untouched countryside just waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a bona fide mountain goat or just a fair-weather walker, the following destinations have some fantastic hiking opportunities. They are all also (reasonably) accessible to foreign travellers, which is more than can be said for many regions of Burma.
1) Inle Lake
As one of the most popular and picturesque destinations in Burma, the Inle Lake region is very easy to get to and presents some superb hiking options. One of our favourite hikes in the region is a two-day route, taking you from the former colonial hill station of Kalaw via an overnight stay at Htee Thein Monastery to the shores of the lake. Another excellent two-day option begins in Pindaya, and leads you through a combination of cultivated farmland and wooded hills to Inle.
Carrying the flag for Burma’s far eastern regions, close to the borders with China, Laos and Thailand, is Kengtung. Though once the seat of a powerful kingdom, Kengtung today is a relatively obscure and little-known town, surrounded by stunning countryside. Typical hikes from Kengtung will take in several of the nearby tribal villages, inhabited by Akha, Wa, Enn and other ethnic minorities. A good Shan guide is essential for these visits, to ensure that you behave with the proper etiquette and do not bother the people you have come to see.
Only accessible to foreigners by aeroplane, Putao, in the foothills of the Himalayas, is one of the remotest corners of Burma. Due to conflict between ethnic groups and the Burmese military government, this area was closed to visitors for many years, and its wild and beautiful forests have been virtually untouched by tourism. There are numerous fantastic hikes to be enjoyed from Putao and nearby Myitkyina, but for those with deep enough pockets we recommend staying at the luxurious Malikha Lodge, which arranges guided hikes, elephant treks, and rafting trips for guests.
**IMPORTANT NOTE 9/3/16**
Regrettably, it has been brought to our attention that Malikha Lodge keep caged bears on their premises for the entertainment of visitors. We do not support this practice, and as a consequence we no longer recommend this accommodation. Please be careful not to stay at hotels that perpetuate cruelty to animals!
Also known as Thibaw, Hsipaw is a popular base for hikers wishing to explore the enchanting countryside of Shan State. Here, Palaung and Shan ethnic minority villages lie scattered throughout the hills, providing a fascinating introduction to rural life in Burma. Hsipaw is easily accessed by train from the popular hill station at Pyin Oo Lwin – and the journey is an attraction in itself! The train travels slowly across the Goteik Viaduct, a 680-metre-long colonial viaduct towering 250 metres above a spectacular gorge.
Though Kanpetlet itself is an unremarkable rural community, its position on the doorstep of Mount Victoria National Park makes it a superb base for hiking in Burma’s western region. At 3,035 metres (9,957 ft) tall, Mount Victoria is the highest mountain in Chin State, and the surrounding park provides one of the country’s very best trekking locations, with routes to be enjoyed by hikers of all levels of fitness.