Balancing precariously at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo, the Golden Rock is one of Myanmar’s most sacred sites, drawing devout Buddhists from across the country. Soak up the magical atmosphere as pilgrims light candles, burn incense and meditate through the night.
Golden Rock defies belief and gravity - 15 metres round, teetering on the edge of a precipice at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo. Just to make it that little bit more precarious, there’s a pagoda perched on top. Legend has it, the whole thing is held in place by a strand of Buddha’s hair, making it one the nation's most sacred Buddhist sites, its granite surface covered in gold leaf left by centuries of pilgrims.
Dusk or dawn are the best times to visit, when the light softens and the rock almost glows. Sweet incense fills the air and candles are lit for prayers. Throngs of pilgrims bang gongs, chant Buddhist scriptures and meditate through the night.
You meet special people at the Golden Rock. Devout Buddhists make the pilgrimage from across Myanmar, from places where tourists have yet to wander, so expect a few gasps of excitement in your direction. Make the time to chat to pilgrims, monks and nuns, and they’ll be delighted.
We must warn you, getting up to the rock is quite the rollercoaster. There’s a new cable car, but the first half of the journey is by truck which careens up the mountain switchbacks. If you’ve got the time and the energy, it’s possible to hike the whole way up the mountain in true pilgrimage style. Those who make the trip are rewarded by one of Myanmar's most impressive views: a spectacular panorama over the surrounding mountains.