The town of Kalaw is set amongst magnificent pine forests and the area has become very popular with trekkers. Pleasantly cool all the year round, this sylvan offers the best hill trekking views among the British colonial landscape.
Kalaw is a hill town in the Shan State of Myanmar. Located in Kalaw Township in Tayungyi District, it would be a super duper dope experience if you want to spend time going around enjoying the feel of being authentic Burmese. With tons of activities and marketplaces around, Kalaw really worth exploring.
Mountain views in the town of Kalaw
History of Kalaw
The town was well-known since the British founded and set this up for colony. Not just that, Kalaw is also known for being the main setting of the novel "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" by author Jan-Philipp Sendker. The hill station famous for hiking and trekking. Many trekking trails ranging from nearby places to Inle Lake and Pindaya. The town still feels like a high-altitude holiday resort – the air is cool, the atmosphere is calm and the tree-lined streets still contain a smattering of colonial-era architecture – while the surrounding hills are fine for relatively easy day or overnight treks to Danu, Danaw, Palaung, Pa-O and Taung Yo villages.
Top Attractions in Kalaw
- Kalaw’s marketplace: To have Burmese experience in a very genuine level, you have to visit Kalaw’s marketplace. While a small market goes on every day, every five days, people from the nearby hill tribes join the market and it gets a lot bigger and a lot more impressive. This is a marketplace for the local Burmese, so you surely will spend great times here. If you expect to get home some extra vibrant souvenirs, then you might be disappointed. But if you just want to enjoy fun time being a local Burmese then this place is for you. You’ll find so many local’s signature dishes to keep your stomach full and your eyes delighted here. Starting early in the morning, the market is set up in the center of town and you can’t miss it. Set yourself a timer or else you will miss the fun!
The marketplace in Kalaw
- Shwe Oo Min Paya: Once you have been to Kalaw, you cannot miss this natural cave is filled with Buddha statues which takes you only a 30-minute walk south of the town centre, or faster if you hire a bike. The limestone caves create a fascinating home for the myriad of Buddha statues held within.
Shwe Oo Min Paya, the natural cave temple in Kalaw
- Elephant Camp: Known as one of the country’s more responsible and environmentally friendly camps, the camp cares for retired timber elephants that aren’t able to work any longer. Elephant camp was founded in 2011 and is a family-run establishment focused on humane practices. You can feed, bathe, and pet the elephants while learning more about their care and re-plantation services. They even serve a traditional lunch, so just take your time and should not worry so much!
Elephant Camp in Kalaw
One of the few destinations in Myanmar that genuinely caters for backpackers rather than tour groups, Kalaw is an easy place to kick back for a few days. The town blends the influences of Indian and Nepalese cultures. Hence, it is also notable for its significant population of Nepali Gurkhas and Indians, whose ancestors came here to build the roads and railway during the colonial era. Their influence is visible in the town with many local restaurants offering traditional Indian and Nepalese dishes with a Burmese twist.
Unique house in Kalaw
Situated at a height of 1320 meters above sea level, Kalaw’s climate is much more pleasant than the baking heat of the dry zone, although in the winter it can get quite cool at night and early in the morning. The town is set amongst magnificent pine forests and the area has become very popular with trekkers. Pleasantly cool all the year-round, this sylvan setting was famous among the British in the colonial period.
- Getting to Kalaw: There are domestic flights from Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Kyaing Tong, Lashio or Tachileik to Heho Airport, 26km south-east of Kalaw. It takes tourists around one hour to travel by taxi or bus from the airport to the town of Kalaw. You can also take a direct bus from Bagan, Mandalay or Inle Lake with the cost of around 5,000 - 12,000 kyat.
- Getting around Kalaw: Whether you are after a brief stroll to soak up the hill views and the colourful flower-lined streets, a half-day hike or a longer multi-day trek to Inle Lake or Pindaya to witness the lives of the local hill tribes, Kalaw offers a wide variety of options for exploration – and freedom of unfettered movement that is not always possible in other remote parts of Myanmar.
Rural landscape in the area between Kalaw and Inle
There are currency exchange and Visa/ Mastercard ATM facilities at Heho Airport to meet the needs of tourists. However, they are not always available or functioning.