Visiting the majestic, mystical and sacred Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda) that teeters on the edge in Myanmar!

Ever since I saw a strange and somewhat obscure photo of this shimmering rock teetering off the side of a cliff I knew I had to visit. The mysterious land of Myanmar called me in with its untouched and mesmerising culture as soon as I learnt of its endless charms. The tourist trail, if you could call it that, of Myanmar is thread bare with visitors as it is, so stepping off the ever so worn track guarantees a rich, authentic and eye opening insight into a country who charmed us from the moment we stepped foot on to its dusty streets. Visiting The Myanmar Golden Rock Pagoda, one of the countries most holy shrines on the first day of the water festival, well that was one of those amazing and unforgettable travel experiences!

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What is this surreal and impossible looking place: The Myanmar Golden Rock pagoda? 

The Myanmar Golden Rock, or Kyaiktiyo Pagoda as it is know is a magical and mystical place and a spiritual pilgrimage site for Myanmar Buddhists being one of the most sacred places in the country. The seemingly impossibly balanced golden rock teeters on the edge of a cliff, defying the laws of gravity in staying perched above the village below. Even those who claim to lack belief in a higher power can’t help but be moved by this sight of impossibility and it is no wonder it has become legendary in this devoutly religious country.

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Legend has it that the rock itself is precariously balanced on a single strand of Buddha’s hair, the power of the enlightened one holding off the power of nature and allowing the rock to maintain its precarious position on top of the mountain. Standing at 7.6m tall aloft the 1100-metre high mountain it really is a mystery as to how and why this teetering boulder got up here! But in truth no one really knows how The Myanmar Golden Rock got here and maybe that is part of its charm. 

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Our wonderful adventure visiting this holy pilgrimage site during the Burmese New Year!

In a move that could be considered both highly awkward and not recommended but also perfect timing, we headed on our own pilgrimage from the town of Bago on the first day of Myanmar New Year. Known better in Thailand as “Songkran” the water festival of Myanmar is known as “Thingyan” and is a much more local affair with kids throwing buckets of water at passing traffic and stations set up along the roads with speakers systems and hosepipes… those gentle water pistols are hardly anywhere to be seen!

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The day started slowly as we waited early in the morning for our local bus and we assumed that the festival was a much more muted affair here than in touristy Thailand. The first sign of things to come came as the wide open door of the bus was thrashed with an entire bucket of water as we waited at traffic lights. Initially we had forgotten all about the festival and were left a little bewildered as to why such an innocent looking child would pull such a prank!

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Then the heavens opened, every street was lined with people dancing in the proverbial rain, throwing buckets, firing hosepipes at buses, cars, bikes and tuk tuks, only the passing parades of Monks were spared! By this point we were left relatively dry given the protection of the bus…but taking the open top truck on the rollercoaster ride up the winding track through little villages and pit stops left us without a single dry inch on our bodies! To say it was fun would be an understatement, after throwing everything damageable in a dry sac we embraced the chaotic celebrations and the fact we were targeted disproportionately for being foreign!!

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Arriving back in Bago after seeing the Myanmar Golden Rock pagoda we had finally dried off after being splashed and sprayed so many times. But here came the first insight to what would be a wet few days in the Yangon to come! As soon as we exited the station to walk the 3km back to the guest house the screams of joy and pumping music began.

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We tried to duck and dive but to no avail, the first was a small child who snuck up behind up to pour freezing water down our back, the next was a group with a huge bucket before being well and truly doused by a station of 5 high powered hose pipes and some passing open trucks full of teenagers with buckets of water…we were dripping, but loving it and the locals were even happier seeing someone from another country share in their celebrations! (Read more about the absolutely crazy times we had during “Thingyan” in Yangon soon!)

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A moving and beautiful experience that brought us closer to the amazing culture of Myanmar

For us, as lovers and admirers of Buddhist culture as well as the unique and freindly nature of Myanmar it was a moving experience to visit the golden rock. Such a unique and sacred place for the wonderful country of Myanmar it was a privilege to share it with so many celebrating such a special time of year. The atmosphere in the village and around the pagoda was electric, people had travelled from all over the country to be here and for many it was a once in a lifetime visit to the Myanmar Golden Rock.

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The long and winding track up to the Myanmar Golden Rock temple was packed with the open trucks the government put on to ferry people up and down, the tension built as we flew up and down the steep roads but the jaw dropping visas just made it feel even more surreal. Though I am not sure if it was divine intervention or skilful driving that allowed us to actually get to the top alive! Once at the top there was a short hike to the pagoda itself, lined with people camping out here for days on end and those selling simple foods such as samosas fried in a pan on the side of the street!

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It was like a party atmosphere with everyones excitement levels building as the pagoda finally came into sight. As we signed in on the foreign visitors sheet we could see we were two of only 15 non Myanmar visitors that day and with that came quite some attention from the local people in their usually friendly, warm and inquisitive way. For us the Myanmar Golden Rock was a highlight of a country that was the highlight of our time in Asia!

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How to visit the Myanmar Golden Rock / cost

Visiting the golden rock is probably more complicated than it needs to be and sounds worse than it actually is!

Entrance price for foreigners is $6 payable as 6,000 Kyat (Do check before)

From Bago:

We stayed in the small town of Bago in order to take this trip. It is easily doable in a day from here and means you can take your time, spend the night and then head to Yangon or elsewhere the day after. It is also possible to stay in the small village Kinpun at the bottom of the mountain. Bago is easy to get to from Inle and Yangon with buses running several times a day and Yangon being only a few hours away.

From Bago head to the main bus station on the one and only road through town. Here you can buy bus tickets to Kinpun (Don’t get off at the down confusingly named Kyaikto, but just ask for Golden Rock anyway).

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The bus takes around 2 hours, they leave every hour and start around 6am. It is best to take the earliest bus you can and book your return together as the buses can get crowded. It should cost around 5,000 kyat each way (£2.81 / $3.67) It is best to book your bus the day before and go as early as you can and return as early as you can. 

From Kinpun you should make your way to the truck station. This is a chaotic place where the government have put on some open bed trucks with wooden slats as seats that uncomfortably and in a somewhat uncontrolled fashion fly up and down the mountain. You basically just pile in the first one you can and hang on for dear life for an hour (with the addition of the water flying at us it did feel like a theme park ride!) This costs 2,000 kyat to the top one way  (£1.12 / $1.47) 

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From Yangon:

Doable in a day but much tighter.

The bus takes around 5 hours and costs 7,000 (£3.91/ $5.15)

Check times returning and get the earliest and latest you can. Once in Kinpun take the truck as mentioned above or from Kyaikto the short local bus to Kinpun before taking the truck.

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Samosas fried on the street!

Visiting the Myanmar Golden Rock From the rest of the country:

From elsewhere in the country the trip is hard and complicated. It might be possible to transfer through the capital and onto Kyaikto before taking a bus to Kinpun and then the truck up the mountain but it is best to either go from Yangon or better still stay in Bago for a couple of nights.

TIPS for The Myanmar Golden Rock:

Wear long trousers, skirt or longyi particularly if you are a woman! Also, women cannot touch the rock or place gold on it, not great and hopefully this attitude with change, but you can still enjoy the place itself and Shorty didn’t place any gold leaf because I couldn’t either.

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The ultimate in style!

Have you ever visited the Myanmar Golden Rock or such a unique and stunning religious location

Myanmar golden rock, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, how to visit Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Bago, How to visit the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda from Yangon, day trip, bus, train, flight, hike, clothing, women, buddhism, How to visit the Golden Rock Pagoda from Yangon, Bago, Lake Inle, Mandalay, Bagan, Kyaikto, Kinpun, village, hotel, hostel, accommodation, truck, how to visit, rules, long pants, long trousers, longyi, skirt, golden rock hotel myanmar,

See more from this country:

MYANMAR (BURMA)

See more from our backpacking adventures:

ASIA LEG

EUROPE LEG

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • LOL on this Nic. Because 1 month after we left Myanmar we were in Chiang Mai for Songkran. We lived in a small, quiet Thai village by Doi Suthep up in the hills yet we had a fun time getting soaked by locals when heading into town. Especially when the older Thai’s greeted us drunk, offering us Thai rum….funniest scene was the drunk police officer directing traffic hahaha….thank goodness the traffic was a trickle in that intersection. Unlike the water being thrown around.

    • Ahh, nice!! We have a post coming out soon about Thingyan, so crazy! Would love to be over in Thailand too though I hear its actually quite different, but in a more local setting would be better like you were!

      • We just got offered that Thailand house sit LITERALLY 3 minutes ago 😉 So may be back in the same spot next year.

  • Silver Backpacker

    Top tip….. make sure your gear is waterprooofed before going there 🙂 That rock really is so precariously perched up there, I do wonder what is holding it in place. Maybe it is one of Buddhas hairs or maybe the fact that women are not allowed to touch it.!!!!!

    • Ha ha, yeah, I think unless its during the water festival you will be ok, crazy times! Ah, yes, we must be so strong we might push it off, those measly men though, they stand no chance!

  • I look at that rock, and I start to be anxious. Very interesting and picturesque shrine. I wonder how many coats of gold leaf it has today.

  • That looks crazy! Sounds like a very special place to visit. The water throwing sounds like a little bit of a nuisance if you weren’t prepared for it (say lugging around a giant fancy camera or something), but now that you prepared us… bring it on! An unforgettable experience I’m sure!

    • The water throwing is only because we went during Thingyan, Burmese new year, so it’s only those 4 days in the year. But we brought a waterproof bag as we knew that and also once at the temple there was no water throwing.

  • Elisa Subirats

    A link to a post “rain gear or waterproof gear” will fit very well here, lol. I visited the golden rock from Yangon a couple of years ago, with an unforgettable train journey first. Once there and even if I ended my day completely dry I had a lot of fun 🙂

    • Ha ha, yeah, that is only during the 4 days of Thingyan, Burmese New Year though.

  • Lara Dunning

    This is the first time I’ve seen this rock. Wow! And, the festival looks like a wonderful experience. Sounds like a dry bag is a must!

  • Corinne Vail

    I’m not so sure about starting out with a bucket of water being splashed on me, but at least it would be cooler. I have seen spectacular photos of the golden rock, and you make the journey sound fascinating.

    • Ha ha, well the chances are that wouldn’t happen unless you went during those 4 days!! It was an amazing place to go though and it was so hot so it did actually help!!

  • Skye

    I hadn’t heard of the Myanmar Golden Rock before but it definitely looks like it was worth the trip despite getting caught in the Burmese Songkran (which I also didn’t know they have). What a fun day out. Those views alone would have been worth it too.

    • Its a really amazing place to visit and even more intense during the Thingyan festival!

  • Such a curious place! I almost had to double check the first photo to wrap my head around what it is exactly! I would have never imagined it is one of the most sacred places there. Really interesting to read about this place that seems so far away at the moment yet so unique. The water festivities were a bit of an unexpected turn hehe.

    • Ha ha, yes it almost doesn’t look real! They really take their religion seriously over there, very interesting to see.

  • How cool! I was in Myanmar but I must have missed this. I would love to see it when I go back. It’s really gorgeous!