How to climb Mandalay Hill and its 1,729 steps
Climbing Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Mountain Stats
- #1 highest point in Mandalay City
- Su Taung Pyae Pagoda
Climbing Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Natural Form and History
Natural Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Natural history
Mandalay and its Hill sits at the border between two of the major geological zones in Myanmar – the Eastern Highlands and the Central Lowlands. Mandalay Hill (and the Sagaing Hills across the river) are the most westerly, hitherto uneroded outposts of the Eastern Highlands known to have early cretaceous rocks, as well as granites, and paleozoic and mesozoic rocks.
Natural Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Climbing history
During WWII, Mandalay Hill was the location of a final hold-out of the Japanese Imperial Army when the British restored their control of the city. From this vantage, the Japanese set up a gauntlet of machine guns, which took a Gurka Battalion to dislodge. From there, the British forces lobbed artillery into the walled Mandalay Palace compound in a bid to dislodge the final Japanese troops, and destroyed the famed teak palace in the process.
Natural Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Current status
Today, Mandalay is a place of religious observance, or just a great place to observe the stunning Myanmar sunrises or sunsets. It is definitely one of the most popular attractions in Mandalay, which is not an especially popular destination for tourists.
Climbing Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Climbing Experience & Itinerary
Climbing Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Climbing Experience
Mandalay Hill is a rather leisurely and visually rich climb, best done at a saunter outside of the hotter hours of the day, and ideally taking in a sunrise or sunset. The only challenges are avoiding the mid-day heat, or slippery patches when it rains, and conforming to the standards of dress and behaviour befitting of a religious place (which is also part of the fun).
Climbing Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Trail options
The main trail is a staircase all the way up, but you can also cheat by taking a car/motorbike and an escalator (if it isn’t broken). There are a couple of other less popular stairways to the North and West, but these are neither popular or recommended (so they won’t be covered here).
Climbing Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Support facilities
Guides and porters
Food & water
Climbing Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Safety & Accessibility
The hot season in central Myanmar is no joke. Temperatures from February to May will reach above 40 degrees celsius (~105 degrees Fahrenheit) just about every day. If you’re in Mandalay in the hot season, only attempt Mandalay Hill around dawn or dusk, which also lets you enjoy the sunrise or sunset.
You’ll be required to take your shoes off for at least part of the climb. During the hot season, in the hot part of the day or just after, this can actually be quite painful to walk on unshaded areas. In the wet season, it can get quite slippery. If you’re taking the alternative stairways, the surfaces might hurt at times if you’re required to take your shoes off (to be confirmed).
Mandalay Hill is a safe place to be. The only real hazards are the public restrooms, which can be quite unsanitary. Also, don’t buy water bottles that have had their cap seals broken.
Permits, Fees, and Regulations
All are welcome in Mandalay Hill, but women are required to cover shoulders and knees, preferably with an ankle-length shawl or longgyi. You may be required to pay a 1,000 MMK fee for bringing a camera up the mountain. As in all Bhuddist places of worship, you will not be permitted to wear shoes. You should be able to leave them at the entrance of the holy areas, and sometimes check them into a guarded locker.
Note: Mandalay Hill is usually full of people, and Myanmar people are invariably willing to help others in trouble.
Getting there and away
Mandalay airport is about a 1-hour drive to the south of Mandalay Hill. Taxis from the airport can be easy, so long as you get out of the airport before they’re all taken. If you plan to get held up, such as by getting a visa on arrival, it is best to arrange a taxi in advance.
Other than the 1,000 MMK camera fee, payment should not be required to enjoy Mandalay hill.
Note: It is traditional for monks to request alms from the public, but solitary older monks or small packs of more assertive child monks are likely to be imposters.
Climbing Mandalay Hill Myanmar - Special Tips
Tips for amateur climbers
Mandalay Hill is not a challenging hike, and is absolutely amateur-friendly. Unless you have an injury, you are not likely to have troubles.
Special tip for climbers with a disability: When the elevators are working, the Mandalay Hill summit can be reached by wheelchair. However, there are still a 4 steps before the elevator that some will need assistance with, and the elevator closes at 6pm (this is usually just before sunset, unfortunately). Also, most of the railings will block the view when seated, so the full panorama may be difficult to glimpse if you aren’t able to stand.
Tips for advanced climbers
Advanced climbers won’t get any thrills on Mandalay Hill. If you’re after a physical challenge, try running up the road, or up one of the alternative stairways from the North of West.
Tips for women
As with most Bhuddist sites, women are required to dress with a top that covers the shoulders, and a skirt/pants that cover the knees (of course, the spaces in between shoulders and knees should be covered too)
There should be no problems for women’s personal safety. Although Mandalay Hill is a popular hangout for groups of young men, and this generally means that there is the potential for loutish behaviour, it is very unlikely to turn aggressive.
Tips for responsible / safety-conscious climbers
Being a religious site, you should be on your best behaviour, and be respectful of people’s customs and traditions. But there are local customs you should also observe to be sure not to cause offence:
- Remove shoes before entering holy places, when directed to, or when other people are doing so.
- Dress with shoulders and knees covered (particularly for women).
- Be careful not to have the soles of your feet pointed towards holy sites or people (and especially not monks or nuns).
- Don’t try to touch monks, even on their robes.
- Don’t give money or sweets to other people’s children.
- Don’t take people’s photos without asking.
- Don’t touch people’s heads (or hug or shake hands with women).
- Don’t disturb people in prayer or meditation.
- Avoid kissing or showing other public displays of affection.
- Although it won’t necessarily cause offence, please don’t purchase products derived from parts of wild animals.
Tips for trail runners
It is possible to run up and down Mandalay Hill on the summit access road, but this is not a trail run. You may be able to run the Northern trail too. It may be the case that you can link up the access road trail with the Northern trail, and loop back around on the road to the east, but you may need to take your runners off and slow down for at least part of this circuit. Please email us if you have a good trail plotted out.
Tips for nature lovers
Apart from the occasional bird, Mandalay hill offers little to the nature lover.