Mount Popa

myanmar

Mount Popa: A Spiritual Burmese Hike

Mountain Stats
Natural Form and History
Climbing Experience & Itinerary
Support Facilities
Safety & Accessibility
Special Tips
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Quick Answers

Q:How do you get to Mount Popa?
A:Domestic flights arrive at Nyaung U airport, 50km north west of Mount Popa. You can then hire a car for the 1.5 hour journey to Popa.
Q:Is Mount Popa extinct?
A:Mount Popa is an extinct volcano that is believed to have erupted the last time, over 320,000 years ago.

Climbing Mount Popa Myanmar - Mountain Stats

Country
myanmar
Height
1,518m (4,980ft)
Climbing Height
850m (2,788ft)
Numbers
  • 300,000 years since it last erupted
Other names
  • Taungkalat Temple

Climbing Mount Popa Myanmar - Natural Form and History

Natural Mount Popa Myanmar - Natural history

Mount Popa was once a volcano, which grew with strombolian eruptions from a fault between the Indo-Australian and Eurasian plates. A caldera collapsed to the Northwest shortly before it became extinct. A lava plug sits protruding to the South of the caldera, with the looser rock having eroded over the millenia leaving a cliff-lined monolith. The forests have since claimed the mountain, and the buddhists have since claimed the monolith, making it an intriguing feature in the plains of central Myanmar.

Natural Mount Popa Myanmar - Climbing history

The Burmese consider Mount Popa the abode of Nats, which are spirits that are widely worshipped in Burmese spirituality alongside regular theravada buddhism. Parallels are drawn, therefore, with Mount Olympus in Greece. As such, modern climbing history of Mount Popa is inextricably linked with spiritual pilgrimage.

Natural Mount Popa Myanmar - Current status

With Myanmar’s recent opening up of the country to foreign influences, tourism has boomed, and Mount Popa has become a popular diversion on the way between Bagan and the central corridor (between Mandalay and Yangon). The name ‘Mount Popa’ is now generally associated with the volcanic plug and the Taungkalat temple, rather than the actual mountain, which is sometimes called Taung Ma-Gyi (mother hill). As such, most of the tourist traffic is directed towards the Taungkalat rather than to the Popa summit.

Climbing Mount Popa Myanmar - Climbing Experience & Itinerary

Climbing Mount Popa Myanmar - Climbing Experience

You can drive up 700m of the 1,518m mountain, with the traffic splitting there between the Taungkalat temple (most popular) and the summit itself.

There is really just one distinct type of terrain – relatively steep, rocky, either dusty or muddy depending on the season, with the steepness increasing towards the end.

Climbing Mount Popa Myanmar - Trail options

Number of options
2
Summary

You can choose between the Taungkalat temple, perched upon the lava plug to the south of the Mount Popa (Taung Ma-Gyi) summit, or climb the summit itself.

Time to complete
1 day

Climbing the real summit of Mount Popa is a day-hike through forest and scrubland that has reclaimed the extinct volcano. With dramatic topography created from a strombolian volcano that burst its caldera to the North, views of the surrounding plains, the Taungkalat temple mount, and of the Irrawaddy river (supposedly visible on a clear day) is the reward for taking the trail less trekked.

Itinerary
Number of days
1
Day 1
8:00:

Get to the trailhead at the Popa Mountain Resort – there is a clear english-language sign to it on the road in to the Taungkalat temple, about 1.5km before the temple itself.

8:15:

Hydrate, apply insect repellent, sunscreen, and get going.

9:30:

Take a break to enjoy the view of the Taungkalat temple.

10:30:

Take another break to hydrate before tackling the steepest final section.

11:00:

Reach the summit, take in the views, and rehydrate/refuel before the descent.

13:00:

Reach the trailhead, take a rest, and consider walking to the Taungkalat temple for sundown.

Time to complete
1 hour

Most travellers consider the summiting of Mount Popa to be visiting a temple perched upon an igneous outcrop, which is part of Mount Popa. However, this is not the summit by any means, and isn’t really a mountain either. Nevertheless, the Taungkalat temple is worth a visit. The 777 steps will need to be done barefooted – as is the custom in all sacred Buddhist places.

Climbing Mount Popa Myanmar - Support facilities

Guides and porters

Guides are recommended
Porters are not required

Trail facilities

Trail head - Toilets / Bathrooms

Food & water

Trail head - Food
Trail head - Potable water

Network connectivity

Trail head - Network signal
Trail - Network signal
Summit - Network signal

Climbing Mount Popa Myanmar - Safety & Accessibility

Weather

Visiting Myanmar is best in the short winter from November to January.

Climbing is best in the early mornings or late afternoons, particularly during the hot season (February to April). The monsoon season lasts from April to October, with severe rains and humidity.

Climbing safety

Popa is a relatively safe climb. Just be sure to stay on the track. You will be a long way from a good hospital if you were to injure yourself.

Personal safety

Myanmar people are very hospitable, and it is almost unheard of that you will be robbed or harassed. Troubles are more to do with unsafe vehicles, equipment, or infrastructure, as Myanmar has a lax mentality towards safety standards.

Permits, Fees, and Regulations

Permits are not required for this hike.

Emergency contacts

Police: 999

Ambulance: 997

Fire: 998

Getting there and away

The Nyaung-U domestic airport is regularly serviced by Myanmar’s domestic carriers, which are of varying repute. Mount Popa is an hour and a half from the airport by car, which would normally need to be privately hired. There are buses that would take you as far as Kyauk Padaung, 20km away.

If you’re flying in internationally, the Mandalay and Naypyitaw airports are about equidistant from Mount Popa – a few hours by private car, best to be arranged beforehand.

Money Matters

You can hire a car or private pick-up from the airport, costing around MMK 30,000 for the hour and a half journey.

Climbing Mount Popa Myanmar - Special Tips

Tips for amateur climbers

The whole mountain is relatively accessible for amateur climbers. Given that climbing in the early mornings and late afternoons is usually far more comfortable, it would be ideal to arrive for sunrise at the Taungkalat temple, and then take the whole day to include sunset at the summit, or vice versa!

Tips for advanced climbers

Mount Popa shouldn’t provide much by way of technical climbing challenges, but you can always make it a trail run.

Tips for women

Women don’t face any special safety risks in Myanmar. Yet, consider taking your dress cues from the locals, who dress modestly and conservatively, even when swimming and bathing, and particularly at religious sites, such as Mount Popa.

Tips for responsible / safety-conscious climbers

With the temple part of the mountain being a place of important religious pilgrimage, be sure to be on your best behaviour, and respectful of the local customs and beliefs.

Tips for trail runners

There are event organisers such as run-myanmar.com so you’ll want to check if they have any races coming up, in time for your visit.

Tips for nature lovers

There is an impressive array of flora and fauna, and the diversity of butterflies is particularly noteworthy.

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