Kyaiktiyo Paya is one of Myanmar‘s holiest Buddhist sites, drawing a huge number of Buddhist pilgrims and non-believers to the area every year. Often referred to as ‘Golden Rock’, the site is a golden pagoda perched on top of a golden boulder, which is balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff. Kyaiktiyo, meaning ‘pagoda on a hermit’s head’, rests on the boulder. It’s said to be kept in place with one of Buddha’s hairs, brought here in the 11th century by a hermit. The actual golden rock itself measures 15 cm in circumference and is coated in gold leaf. If you’re a man, and you pay for the gold leaf, you can add to the rock’s lustre yourself (women must watch from a distance, as they’re not allowed too close to the rock)!
The climb up to Golden Rock is a huge part of the experience and starts at the town of Kinpun. It’s an 11 km hike which takes around four hours, but the trail is largely in the shade, making it possible even on sunny days. If you fancy a more leisurely journey, you can hop in the back of one of the communal trucks leaving Kinpun regularly. Try to choose a truck with seat backs, as the ride up the steep hill will be more comfortable. The journey takes around 45 minutes to the terminal at Yathetaung. From there it’s still a one-hour hike to the top.
If you’re planning a trip to Golden Rock, dress modestly – no shorts or skirts. And sadly, as mentioned, women must stay a short distance away from the rock. For the best views, come at sunset when you can get some spectacular photos, or head to the other pagoda at the end of the mountain for some spectacular views. The views are best between November and March (which is also when it’s busiest) as during the rainy season from June to October, the summit is often shrouded with mist and clouds.
One of the best things to do while you’re here is escape the tourists and take a 15-minute walk past Golden Rock to Kyi Kann Pa Sat. Here you can mingle with locals while throwing coins onto a ledge for good luck. Then stop off for some food in Kinpun. Get off the main street to find the places the locals eat in, for an authentic experience.
Plan your trip to Golden Rock today.