Located in south-eastern Myanmar in Mon state, Mt Kyaiktiyo (commonly known as the Golden Rock) is one of the most iconic sights in the whole country. This incredible structure basks in the heat of the Myanmar sun, allowing it to shine brilliantly.
With a clear blue sky as a backdrop (in the right season), it makes for a stunning view! Another highlight at the summit is the 360-degree-panorama of surrounding Mon state mountains that stretch as far as the eye can see.
During the pilgrimage season (November – March) is the best time to see the Golden Rock in its glory when the weather is fine and skies clear. It can, however, be very busy during these months as many locals make the journey to one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Myanmar.
Between June and October, when the monsoon reigns supreme over the land, the rock is often covered in mist and is, therefore, difficult to see; it is much less impressive at this time.
The precariously balanced rock is, it is believed, due to a precisely placed Buddha hair within the small stupa that sits on top of the rock itself. Legend has it that the hair was given to King Tissa by a hermit, who instructed the king to find a rock resembling the hermit’s own head and enshrine the hair.
It’s possible to go right up to the rock’s base and touch it but this privilege is reserved for men only. As with many religious sights, it’s imperative to dress modestly, ensuring your knees and shoulders are covered and that your attire isn’t too tight or revealing.
Before you reach the main attraction, you’ll find the ticket booth (10,000ks/Foreigner) and a set of stairs that lead to the central area. Here, you have to remove your shoes. Most locals leave their shoes at the bottom but we decided it was safer to carry ours with us!
The complex is quite large with an open area, some smaller shrines and prayer halls and another set of stairs that you can use to reach a bustling village of restaurants and shops. You can also visit a couple of viewpoints and smaller pagodas in the immediate vicinity, as well as a waterfall.
Note: Foreign visitors who live in Myanmar and who are able to show proof of FRC are able to visit Kyaiktiyo free of charge. Show your paperwork/visa at the ticket office and you’ll be handed a ticket and waved on your way.
Reaching the Golden Rock
Kinpun is the village considered the base camp for Kyaiktiyo; it is best to stay a night here to make your visit easier. There are three ways to ascend the mountain.
By Truck on the Road
Cost: 2,500ks/way (Foreigner)/ 1,000ks/way (Local) Distance: 14km (35-40 Minutes)
This is the most popular route for the majority of locals and tourists; the truck stop is in the middle of Kinpun. Huge open-top trucks, which require a ladder to board, act as shuttles throughout the day, departing Kinpun from 5am. The last truck down from Kyaiktiyo is at 6pm.
Wooden planks arranged in lines form the seating; they try to squeeze as many people in as possible, six per line and at least 40 per truck! Vehicles leave when full and payment is collected half way up or down. It’s a white-knuckle ride that takes on winding roads and steep curves at speed, certainly not for the faint hearted!
Distance: 12km (4-5 Hours)
Those that prefer to walk up to Kyaiktiyo can do so by taking the easy-to-follow trekking path that begins in Kinpun. Look for Pann Myo Thu Guesthouse and keep following the road straight ahead; this will lead you straight to the trekking route.
The first 6km is pretty tough going, up lots of broken steps and pathways. At the halfway point, you’ll reach the ridge and from there the path has some much easier, flatter sections. As you proceed, you’ll pass through small villages and there are also shacks and stalls offering drinks and snacks to weary trekkers. Be advised though that there will probably be a hefty mark-up price!
The path is easy to find and follow; friendly locals will point you in the right direction or you can use the Maps.me app, which has the walking route available. A guide is most definitely not necessary. Anyone offering their services is just trying to make money. Don’t believe them if they say a guide is required.
We recommend starting your trek as early as possible; we began at 5am in the pre-dawn darkness and reached Kyaiktiyo at just after 9am. By 9am it was already hot, so starting mid-morning and trekking in the heat of the day should certainly be avoided. Due to time constraints, we took the truck back down as we had a bus booked back to Yangon that afternoon.
By Cable Car
Ticket Cost (Local): 5,000ks (One-Way)/ 7,000ks (Return) Ticket Cost (Foreigner): 14,000ks (Return)
The cable car at Kyaiktiyo is relatively new, having opened in December 2017; each car has glass on all four sides, giving riders a panoramic view over the surroundings. There is a total of 44 cabins, each of which can carry a maximum of 8 adults, while the whole system can support 2,400 passengers/hour in either direction.
The journey takes about 7.5 minutes from Yathaetaung, the stopping point 1.5km from the summit, to Kyaiktiyo station. You’ll need to make it to Yathaetaung either by truck or on foot. The cable car operation hours are 5am – 6pm to match the timetable of trucks.
Where to Stay
It’s possible to stay in the main town of Kyaikto, which is 15km below Kinpun on the Yangon – Mawlamyine highway. There are multiple hotels and simple restaurants in town and trucks are available for the short journey to Kinpun (7am – 4pm, 500ks/person, 20 minutes).
It is advised, however, to stay in Kinpun as this is much closer to the rock itself. Compared to five years ago, the area is now very commercialised and the locals are definitely cashing in on the main attraction. As you enter Kinpun, there are souvenir stalls, teahouses and hotels scattered everywhere; there’s even a KFC!
Accommodation prices and quality can vary greatly, ranging from $20/night to $150/night! Booking ahead is possible but with so many options, if you arrive in good time, it’s a good idea to shop around!
We stayed at Pann Myo Thu Inn, allegedly the first accommodation in Kinpun. It was, to be honest, very run down but it’s the cheapest place to stay in the village! Various rooms are available with bungalows ($35/night) being the most expensive option.
We opted for a simple double room with an attached bathroom ($18). It was very, very small, the bed taking up 95% of the space! Pann Myo Thu did, however, make up for its shortcomings with friendly staff and a decent location very close to the trailhead for the trekking route!
It’s also possible to stay on the mountain itself, which is a great option if you’re looking to get some sunrise/sunset photos. However, hotels at Kyaiktiyo are VERY expensive (more than $100/room/night) and foreigners are not permitted to stay in pilgrims’ lodgings. Most foreign visitors, therefore, time their visit for early morning or late afternoon when the light is good and transport options are running.
Eating in Kinpun
For us, eating in Kinpun was not a pleasant experience. People stand outside each restaurant, thrusting menus at passers-by in an attempt to entice them in. We soon realised that the menus were all exactly the same.
We settled on one place for dinner, where we received very small portions of bland food. We then had to pay a lot more for it than it was worth. Alas, we went to bed hungry that evening and breakfast at 4:30am of fried rice wasn’t exactly enough to set us up for a 12km hike either!
Restaurants in some of the bigger hotels may provide better service, quantity and quality but keep your expectations low, just in case! The same can be said for the small shops as well. My advice would be to stock up on supplies in Mawlamyine or Yangon as stores in Kinpun are very limited and sell everything at a mark-up price.
It’s a shame; when we last visited Kyaiktiyo five years ago things were very different. Back then Kinpun was a small village with a good selection of independent teahouses and locals were happy, even surprised, to see foreigners. The Golden Rock wasn’t the cash cow that it has unfortunately turned into today.
Getting There and Away
The main transport hub for Mt Kyaiktiyo and Kinpun is Kyaikto, a town with a similar sounding name! This is where you’ll find the nearest train station. As Kyaikto lies on the southern highway, it’s also the main boarding and jumping off point for buses that depart to/arrive from various destinations in Myanmar.
When you arrive in Kyaikto, head to the train station. From there you can catch a shuttle truck to Kinpun (7am – 4pm, 500ks/person, 20 minutes).
Bus tickets can be purchased in Kinpun at the bus station near the Sea Sar Hotel; Win Express is the most popular carrier. Services are frequent and in some cases the ticket will include transfer down to Kyaikto to catch the bus but most services now leave directly from Kinpun.
Popular destinations with frequent services include:
Bago: 5,000ks, 3 hours, 8:45am – 4pm Hpa-An: 7,000ks, 3 hours, 9am – 3pm Mawlamyine: 7,000ks, 4 hours, 10am – 4pm Yangon: 7,000ks, 5 hours, 8:45am – 4pm
If you wish to get the train, it’s best to check timings and ticket prices at the station of your departure. Services run from Yangon to destinations in the south, passing through Bago and Kyaikto on route. In the other direction, you could pick up a train in Dawei or Mawlamyine but be aware that journey times are much longer than if you were to take a bus!
The Golden Rock is most definitely iconic and a must-see sight on any Myanmar itinerary. Hopefully, this guide will help to make your visit smooth and easy!
Have you been to the Golden Rock? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments! If you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us!
Travelling around Myanmar? Check out some of our other posts!