Even though it's Kayin State's capital, Hpa-An doesn't feel like a big city; it's more like a down at heel small town. But it's right in the middle of one of Myanmar's most amazing landscapes, full of sharp limestone hills, green lakes, and lush paddies. That makes it a great centre for trekking or cycling tours.
Let's not sell Hpa An short. Its morning markets, gilded pagoda, friendly monks, and great restaurants make it an enjoyable town to hang out in.
Still, you'll want to get out of the city to get the best out of Kayin State.
Top 5 Attractions Near Hpa-An
1. Mount Zwegabin
Mount Zwegabin is the tallest in a ring of hills that protect Hpa An. It's one of the great Burmese sacred mountains, with a two-to-four hour hike up the steps before you reach the summit. The time it takes depends on your fitness level and your ability to get distracted by the fine views en route.
At the top, stupas add a little extra to the hill's 722-metre height, while troops of monkeys besiege the little monastery where monks feed them every morning. Gentle steps lead down to the Lumbini garden, where hundreds of Buddhas watch over travellers; a more adventurous alternative are the steeper, mossy steps heading east.
2. Rural Landscapes of Hpa An
Rural Hpa-An's wetlands and paddies are best enjoyed by bike. You'll traverse tarmac or leather-hard red dirt tracks, gliding past gilt-roofed shrines and dramatic karst hills. It takes some energy but is its own reward. Tours may take you into Karen villages, or to small pagodas set in the intense green of the paddies.
3. Bayin Nyi Cave
Bayin Nyi Cave is tucked under a massive cliff and holds hundreds of Buddha statues. A tranquil pool reflects the brightly painted steps and stupas. Locals come to clean up and laze in the hot springs. But watch out for cheeky monkeys, who seem always to know if you have even the tiniest crumb of food in your backpack.