Visiting Golden Rock in Myanmar is an amazing cultural experience and a real solo travel adventure. Squeezing into a turbo-powered pickup truck full of pilgrims for a roller coaster ride to the top of a mountain to visit Golden Rock was one of my favourite experiences in Myanmar. The Golden Rock Pagoda is around 200 kilometres from Yangon at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo. There are stunning views from the mountaintop, especially at sunset and the festive atmosphere amongst the pilgrims is unforgettable.
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- How to Get to Golden Rock in Myanmar
- Joining the Pilgrims
- At Golden Rock in Myanmar
- Best Time to Visit Golden Rock in Myanmar
- Travel Tips for Golden Rock in Myanmar
- Travel Essentials
- Myanmar Travel Tips & Itineraries
How to Get to Golden Rock in Myanmar
My solo travel adventure to Golden Rock in Myanmar began with an early morning train journey from Yangon to Kyaiktho. The ticket cost only a few dollars for a seat in a very old first-class carriage. At Yangon station, a local woman kindly helped me find my seat and politely refused the money I offered her as a tip. I saw her later selling water. She was one of many hawkers walking the carriages of the train selling food and drinks to the travellers.
I thoroughly enjoyed the train journey. My seat was comfortable and spacious although the carriage was very old. Arriving at Kyaiktho station after a pleasant five-hour journey, I opened the carriage door to find there was no platform. Or rather the platform was much shorter than the train. I baulked at getting off the train onto the stony track and tried to find another door. Wearing my backpack, I ended up jumping off the train moments before it moved off to the next station.
After walking across the train tracks I was greeted by several taxi drivers but I kept walking as I was looking for a local pickup truck. I found a truck heading to the village of Kinpun, threw my backpack on the roof and climbed in with the other passengers.
Joining the Pilgrims
The next step of my solo travel adventure began when I arrived in Kinpun. I joined hundreds of pilgrims travelling up the mountain in the back of a turbo-powered pickup truck. The pickup trucks operate like buses in Myanmar and they have a conductor who collects the fare and helps the passengers with luggage.
I was squashed into the pickup with fifty or sixty other people and it was stinking hot in the middle of the day. I was the only white person in the truck. One of the local men very kindly gave me a safe seat in the middle of the truck. Hawkers came past selling food and drinks while we waited for the truck to fill up.
Eventually, the truck left the station. After only a few minutes of driving, it stopped again and a man climbed onto the side and gave a speech that I couldn’t understand. Many of the pilgrims seemed very impressed with the speech and gave him money. I found out later he was collecting to build a temple and a statue of the Buddha.
The road up the mountain was windy and very steep. The truck travelled very fast flying around hairpin bends and accelerating as it went downhill. It was a rollercoaster ride. I was holding on for grim life and sitting next to me was a four-year-old child squeezed into the small space between his father’s legs, asleep and completely unworried.
At Golden Rock in Myanmar
We arrived safely at the top of Mount Kyaiktiyo (pron: Chike-tee-yo) after about half an hour of bumping and swerving on the steep mountain road. The midday sun was beating down and the heat was scorching. I followed the pilgrims up the road and found my hotel right near the entrance to the pagoda. It was so hot outdoors it was a relief to have an air-conditioned room to cool down after the trip.
My first glimpse of Golden Rock in Myanmar was pretty special and the view from the mountaintop was breathtaking. The Rock balances precariously at the top of the mountain and, according to the legend, a strand of the Buddha’s hair prevents it from rolling off the cliff and down the mountain. The rock is covered in gold leaf, and if you are male, you can buy some gold leaf to paste onto the rock. It’s believed that this will purify your soul and you’ll gain merit for the next life.
Best Time to Visit Golden Rock in Myanmar
Sunset at Golden Rock
The best times to visit Golden Rock Pagoda are sunset, sunrise, and at night. There are several lovely vantage points to view the Golden Rock but the sunset view was quite magical. The orange late afternoon sunlight reflecting off the golden rock made it glow against the darkening sky.
Inside the pagoda, there’s a festive atmosphere among the pilgrims and their families. They were enjoying praying and socializing in this special place. As the daylight faded, the temple lit up with candles and electric lights. It was lovely to watch the pilgrims leaving offerings and lighting candles. There were open shelters just behind the rock where people slept. And on the other side of the temple, there was a street with a variety of food stalls and trinkets for sale.
I met a man who was visiting the pagoda with his uncle and they had travelled for several days from the other side of the country to make the pilgrimage. They had been planning the journey for a couple of years.
Sunrise at Golden Rock
The next morning I rose before dawn to watch the sunrise from the pagoda. In the cool of the morning, I left the hotel and came across a long queue of monks outside the entrance to the temple. They wore rust-coloured robes and were barefoot, carrying alms bowls and collecting gifts of food and money from the pilgrims. The monks in Myanmar rely on the generosity of their community for everything, including their meals and it’s common to see monks walking the streets with their alms bowls. Nuns collect alms as well and it’s a tradition that has been practised in Myanmar for thousands of years.
Travel Tips for Golden Rock in Myanmar
I highly recommend a visit to Golden Rock. It’s a cultural experience that you’ll never forget. This pilgrimage is unique and unlike anything else, I experienced in Myanmar or South-East Asia.
TIPS: Carry small money so you can make a donation if you’re approached by a monk or nun. It’s considered very bad manners to refuse.
Remember to remove your shoes before you enter a temple in Myanmar and make sure you are dressed appropriately.
When to Visit Golden Rock in Myanmar
The best times to visit Golden Rock are sunset and sunrise. The temple is alive and very atmospheric at night when the pilgrims light candles and pray.
It’s extremely hot in the sun during the day so I would recommend starting as early as possible. I was travelling in January which is the Myanmar winter. Late afternoon would also be a good time to visit the Pagoda.
** The pickup trucks stop running at sunset and start again at sunrise so make sure you don’t get stranded.
Where to Stay at Golden Rock in Myanmar
Kyaik Hto Hotel Kyaiktiyo is located right near the entrance to the Golden Rock Pagoda & the views from the hotel are stunning! Tourists must book a hotel to stay at the top of the mountain overnight and after sunset. It’s the best time to see the pagoda and to experience the atmosphere amongst the pilgrims.
If you’re on a budget there are cheaper hotel options at the base of the mountain such as the Golden Sunrise Hotel which gets excellent reviews. But you’ll have to take the pickup truck to the mountaintop to see Golden Rock. Just remember the pickups stop running at sunset.
What to take to Golden Rock in Myanmar
Take conservative clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. If you’re not dressed appropriately you may not be allowed to enter the temple.
Many travellers recommend taking only a small day pack as you will be squeezed into the pickup truck but there was room for my large backpack in the luggage storage area at the back of the truck.
How to Get to Golden Rock in Myanmar
Train & Pickup Truck
It’s a 5-hour train trip from Yangon to Kyaiktho Station. From there you can take a local pickup to Kinpun village at the base of Mount Kyaiktiyo. Then you’ll transfer to a larger pickup truck that will take you to the Golden Rock Pagoda at the top of the mountain.
Pickups leave when they’re full so climb in the back of the truck and wait. Your luggage will probably travel on the roof or with other luggage.
Myanmar trains are notorious for delays so allow plenty of time for travel by train. I enjoyed train travel in Myanmar and can recommend the trip. I arrived early afternoon and spent the afternoon at the Pagoda.
Buses run from Yangon to Kinpun and take 4 – 5 hours depending on the traffic.
On this Overnight Private Tour to Golden Rock, you’ll spend the night at Golden Rock so you can experience the sunset and sunrise at the top of the mountain. You’ll also visit a monastery and see the highlights of Bago, travelling from Yangon in an air-conditioned car.
It’s also possible to hire a taxi in Yangon to take you to Golden Rock. Some people do this as a day trip but I would suggest staying a night or two and stopping in Bago and Hpa-An as well. This is a more expensive option for solo travellers but can work well if there are several people travelling together.
#1. A Travel Guide for Myanmar will help you to plan your trip. I rarely travel without my trusted Lonely Planet Guide.
#2. Travel Insurance is essential on any overseas trip. When I’m travelling overseas I use World Nomads travel insurance so I can concentrate on enjoying my trip without worrying about something going wrong.