Mount Popa is an iconic Myanmar postcard sight: a sacred monastery, with stupas glistening gold, perched atop an extinct volcano. It was high on our Myanmar must see list and we made a plan to visit when we stopped off in Bagan for our sunrise and sunset chasing adventures! The 777 steps of Mount Popa are a pilgrimage site first and foremost but it is equally famous for its monkey population which cheekily adorn the passageways. On a hot and sunny Myanmar day we set off bright and early ready to check out the sacred mount and those monkey’s for ourselves!
Mount Popa is the headquarters of Myanmar’s most powerful Nats and four of these Buddhist spirits worshiped by the Burmese are considered to have their home here. Statues of 37 of the spirits stand at the base of the mountain and, in years gone by, Burmese Kings commencing reign had to consult with the spirits such is their importance in Myanmar heritage.
We had planned to travel to Mount Popa from Bagan but the instant we spotted a pic of the Popa Mountain Resort and its infinity pool we knew we had to make it a part of our Myanmar itinerary. Instead, we booked a night at the Popa Mount Resort in between our Inle Lake and Bagan adventures and took a private car from the resort, to Mount Popa and onto Bagan. It was the perfect detour
Climbing Mount Popa
777 steps lead the way to Mount Popa and, with Elaine’s monkey aversion (long story), we were determined to climb them as quickly as possible! After passing a plethora of market stalls we reached the start of the Popa climb and were met with the respectable clothing request signs so familiar from many religious monuments and sights in Myanmar – no vests, no shorts, no shoes. An additional requirement at Popa was to remove hats and bags. Initially we thought it was especially strict but we learned it was to protect us from unwanted attention from the resident monkey population!
Mount Popa sightseeing tip: bring some wipes for cleaning your feet after the climb. There are copious amounts of monkey poo and it’s impossible to avoid it completely!
We started our climb to the peak of Popa and, thankfully, were protected form the blistering heat by the tin roofs covering the steep stairwell. 777 steps didn’t sound like a lot but we felt every single one of them in the blistering Myanmar heat!
Monkey’s lined the stairwell as we ascended, particularly around the areas with stalls serving food. The monkeys mostly kept to themselves and the food opportunities were enough to keep them occupied!
The top of Popa is a gold filled affair where stupas, bells and gold statues are the order of the day.
The views from the top of Mount Popa are magnificent and we could see for miles and miles across the land. The views of Mount Popa from afar are also our spectacular and we loved seeing it glittering in the distance.
Mount Popa sightseeing tip: if you are making a day trip ask your driver to stop for pics with a scenic view of the Mount. In some towns the locals request a small donation for taking a pic and will try to sell you trinkets.