A pilgrimage to Myanmar's Pindaya Caves

Myanmar's stunning Pindaya Caves contain over 8,000 images of Buddha, and is infused with rich local legend and history. The icons were deposited by devotees over several centuries, and together represent a huge range of artistic styles and religious iconography from across Myanmar and beyond. It’s easy to see why the caves are such a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site - even non-believers come away awestruck and inspired. 

What to expect at the Pindaya Caves...

The limestone caves at Pindaya are a famous Buddhist pilgrimage site, and the vast collection of sculptures they contain attracts visitors from all over the world. There are actually three caves, running north to south along the limestone ridge, but only the southernmost is accessible; this is the one that you will explore. The other two caves remain something of a mystery, with no one knowing for sure just how far they extend back into the hillside.

The southern cave is impressive enough though - as you walk nearly 500 feet into the rock, you’ll see over 8,000 Buddhist images and sculptures, some of which are believed to date back as early as the mid 18th century. Many of the pieces are inscribed; the earliest known inscription being from 1773. 

If you listen to local legend, the name Pindaya comes from the word Pinguya, meaning ‘taken the spider’ in Burmese. These words are said to have been uttered by Prince Kummabhaya of Yawnghwe after he killed a giant spider in order to free a princess who had been captured by the spider and trapped in the caves. There are also stories of a sealed entrance within the cave that leads to the ancient city of Bagan, adding yet more intrigue to the already atmospheric caves.

Once you’ve had your fill of Buddhist iconography, head back to the Pindaya Inle Inn, your home for the night. The Inn is simple but charming, its organic vegetable gardens providing a beautiful backdrop, as well as contributing a delicious part of your evening meal in season. Accommodation is a mixture of brick built chalets and wicker bungalows, all decorated with traditional textiles and beautiful local woods, creating a wonderfully tranquil and cosy retreat for the night.

After breakfast, you can stop off at Pindaya market before you head off on the next leg of your adventure. Small town markets such as this are a fantastic way to get a close up glimpse into local life and customs, and Pindaya's artisans are especially well known for their lovely handmade paper parasols. 

Location: Shan State, Myanmar

Duration: 1 night

Accommodation: Pindaya Inle Inn

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We say...

'A superb example of Myanmar culture deep in the countryside, a world away from the tourist hoards that descend on nearby Inle Lake.'

Important to note...

The overnight stay in Pindaya is recommended and highly enjoyable but if you are on a very tight schedule is it possible to do the trip in a day.