Around 80 miles south of Mandalay, and a 3-day hike from Inle Lake, Kalaw is a beautiful little mountain village that’s home to members of the Shan community and many others. Once the base for a British hill station, vestiges of its bustling past remain in a handful of grand, faded buildings dotted between gilded stupas and low-rise houses. Its lively market is all about local life - no mass-produced trinkets here, just herbs, spices and plenty of tempting food to try.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Kalaw’s higher-altitude climate is cool and refreshing, creating perfect conditions for trekking. There are many different trails leading up into the mountains, all of which offer stunning views across Inle Valley as a reward when you reach the highest ground. A particularly well-loved route is the 3-day trek to Inle Lake, which is consistently voted one of the most beautiful treks in the world. Follow one of several routes, each of differing challenge, that take you through remote villages, fields and forest, and past traditional longhouses, tea plantations and monasteries.
Taking a wander through a local market is always a fantastic way to fall into step with the daily rhythms of a place; to see the comings and goings of an ordinary day. Kalaw’s market is a hub for local life where you can buy everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to dried herbs, spices and pulses, to clothes and locally-crafted artisan pieces. Grab a delicious bowl of Shan noodles packed with chilli, garlic, tomatoes and pickles to keep you going, or opt for a handful of crunchy fried crickets if you’re feeling adventurous!
A short journey through the Shan Hills takes you to Magwe and the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp: a sanctuary for elephants that were once worked in the region’s logging industry. The team is on hand to give visitors an introductory overview of the project, the conservation, and their work within the local community, before taking you a short walk away to the elephant village. Visitors can meet the mighty residents and assist the mahouts in feeding them, before following the herd down to the river. Re-plantation is another major focus at Green Hill Valley, and visitors can get involved by planting a tree themselves: a fantastic souvenir to leave behind.