Myanmar is filled with unspoiled landscapes and a vast array of flora and fauna.

There are over 130,000 square miles of forested area in Myanmar, accounting for 45% of its total landmass. Within this pristine, protected land lie 40 national parks home to over 7,000 plants, several hundred mammals and reptiles, and 1,000 bird species.

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Trekking from Inle Lake to Kalaw

Heading west from Inle Lake, it's possible to trek overnight to the former British hill station of Kalaw, or vice versa. On the route in-between, you'll pass through the villages of the Palaung, Pa-O, Taungthu and Danu tribes.

At the markets around the lake, you’ll start to recognise villagers by their clothes. The Pa-O are particularly striking, dressed in black that’s offset with a bright red turban. They live in traditional bamboo-built homes and work in the fields, sometimes joined by their children, who ride the buffalo.

There are a number of routes, with varying degrees of difficulty (your guide will be able to tailor your walk to your fitness level). One of the more challenging is between two villages - Baw Nin Khone, close to Kalaw, and Than Dang - along a shady tree-lined path where you can find respite from the sun.

Until recently, this trek has been one of few, if not the only, overnight trekking options in Burma. As such, it’s one of the more popular trails, although you are still unlikely to see other travellers on the route.

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Two-day trek from Pindaya

The trails from Pindaya provide gentle walks into quieter, often more shaded areas of the Shan Hills. This is an important distinction, as many of the other trekking areas are exposed and the midday sun can be punishing.

A two day trek with a local guide takes you high into the steeper hills around Ya Za Gyi village. The steepest trail requires you to be fairly fit and a little more adventurous, but there are some gentler inclines – it's worth discussing the options with your guide. The views down onto the surrounding settlements and Pindaya itself are the reward for your efforts. Bright turquoise and yellow crops blanket the landscape, contrasting with the reddish brown of the earth.

With a local guide, there may also be the opportunity to visit a school, and you’ll stay overnight in a monastery. Typically, the trek starts at around 10am and, depending on how quickly you go and how many people you stop to talk to on the way, you’ll finish at around 2pm the following day.

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Monastery trek from Hpa-An

In the southeast of the country, between Yangon and Mawlamyine, Hpa-An is a growing centre for walking and trekking.

Rarely visited by outsiders to Burma, the capital of Kayin State is surrounded by limestone mountains, which hide caves holding devotional art in the guise of thousands of tiny clay Buddhas and carvings dating from the 7th century.

The crown of Mount Zwekabin rises out of the undergrowth of the lower slopes, capped by the golden stupas of a monastery. Overlooking the town, this landmark is a pilgrimage site for local people.

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Trekking around Hsipaw

A long-standing choice for walkers, the northern Shan town of Hsipaw lies on the Old Burma Road. This is a charming base from which to explore the surrounding hills on foot or you can venture out on boat trips stopping at local villages and riverside monasteries. Hsipaw was once the capital of an autonomous Shan state and still has a modest Shan palace.

Hsipaw sits in a valley, through which a river runs. The Hsipaw hills are stunning, with shades of yellow brightening the landscape. Corn and sesame are the main crops here and, until the end of November at least, the yellow “wild sunflower” adds to the colour palette.

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Trekking to the Padaung villages near Loikaw

The green hills of Shan State and the arid lands of Kayah meet at Loikaw, where mountain views frame communities of Burmese minority tribes.

Though this is generally a lesser-visited area, due to the distances involved and the fact that accommodation options are more basic, it’s where you can visit the Padaung villages. The women demonstrate their family’s wealth by wearing multiple gold or copper rings around their necks, which gradually lengthen them. The Padaung also take great pride in their music and songs, and traditional guitar music often drifts through the villages.

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