Trekking in Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park, Sagaing Division
(text compiled by Paul Bates, Harrison Institute)
Trekking in Alaungdaw Kathapa, Sagaing Division
Alaungdaw Kathapa has long been a centre of pilgrimage for those coming to pay respect at the shrine of Ashin Maha Kathapa (further information).
Increasingly, the forests of Alaundaw Kathapa are also coming to the notice of international trekkers. The park, at 1605 km2, is the largest protected area in Myanmar and is famous for its wildlife, which once included a thriving population of Tigers, and still includes some wild elephant, various deer species and a range of other elusive large mammals such as Clouded Leopard, Himalayan Brown Bear and Sun Bear. The park is excellent for bird watching (further information).
The vast majority of visitors to Alaungdaw Kathapa travel via Monywa, which is an interesting town approximately three hours or 136 km north-west of Mandalay. Some tours stop at Monywa for one night. This allows visitors to see the extraordinary Thanboddhay Pagoda, home to nearly 600,000 Buddha images and also the spectacular Laykyun Setkyar, which with a height of 116 metres is the world’s second tallest standing Buddha image. In addition, they can make an excursion to Hpo Win Daung, home of some 900 ancient caves. Carved out of exposures of sandstone rock, the caves host beautiful Buddhist images, murals and other artefacts.
The journey from Monywa to Alaungdaw Kathapa is about 90 km and takes at least 5 hours in the dry season. In the rainy season, it is frequently impossible. The route first crosses the Chindwin River by ferry and from here it is a hard drive on a mixture of dirt and tarmac roads. Mandalay to Alaungdaw Kathapa can be reached in one day providing only a short stop is made at Monywa.
Once within the Alaungdaw Kathapa there is a range of rather rudimentary accommodation available, which becomes very crowded at peak times of pilgrimage (further information).
Alaungdaw Kathapa has for many years been home to elephants working in forestry. With the current official restrictions on hardwood logging in Myanmar, elephants are increasingly being employed in the tourism industry and in Alaungdaw Kathapa elephant rides are available to visitors. Alternatively, whilst trekkers walk through the forest, the elephants are used to carry their luggage.
Trekking tours in Alaungdaw Kathapa
It is highly advisable to book a trekking tour in Alaungdaw Kathapa prior to visiting the park.
(Map opposite is care of Ideal Travel Land)