A sleepy hilltop town situated in the upper regions of Shan State that is one of our favourite places to visit. Hsipaw is a must visit when in Myanmar. From hiking in the nearby hills, to cruising down the river, and exploring the streets of the town, there’s plenty to do.
The town is a lovely place to explore before kicking back and relaxing in. Walk down the dusty high streets, popping into some of the local shops, and definitely make sure you visit Hsipaw’s most famous building, the Shan Palace, the home of a former prince of Shan State.
The mild climate makes the area great for walking around, and this is especially the case with the stunning Little Bagan. An old Chinese cemetery and pagoda complex that overlooks Hsipaw and the river valley below. It’s possible to reach by bicycle or a taxi ride if you prefer.
Finally as the day comes to an end, make sure to enjoy a cold drink on the banks of the river. Black House serves a great selection on the river and is well worth a visit, while there are plenty more dotted around that drag you in with there warm welcome.
Around Hsipaw you’ll find rolling hills, plunging waterfalls, rice paddy fields and lots more besides which are all reachable by bicycle or on foot. When we were last there we elected for the bicycle option, leaving our hotel early in the morning with lunches already packed.
Ask your hotel or guesthouse for directions, but we made our way out to the waterfall, an hour cycle ride, where we could enjoy swimming in the perfectly cool water. The scenery around is absolutely incredible as well.
We then continued on to the nearby natural hot spring, in and amongst trees and hedges that provide a secluded spot. Here we were joined by locals looking to enjoy themselves in the afternoon.
We finally made our way back through farmland and paddy fields to Hsipaw. Almost every person you pass will have a smile on their face, and greet you like you’re part of the family.
Make sure to walk back to Hsipaw over the nearby small hills, which provide a great view of the town, especially during sunset.
Trekking and Hiking in Hsipaw
Trekking is one of the top things to do in the Hsipaw area, and the reason that most travellers will end up coming here. You can take part in a 1 day, 2 day or even a 5 day trek, depending on the amount of time you have available.
For these experiences, we would definitely recommend hiring a guide. The area contains no signs, and you are unlikely to find many people who speak English. The guide can organise overnight stays, meals throughout your trek, and generally makes the whole experience more fun.
We would recommend going on a 3 day trek, that allows you to spend 2 nights in local families homestays, while getting a fair distance away from Hsipaw. For this, walking boots are certainly required, as you’ll be walking through jungle, over mountains, and through muddy paths.
It’s best to discuss with your guide what your expectations are the night before you leave, or even when booking the trek in the first place.
Becoming ever more popular with travellers, it’s now possible to hop on a boat and gently drift down the river as you take in your surroundings. This incredibly peaceful journey can last a half or full day, depending on what you prefer, and can also be tagged on to the end of a trek.
You’ll pass by monasteries, pineapple plantations, fields and farms, and there’s also opportunities to get out and stretch your legs by walking to nearby villages. Definitely worth considering.
The Final Word
There’s plenty to offer and do in Hsipaw so make sure you factor in enough time. It can be a bit harder to get to then some of the other main destinations in Myanmar due to it not having an airport, but the train ride from Mandalay (or Pyin Oo Lwin) is incredible, and there is an airport in Lashio, a 2 hour drive away.