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Kyaikithyo Pagoda. Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

One of Myanmar’s most celebrated pagodas, the Kyaikithiyo Pagoda – known to devotees as the Golden Rock – sits on a rock balanced tenuously at the edge of a cliff. This granite, gold-leaf-covered boulder is said to be held in place by a strand of the Buddha’s hair; the rock has stayed in place for a reputed 2,600 years, and despite its precarious appearance, seems unlikely to be going anytime soon.

The name literally means “the pagoda carried on the hermit’s head”; the golden spire built on top of the rock stands on top of a ledge about 1,100 metres above sea level. A complex of viewing platforms, pagodas, and nat spirit shrines surround the rock; worshippers regularly walk up the pilgrimage path, contending with the four-hour climb to make merit at the Pagoda site.

Only men are allowed to cross the bridge that connects to the Rock: once on the other side, devotees stick squares of gold leaf onto the rock. During dawn and dusk hours, the rising and setting sun strike the gold on the rock, reflecting a deep burnished amber color that reaches into the soul.

Try visiting Kyaikithiyo during its festival season, beginning a week before Full Moon day of Tabaung (in 2017, festival dates fall on March 5 to March 12). During this festival season, Kyaikthiyo Pagoda will be illuminated with 90,000 candles as an offering to the Buddha, with devotees leaving offerings of food and incense along the way.


Stairs climbing to Kyaikithyo Pagoda. Ministry of Hotels & Tourism.


Kyaikithyo Pagoda. Ministry of Hotels & Tourism.

Similar Southeast Asia Experiences
For similar Buddhist temple sites that still attract significant numbers of devotees, visit Bagan (also in Myanmar), or go further afield to Angkor temple complex in Cambodia, and Luang Prabang in Laos.