Just over an hour’s drive east of Bagan across Myanmar’s sun-baked central plain, the flat landscape is interrupted in dramatic fashion by a sheer-sided landform crowned by a tiny whitewashed and gilded monastery complex. This is Popa Taung Kalat, one of the region’s most revered pilgrimage sites and a popular day trip from Bagan.
In addition to the wide-ranging views from the top of the rock, reached via a steep, winding staircase, local people flock here to worship at a shrine nestled close to the start of the sacred walkway, dedicated to the 37 great Nat nature spirits of Burmese tradition. Lively family groups, chiming of sacred bells, pilfering macaques that patrol the stairway and superb vista from the summit make Popa a wonderful half-day excursion from the archaeological site.
For those wishing to savour the atmosphere at sunset and beyond, a delightful little boutique hotel, the Popa Mountain Resort, rests on a nearby hillside, offering a matchless view of the rock temple from its dining terrace and pool.