Mt. Popa is an extinct volcano that is home to a sacred monastery on top of a giant rocky outcrop. Think of Hogwarts but real. The monastery of Popa Taungkalat can be visited by climbing 777 steps to the top.
It is often a side-trip outside Bagan and there are group tours for individual or couple joiners. We joined a small private car tour with 2 other strangers for 10,000 Kyat per person. The four of us and the driver, made our way in the morning and got back just after lunch. It’s a quick trip, but the sight of the monastery and the view there at the top was worth the visit.
It is also very important to note that there are hundreds of macaques roaming the place. From the parking area, the steps, to the monastery. The steps may also be slippery because of pee from the animals. Halfway through the steps, there is a locker area where you have to leave your shoes or slippers (for a minimal fee) and go barefoot from there.
The monastery is very active so the crowd is mostly locals. The steps, aside from macaque pee, are also not the cleanest. There are dozens of cleaners but trash are everywhere since people won’t stop coming in. This is a place for locals and not really for tourists so consider that first. But that only makes it more authentic compared to other places.
Visiting Popa Taungkalat monastery was one the highlights of our Myanmar trip. Seeing the monastery from the parking lot was breathtaking. The 777 steps to the top was literally breathtaking. And the 360 view from the top was also breathtaking. It was a hands-on (or should I say, feet-on) experience on Myanmar culture and how religion is a big part of that.