One of the best trekking destinations in Myanmar, Putao is a small town situated in the far north of Kachin state. Due to its very hard accessibility Putao and its surrounding nature have stayed quite undiscovered and pristine to this date. Putao town is situated in a valley of 457m (1,499ft) and the surrounding area is bordered by China, Tibet and India. The town is split half by the Namlang River and you can see the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains in the far distance. The valley is surrounded by rugged hills which some are covered in thick jungle. Putao region is also home for the Highest Mountain in South East Asia, Hkakabo Razi that rises up to 5,881 meters (19 294ft). Hkakabo Razi has been conquered by only few mountaineers and the expedition takes at least one month.
Nature around Putao
The nature of Putao valley and the surrounding areas are perfect for remote Myanmar trekking expeditions. The nature in Myanmar Himalaya is as pure as nature gets and many endemic species of flora and fauna are found in the region. For example when travelling to Eastern Himalaya you have the chance to find the enchanting “Black Orchid”. Scientists are still discovering in average over 30 new species a year in the northern part of Myanmar. The nature of the area varies a lot due to different altitudes but it is mostly thick with subtropical forests, bamboo groves and subalpine species with veins of clear mountain creeks running through the valleys.
People of Myanmar Himalaya
Putao and around is habituated mainly by Kachin, Rawang and Lisu ethnic people and determined missionaries have made Christianity the main religion of the area, but in more rural parts animistic believes play still strong role in people’s daily lives. Like all people in Myanmar the locals are friendly and welcome visitors with shy enthusiasm. It is highly recommended to visit some of the surrounding villages as they are still living simple lives undisturbed by western influences. These encounters are great experiences for both sides if they are done respectfully and on terms of the locals.
Trekking in Putao & other activities
Putao is the starting point for all short and long expeditions to the surrounding wilderness. The Namlang and Malikha rivers offer great chances for canoeing or white water rafting. For trekkers there are countless trekking routes with different difficulty levels from few days to couple of weeks. It is also possible to arrange day long long Putao trekking trips to surrounding villages for the ones that want to stay overnight comfortably in Putao with western comforts such as warm shower.
How to get to Putao ?
Putao is now better connected than ever before. For the time being Air Bagan and Golden Myanmar Airlines and Myanma National Airlines (previously know as Myanma Airlines) fly from Mandalay to Putao with a stop in Myitkyina. You can also fly from Yangon but might need to change aircraft or stop in Mandalay before continuing to Myitkyina. The flight schedules are constantly changing so it is best to check the latest info from your tour operator.
There is only one road to Putao which is currently not open to foreigners. The locals prefer to fly as trucks get regularly stuck for long periods of time and block the road.
Putao travel permits & trekking permits
There has been some confusion about the permits to Putao and whether they are needed or not. Putao and Myanmar Himalaya are still considered border region or special region where travel permits for foreign nationals are required. In 2014 this rule was “softened” for Putao. It is possible now to fly to Putao without permit but you will not be allowed to leave the town. Permits are still required for going on any treks or excursions from Putao and they need to be obtained from Naypyitaw in advance by locally registered travel company. We have heard of people flying to Putao and not being able to arrange the permits while there.
The current permit application time fis 1-2 weeks. Discovery DMC can arrange this for you.
Hotels in Putao
The first and only accommodation in Putao used to be army guest house in army compound without running water. Fortunately during the recent years more choices have sprung up.
There are couple smaller inn’s/ guest houses in town that offer simple but reasonably comfortable rooms with shared bathroom facilities. Hot shower is also normally available.
Cozy country side resort that has skiing lodge feel. Putao Trekking house is situated on the outskirts of Putao village. It is good base before or after your wilderness treks and explorations. For those who are not seeking for physical challenge but enjoy easy day walks and visits to Putao Valley villages this is ideal base. Read more
A world class, boutique style accommodation uniquely designed and fitted with oriental art and decor, this wilderness lodge is made up of secluded luxury chalets situated admist lush bamboo groves and gardens. The chalets are built in traditional style with thatch roofs rising to 5m height.
The lodge offers a range of subdued exploration activities for those craving adventure as well as pampering facilities for those wanting to unwind and relax under the backdrop of the Himalayan mountains and subtropical rain-forests. Malikha Lodge is ideal for those who are looking for luxury experience and enjoy soft adventure and comforts and don’t mind the high price. Read more
Is there internet in Putao?
No, and yes occasionally. At the time of writing (Apr 2015) internet was only available at the telegraph office in town. GSM mobile networks don’t have coverage yet in Putao and MPT CDMA sim cards that work so and so are not available over the counter for tourists. So it is best to forget communications to outside world during your Putao trip and enjoy being disconnected.
What can I buy in Putao?
Get everything you need before flying up north. There is a small market in the center of Putao where you can buy some souvenirs and basic items. You might find some cookies, chocolate and local snack and China made winter clothing.
Hats and gloves or mittens you can find here but don’t count on being able to buy trekking equipment, shoes or warm clothes in Putao. If they are not Asian size they will be low quality and not durable and breathable.
There are some stores selling local handcrafts which are nice souvenirs and buying them supports the local culture.
Trekking tours in Putao and Myanmar Himalaya
Putao Valley Soft Adventure – 4 Days
Last Village Trek – 7-8 Days
Phongun Razi Trek 3600m – 10 Days
Phonyin Razi Trek 4232m – 12 Days
Phangran Razi Expedition 4330m – 14Days
Putao Nomung Vilage Trek – 8 Days
Putao Himalayan Trails Trek – 6 Days
Hkakabo Razi basecamp trek
More trekking destinations in Myanmar
Trekking in Chin State and Mt Victoria region – explore the remote Chin mountains and tattooed ladies villages
Trekking in Hsipaw and Kyaukme – rolling hills, charming Palaung tribe villages and tea plantations
Trekking in Shan State Kalaw, Pindaya, Inle Lake and Kyaing Tong – rolling hills minority villages and community based tourism projects