Magnificent temples abound in Burma, dotting the horizons of its verdant landscapes up and down the country. From the temple studded lands of Bagan to the glittering pagodas of Yangon, the holy sites of Burma are simply mind boggling both in size and beauty. Whilst stupas are solid temples, said to house remains of Buddhas or monks, Pagodas are open to enter for worship. Having evolved from the shape of a stupa, the two often look similar yet their significance is marked by their history.
Mount Popa is an extinct volcano on the slopes of which Popa Taung Kalat can be found, a sacred monastery perched atop an almost 700 metre high sheer-sided volcanic plug. An active place of worship for over 700 years, thousands of devotees have made the pilgrimage up the 777 steps to pay their respects to carvings and figures of ancient gods held within.
Although often falling under the same umbrella term, Mount Popa is the name of a volcano whose 442 BC eruption is said to have created Taung Kalat, a rocky volcanic plug on Mount Popa’s south-western slope, which forms the base of the Popa Taung Kalat Monastery. According to legend, Taung Kalat is home to 37 nats (Burmese animist spirits), with a small shrine at its foot dedicated to these spirits.
Visitors who make the ascent up the 777 steps to the monastery, avoiding the mischievous macaques along the way, are rewarded with 360 degree views over the surrounding plains, with vistas stretching to the ancient city of Bagan on a clear day. Although there are a couple of accommodation options in the area, Mount Popa is only an hour from Bagan, so most commonly visited on a day trip.