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  • Writer's pictureLisa O'donnell

The Tribal Hills of Kengtung

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Make the commitment to travel to Kengtung. You’ll relish the personal interactions and traditional experiences. All thanks to the local communities that welcome visitors and the handful of passionate, local guides that make it all happen.

A Truly Unique Experience

One-on-one interaction with hill tribe communities. Enjoying a cup of tea, together. Asking questions. Answering the same. Sharing life stories and learning from each other. – A  travel experience doesn’t get better than that!

Unique tribal influences are aplenty in the hills surrounding Kengtung in eastern Shan State. There's the dominant Shan, the Akha, the Lahu, the Eng, Palaung and Wa ethnic groups. Each with their own beliefs, traditions, and language.

The villages closer-to-town are easily reached by car and more likely frequented by tourists. So, the most amazing reward for effort is by venturing further afield on foot. Treks can be tailored to suit plenty of fitness abilities and 4WD or motorbike backup can be arranged on some routes during favorable weather periods.

For the early risers and the avid 'people watchers', a dawn visit to the daily local market is a must. Join the locals with as they peruse the makeshift, streetside stalls, selling fresh local produce, and simple household goods.

Where and How

There's an achievable land-border crossing from Thailand (near Chiang Rai). However, from within Myanmar, Kengtung is a fly-in/out destination. -It won't factor into everyone's travel budget. In some ways though, that's what makes the region such a special place to explore as there are no crowds. In fact, on the right day, only a handful of tourists will be in town!

A local guide is absolutely necessary. Not only is it a government requirement, but it's also imperative to draw the most memorable experiences from your visit.


The short answer? November thru February, during Myanmar's peak travel season. However, Kengtung's temperate climate makes a visit in the hot season (March thru May), completely feasible.  There’s substantial rain through the wet season (June thru September/October), but again, the climate means the downpours are generally less punishing than a lot of the country... And it's the rice-growing season, so the vistas of vibrant green, terraced mountain-side paddies are a spectacular sight - as long as you don't mind a bit of mud underfoot. The rice is harvested sometime during October and November and guarantees a buzz of activity in the fields.


Sweet seasonal treats and colorful local hats. And so, so many weavings! Incredible colors and different tribal patterns - All handmade by the ladies you meet!

Specializing in ‘Soft Adventures’, Myanmar 1st Hand designs

Cultural, historical, and nature-focused guided holiday-experiences.

More relevant. More personal. More Myanmar.

Have a question? Drop us a line!

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