The combination of fantastic scenery – tree-covered limestone hills rising above luminous green paddy fields – and a fascinating ethnic mix, makes Kayin State (ကရင္ျပည္နယ္) a Myanmar highlight. That's despite the fact that significant parts of the state remain off-limits to foreign visitors, thanks to ongoing tensions caused by what is thought to be the world's longest-running internal conflict.
Almost from the moment Myanmar attained its independence in 1948, the Karen, the main ethnic group in Kayin State, started their battle for autonomy. Since 2012 a fragile ceasefire has been in place between the largest insurgent body, the Karen National Union (KNU), and the Burmese government. That has resulted in the welcome opening of the border with Thailand at Myawaddy. But the KNU's military component, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), continues to control parts of the north and east of the state and foreigners are barred from visiting those areas.