Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda

Top choice in Inle Lake Region

Set high on a limestone ridge above Pone Taloke Lake, this winding complex of natural caves and tunnels is filled to bursting with buddha images in an astonishing variety of shapes, sizes and materials.

At the latest count, the caves contained more than 8000 statues, some left centuries ago by local pilgrims and others newly installed by Buddhist organisations from as far afield as Singapore, the Netherlands and the USA.

The collection of alabaster, teak, marble, brick, lacquer and cement images is still growing – pilgrims arrive in a slow but steady stream, installing new images and meditating in tiny, naturally occurring meditation chambers in the cave walls.

A series of covered stairways climbs the ridge to the cave entrance. Most people arrive via the long stairway that starts near the gleaming white zedi (stupa) of Nget Pyaw Taw Pagoda, just south of the Conqueror Hotel. You can skip the last 130 steps to the cave mouth by taking the lift.

Two more covered stairways lead north from the lift pavilion. One descends gently back to Pindaya, while the other climbs to a second cave pavilion containing a monumental, 40ft-high, gilded, Shan-style sitting buddha. The steps continue along the ridge to a third chamber with a large reclining buddha and more shrines and pagodas along the hilltop.

The stairs leading to the cave are about 2 miles south of town on Shwe U Min Pagoda Rd, a 20-minute walk from town. A motorcycle taxi will take you to the top and back for K2000.