At sunset, hundreds of pilgrims crowd under the Golden Rock, Mt Kyaiktiyo, for the celebrations of the Festival of Lights.

© Stefano Barzellotti/Getty Images/iStock

Mt Kyaiktiyo

Mon State

The excursion to this incredible balancing-golden-boulder stupa is a must-do, especially during the peak pilgrimage season (November to March) and when the sun is shining. The small stupa, just 24ft high, sits atop the Golden Rock, a massive, gold-leafed boulder delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff at Mt Kyaiktiyo's summit. When the boulder is bathed in the purple, sometimes misty, light of dawn and dusk, it looks stunning.

This is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in all Myanmar and a major draw for devotees. Its image adorns many a local car windscreen and family hearth, and every good Burmese Buddhist dreams of the day she or he finally sets eyes on this holiest of shrines.

Not surprisingly, the atmosphere surrounding Kyaiktiyo during the height of the pilgrimage season is charged with magic and devotion: people chant, light candles and meditate all through the night; men (only) are permitted to walk along a short causeway and over a bridge spanning a chasm to the boulder to affix gold-leaf squares to the rock’s surface.