Meaning ‘Near the Big River’ Myitkyina lies 919 miles north of Yangon, 487 miles north of Mandalay, on the banks of the great Ayeyarwady. The northernmost large town in Myanmar and capital of Kachin State, Myitkyina’s cosmopolitan population mix is quite different to towns further south. Of a total population of around 150,000, ethnic Kachin predominate and there are also many hill tribe peoples living here. In recent years many Chinese merchants have also settled in the city, working in the gem and timber business. Christianity vies with Buddhism as the most popular religion in the state and there are some 15 churches in the town.

Myitkyina was a strategically important town during World War II. Lying midway between Ledo, India and China and with rail and river links to Mandalay, the town was finally re-taken, after a long siege, from the Japanese by a combined force of American and Chinese troops. Today, Myitkyina is best known as a processing centre for the Jade mined at Hpakant, and as host of the extremely popular ‘Manao’ festival.

The impressive Manao festival is held each January at the permanent Manaw field, an 18 acre site with huge painted totem poles. Manao, meaning ‘peace and unity’ is the coming together of the various Kachin sub-tribes to celebrate their culture. The main attraction for visitors is the mass dances, performed in tribal costume. Men and women dance separately and some of the dances involve over 2000 people – a similar number to an Olympic opening ceremony event. The event can attract a crowd of over 300,000 people, doubling the population of the city.

Myit Son.

Meaning ‘Confluence’, this is where the great Ayeyarwady River is formed; by the coming together of the wild Malikha and Mayhka Rivers. A locally famous beauty spot, the confluence lies 27 miles north of Myitkyina. Local people and Myanmar tourists flock to the area to view the white water and you may see prospectors panning for gold in the shallows. Get here soon – a huge new hydroelectric dam is planned for the Ayeyarwady just downstream from the confluence which will submerge Myit Son beneath its lake.
Myanmar Cycling Tours can arrange flights to Myitkyina from Yangon, Mandalay and Putao. Myitkyina is off the beaten tourism trail so there are no deluxe hotels here, but we can arrange comfortable accommodation in air-conditioned, en-suite rooms. Myitkyina is most famous for its Manao festival, held each January. As the town has a limited amount of accommodation, we recommend very early booking if you wish to attend this spectacular event.

Myanmar Cycling Tours can arrange overland transport appropriate for the rough roads of the region, so that you can explore Myit Son and the villages of the region. Please book as far as in advance as possible as the supply of vehicles for hire is limited.

Myitkyina is the starting point for journeys west to the Hukuang Valley Tiger Reserve and Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary; please see the ‘Ecotourism’ section of our website for details of these two destinations. The town is also the starting point for the ‘Upper Ayeyarwady Adventure’; please see the ‘Adventure’ section for details of this memorable river / jeep journey.

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