Mount Popa is an extinct volcano and at 1500 meters is the highest point in the Bago Yoma mountain range. The main attraction of the region, however, is the smaller, 730-metre conic rock Popa Taungkalat. Also known as the “Olympus of the Nats” because it is the home to Myanmar’s legendary 37 “Nats” (animist spirits), one hast to climb 700 steps accompanied by a crowd of monkeys to reach the top of the volcanic plug, with its many shrines and monastery. This effort is also rewarded with an extraordinary panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.
Around the area of Mount Popa is Popa National Park, which features dense sandalwood forests and rare species of birds and butterflies – certainly worth a walk or trek. Other attractions include two important “Nat Pwes” (or festivals) held each year – one in May-June and the other in November-December – when people from all parts of the country come to appease and worship the spirits. These spirits are evoked by so-called “Natkadaws” (mediums), who offer their bodies to individual ants. The nats still play an important part in many people’s lives in spite of the dominance of Buddhism.
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