Outdoor pursuits and adventure sports are not yet well developed in Myanmar, although with tourist numbers soaring this can be expected to change. For now, with the notable exception of trekking, any activities tend to be arranged through travel agents and prohibitively expensive.
Opportunities for treks are limited by two main factors. One is that many of the most appealing areas are in the mountainous border regions, which tend to be closed to tourists. The other is that foreigners are generally expected to stay in licensed accommodation for every night of their visit. Camping is illegal as, in most parts of the country, is staying in local homes.
As a result, day-hikes are the limit in many places. In Kengtung, for example, there are some excellent walks to ethnic minority villages but you cannot stay in any of them overnight. There are exceptions, however, with the most notable being around Kalaw, Inle Lake, Pindaya and Hsipaw. In these areas it’s possible to stay in either homes or monasteries, by prior arrangement through a tour agency, and therefore do multi-day treks. It’s still unusual for people to trek for more than three days. A guide is strongly recommended for most hiking, although the trails around Hsipaw are often undertaken without one. In some places, such as Kengtung, a guide is obligatory.
Both mountain biking and motorbiking tours are available in Myanmar, through specialist agencies. There are many advantages to getting around in this way, not least the chance to interact with people in villages and rural areas; disadvantages include having to put up with the poor state of many roads, plus the requirement to sleep in licensed accommodation which means that you cannot be as flexible or spontaneous as you might like. Some cyclists have used camping as a back-up, but it is, strictly speaking, illegal and should not be relied upon.
For a country with such a long coastline, there are very few water-based activities in Myanmar. Scuba diving is offered at Ngapali beach and the Myeik (Mergui) archipelago, neither of which are budget destinations.
With a strong and long-held Buddhist tradition, Myanmar is a good place to learn to meditate. Some centres will only take foreigners who commit to staying for several weeks, but one shorter option is a ten-day course in Vipassana meditation (
joti.dhamma.org; donation) at a centre in Yangon on Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda Road, close to Shwedagon Paya.