Mount Kyaiktiyo, also known as Golden Rock, is a must-see for any visit to the country. It sits approximately 375 miles (600 km) south of Mandalay. To get to there, you'll travel to Kin Pun (or "Kinpun"), the town closest to the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda and the base camp for most activities there.
The most direct way to travel between the two destinations is to go by private vehicle, either by renting a car of hiring a driver, although the latter can be expensive given the length of the trip. You can also take a bus heading to Mawlamyine and get off early, transferring to a taxi for the final leg of the journey.
Given that these options are rather limited, many people opt to go to Yangon first and have a layover in the city. From there, you can take either a train, bus, or private taxi directly to Kin Pun.
Another option is to book a tour which will take you to both locations and arrange all of the transportation for you. This 15-day trip includes panoramic views of Mon State from the pagoda, as well the archaeological ruins of Bagan.
By Private Vehicle
Duration: 8 to 9 hours
Driving by private vehicle is the most direct way to get from Mandalay to Mount Kyaiktiyo, although the 375-mile journey can take up to 9 hours. You can hire a chauffeur to take you; however, given the distance this will likely be an expensive option. You can also rent a car which is more affordable and allows you to go at a more leisurely place
Getting there is fairly easy—take the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway south about 6 hours until Oke Shit Kone Street where you'll head east through a series of roads to Route 8. Take that to Kyaikto, then Kin Pun Sakhan Road the rest of the way to Kin Pun.
If you want to split the trip into two days, you can stop in Naypyitaw. The temple-filled city is the modern capital of Myanmar with attractions like the National Museum or the Uppatasanti Pagoda.
Duration: 12 to 14 hours
There's no direct bus that runs between Mandalay and Kin Pun; however, you can take a bus heading to Mawlamyine and hop off early. Shwe Mandalar, Mandalar Min Express, Taw Win Mandalar, and Mann Shwe Myoe Taw all operate buses along this line.
After boarding, tell your driver you need to get off at Kyaikhto. From there, it's a 30 minute taxi ride to Kin Pun. Just keep in mind that you will have to stay alert for this option, and be prepared to find a taxi or other transport to get through the final leg of your journey.
By Flight, Bus, or Train via Yangon
Another option is to go to Yangon first and stop in the city for the night. There are direct flights from Mandalay to Yangon that depart daily from Mandalay International Airport (MDL) in Tada-U and land at Yangon International Airport (RGN) in Mingaladon. The duration is roughly one hour and 20 minutes. You can also take a bus (8 to 10 hours) or the train (15 hours).
Once in Yangon, you have the option of either bus, train, or private taxi transport to Kin Pun. The latter will be the quickest and most convenient but also the most expensive. The train will be the slowest and least comfortable but the cheapest. Buses offer a fairly happy medium. The journey is about 4.5 hours and they're typically air-conditioned with plenty of legroom. They depart several times a day from Aug Mingalar Bus Station in Yangon. Just make sure you get on a bus that goes all the way to Kin Pun because some estop in Kyaikto which is 30 minutes from town.