Places to Visit in Myanmar (Burma)

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The places to visit in Myanmar are filled with historic wonders, magnificent temples, white sandy beaches, beautiful scenery, lively markets and charming people.

Turn back the clock in this time-warped country that’s a world apart from the rest of Southeast Asia. Now is the moment to visit the extraordinary land of Myanmar, scattered with gilded pagodas, where the traditional ways of Asia endure and areas that were previously off-limits are opening up.

Yangon in the south has Shwedagon Paya, a stunning golden zedi on a hill dominating the city but also makes an excellent base from which to visit nearby Bago and Myanmar’s most sacred religious site, the Golden Rock. Myanmar’s heartland is home to its biggest attraction – Bagan, with its haunting landscape scattered with over 2,000 11th century temples. In the east Mandalay, the second largest city, is alive with new construction but is also a good starting off point for exploring the U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge, and Inle Lake with its remarkable leg-rowing fishermen. Ngapali Beach in the northwest is a perfect place to relax amongst the swaying coconut palms and in western Myanmar the ancient zedis of Mrauk U are testament to its former status as a wealthy city.

These are just a few of the best places to visit in Myanmar. For a complete list, continue reading for our top ten places to visit in Myanmar.

Top 10 Places to Visit in Myanmar (Burma)

10. Hsipaw

The outside world feels very far away in attractive, laid-back Hsipaw. With its dramatic sunsets, quaint small-town air and narrow footpaths snaking through rice paddies, travellers often get stuck here. Hsipaw is ideally placed for quick, easy hikes into fascinating Shan and Palaung villages, as well as more strenuous ones to barely visited hamlets. The surrounding area feels far less discovered than the treks available around neighbouring Kalaw. Days are occupied by walks to the river or out of town to one of the payas perched on a hillside. Hsipaw itself is a historic town with a royal past and an area known as ‘Little Bagan’, full of ancient stupas.

9. Bago

Former capital of Lower Burma and the Second Burmese Empire, Bago boasts a spectacular crop of exceptional Buddhist monuments spanning more than 1,400 years of history. These spectacular religious monuments are scattered across the modern town, all of them in pristine condition, having been upgraded in typical contemporary Burmese style with layers of gilt and vibrant gloss paint which belie their considerable antiquity. They include several remnants from its medieval heyday, among them the magnificent Shwemawdaw Pagoda, a stupa even larger than Yangon’s Shwedagon, and Nawdawgyi Myathalyaung, Bago’s largest reclining Buddha statue.

8. Myeik Archipelago

Spanning more than 800 islands, only two of which can claim any sort of accommodation, and many boasting virtually untouched, white-sand beaches and some of the region’s best dive sites, it’s hard to believe that a place such as this still exists in mainland Southeast Asia. And although accessing the area remains time-consuming and expensive, those who can afford the investment will be among the handful of people who can claim witness to one of the final frontiers in Southeast Asian tourism, not to mention a beach junkie’s fantasy destination.

7. Ngapali Beach

With its translucent turquoise water, white sand, and backdrop of gently inclined palm trees, Ngapali is one of the country’s most stunning beaches. Visitors can enjoy lazy days on the beach, snorkelling trips, watching fishermen land their catch at daybreak, and sampling delicious seafood in the restaurants that line the beach road. With chic accommodation – think infinity pools, stylish teak-built chalets, and sun terraces with uninterrupted sea views – and villagers from the nearby fishing settlements still outnumbering foreign visitors, this is a little piece of heaven you don’t want to miss out on.

6. Ayeyarwady River

Two millennia after its waters nourished Burma’s first planned cities, the Ayeyarwady River continues to serve as an essential artery for the millions who live and work in the settlements clustered along its banks. For visitors, the fleet of ferries and cruisers that ply the river offer a unique perspective on the country. Whether in the luxury of a teak-lined, five-star vessel, roughing it third-class on a government double-decker to distant Bhamo, or chugging gently upstream from Mandalay to Mingun, to journey along the silty blue-brown river is to experience the timeless essence of the country’s core, one of the most defining travel experiences of the country.

5. Mrauk U

The temples, monasteries, former palace, and ruined city walls of the former Rakhine capital of Mrauk U continue to paint a picture of what an amazing place this town must have been at its zenith in the 16th century. Today, only a scattering of stupas and temples remain, rising from a carpet of bleached grass and scrub – a sight that is especially beautiful in the mist of early morning. With giant structures such as the Dukkanthein Paya and Kothaung Paya sharing real estate with rural villages and emerald-green rice fields, Mrauk U emerges as much more than a museum piece.

4. Mandalay

Scattered among the sand flats and low hills in and around the city of Mandalay are the remnants of four royal capitals spanning more than 500 years of Burmese history. They encompass some of the country most iconic sights, from Mandalay’s exquisite teak Shwenandaw Monastery and Amarapura’s much-photographed U Bein’s Bridge to Inwa’s stucco monastery and the glittering, pagoda-encrusted ridges of Sagaing. Just upriver from Mandalay, the massive unfinished stupa at Mingun is another of the region’s unmissable sights.

3. Inle Lake

Virtually every visitor to Myanmar makes it here at some point, but Inle Lake is so awe-inspiring that everybody comes away with a different experience. If you’re counting days, you’ll most likely be hitting the hotspots: water-bound temples, bustling hill tribe markets, and floating gardens. Most visitors to Inle Lake stay on stilted resorts over the water and around the edge of the lake, and make excursions by boat to monasteries and temples, as well as colourful morning markets in nearby villages. If you have more time, consider exploring the more remote corners of the lake. Either way, the cool weather, friendly folk and that placid pool of ink-like water are bound to find a permanent place in your memory.

2. Bagan

There is no attraction in Myanmar more surreal and jaw-dropping that the sight of around 2000 Buddhist monasteries, temples, shrines, and stupas – remnants of the first Burmese kingdom that reached its peak between the 11th and 13th centuries.  Viewed at sunrise or sunset, with the warm light intensifying the red-brown hues of their brickwork, the hundreds of tapering, elegantly symmetrical towers and finials rising from the dusty sand flats create a superb spectacle. Pedal off on a bike and have your own adventure amid the no-so-ruined temples, or float over the temple tops in a hot-air balloon. You can also arrive at Bagan in a cruise ship having sailed down river from Mandalay.

1. Yangon

Yangon is the most multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan and interesting city in Myanmar. Once heralded as a jewel in Southeast Asia’s crown, today Yangon is an uncut diamond patiently waiting for the hand of a skilled craftsman to bring back its sparkle. But it is the city’s neglected colonial-era architecture, temples and trishaws, and bustling markets that create its unique characters and make it so appealing. Dominating the city skyline is the Shwedagon Paya; it is impossible not to be moved by the beauty of this golden zedi. Although Yangon has much for travellers to discover, it also makes an excellent base from which to visit nearby sights and attractions including Myanmar’s most sacred religious site, the Golden Rock.

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