The Top 6 Must-sees in Myanmar (Burma)
Featured destinations: Myanmar (Burma)
Published 12 May 2016
Unspoiled and little-understood, Myanmar (Burma), offers travellers a wealth of treasures, both natural and man-made. Up until now, political problems have kept the country under the mass tourism radar, but that hasn’t stopped Myanmar’s smiling residents welcoming a trickle of sightseers to its relaxed pace of life, glittering temples and pagoda-topped hills. As the country slowly emerges from its past and makes baby steps towards democracy, its visitor numbers are sure to increase. So go now, and have the place (almost) to yourself.
Here are our top six suggestions for things to see in Myanmar:
Multicultural Yangon, formerly Rangoon, is a melting pot of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences, with most of its buildings delightfully overlooked for modernisation. Number one on the list of things to see is the Shwedagon Pagoda, a brilliant golden edifice visible from all over the city. Come at different times to see its stupa change colour from bright gleaming yellow in the middle of the day to warm oranges and reds at sunset. Other sights in town include the Bogyoke Aung San Market where you can hunt for jewellery and handicrafts, and the grand colonial architecture of the Strand Hotel.
Diverse Mandalay can be somewhat overwhelming at first, a manic grid of traffic-choked streets dotted with pagodas, churches and temples. To get your bearings, join the barefooted crowds and climb the stairs to the top of Mandalay Hill, passing various shrines, fortresses and stupas, for stupendous views across the city. The summit is particularly lively at sunset, when the local monks may test out their English on you. Alternatively, head down to the waterfront and catch a boat to Mingun Pahtodawgyi (pictured), the world’s largest pagoda, or it would be, if it had been completed. Instead it holds the record for the world’s largest pile of bricks.
On the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, Bagan plays host to the greatest concentration of Buddhist ruins in the world. Over 3,000 temples dot the landscape, peeking majestically from the forests and making for a magical sunset backdrop. Check out the holy Ananda Temple, housing four Buddhas, or if you are feeling energetic, climb the 777 steps to the top of Mount Popa, an extinct volcano with a shrine at the top. For a truly memorable and romantic way to explore the delights of Bagan, why not take to the skies on a hot-air balloon ride?
A tranquil freshwater lake, Inle makes a relaxing change from Myanmar’s bustling cities. Here you can catch a boat or rent a canoe to row to one of the traditional fishing villages and admire the lush floating gardens, many of which are filled with flowers. Look out for the local Intha fishermen who use an ingenious method of rowing that involves holding the oar with one leg, allowing them to stand up and row at the same time. Look out for local birdlife too, including egrets, cranes, ducks and storks.
Golden Rock Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo is home to the Golden Rock Pagoda, a gold-gilded boulder balancing rather precariously on the edge of a cliff, with a small pagoda perched on the top. Legend has it that the rock is held in place by a strand of Buddha’s hair, and that a mere glimpse of its gravity-defying position is enough to inspire anyone to turn to Buddhism.
Mention a beach holiday and Burma isn’t the first place that springs to mind, but head to Ngwe Saung and you’ll find a pristine white sweep of sand with palm trees, turquoise water and sunshine in spades, enough to rival plenty of other, more famous beach destinations. Have a swim, visit the fishing villages and markets, perhaps hire a bike or take a boat to the offshore islands. Alternatively, pull up a shady spot of sand and simply watch the world go by.
To see the sights of Myanmar (Burma), ask your Expert about our range of tailor-made Journeys.