Places to visit in Myanmar
Myanmar (Burma) is something of an enigma. Its years of oppression have kept it under the radar, meaning the country and its culture are refreshingly well-preserved. The Burmese people are especially welcoming, and the speed of life is slow here, giving you ample time to explore the temples, pagodas and lakes at your own pace. Luckily for visitors, Myanmar’s top four attractions, listed below, form a convenient loop from the Yangon, but for a truer insight into the country, you can choose to divert from the circle and take the road less travelled.
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In a throwback to its colonial past, the former Rangoon is a melange of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian styles. Although pockets of modernisation are popping up among the historic architecture, these are not overwhelming and the city’s charm and character remain delightfully intact.
Yangon’s number one sight is the golden-spired Shwedagon Pagoda, just one of a number of glittering stupas in town. A couple of cathedrals and a synagogue complete the religious sights, but there’s also much joy to be had simply wandering the streets and exploring the markets.
Boasting over 2,200 temples, shrines and pagodas spread across the leafy landscape, Bagan is quite a sight to behold. Best observed from a hot air balloon, the endless spires disappear into the misty horizon, creating a magical scene.
While this temple-heavy view is Bagan’s main event, the hilltop shrine at nearby Mount Popa is a popular day trip, while cruises on the Irrawaddy River are increasing in popularity too, and make for a novel way to reach Mandalay, the next stop on the Myanmar loop.
Perhaps best known from the Rudyard Kipling poem, Mandalay’s evocative name conjures up images of an exotic, colonial-era city. And that’s just what you’ll find among the fortresses and pagodas.
Whether you arrive into Mandalay by boat or by road, the best place to start exploring is Mandalay Hill, which offers some fabulous city views from 1,729 steps up. Spend a day or two touring the monasteries and palaces, or extend your stay and take a day trip to Mingun Pahtodawgyi, an impressive, albeit incomplete, pagoda.
Fringed by quaint fishing villages and distant hills, Inle Lake makes for a relaxing stop after Myanmar’s cities. Home to the Intha people, who fish the lake using an unusual rowing method involving standing on one leg, Inle is a good canoeing spot, and attracts plenty of local birdlife too.
The best way to see Inle Lake is by boat, calling in at the floating gardens and small villages on the water’s edge, or perhaps heading further afield to lakeside handicraft markets and Buddhist temples.