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The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Myanmar

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is quickly growing as a tourist destination for those who are visiting Southeast Asia. Steeped in culture and history, it offers the best blend of Asia’s various traditions.

I’ve put together a quick list of things to see and do in the country, along with tips for planning your next holiday to the country!

Traveling to Myanmar

yangon international airport

The easiest way to get to Myanmar is, by flight, with its two main international airports at Yangon and Mandalay.

When you’re planning your trip, you should consider flying into the country through one airport and leaving through the other, since most tourist attractions are dotted along the way.

There are many South Asian and South-East Asian airlines that connect both these airports.

Traveling within Myanmar

burmese bus

While there are trains which run across the country connecting major points, they aren’t the most comfortable and easy for tourists. Buses, on the other hand, are more reliable for backpackers and holiday-makers.

There are several tour bus operators which run bus tours to most tourist spots. You can also travel by ferry or boat if you’re open to cruises as an alternative experience to get between Mandalay and neighboring towns.

If you find traveling by car most comfortable, then you won’t have a hard time since there are multiple agencies to hire a car and driver from. The easiest way to do this is to contact your hotel or lodging and ask for recommendations.

Myanmar Visa

Myanmar Passport Stamp Out

Myanmar offers visa-free tourist travel for some countries, like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and a few others. Indian and Chinese nationals can avail of visas on arrival at the international airports.

For citizens of most other countries, the government offers an e-visa, which you can access through their website. This lasts for a period of 28 days, which can be extended for a further fee.

Best Time to Visit Myanmar

Like most countries in the region, Myanmar is also subject to the annual monsoon showers. You would ideally like to wait until the rainy season ends in October.

The usual tourism season begins in November and lasts until February, while the cool weather lasts before the summer heat begins.

Burmese Food

burmese foodWhile you’re in Myanmar, you should definitely try the local cuisine. Some of the dishes and authentic flavors are unique to the country and are hard to find elsewhere in the world!

Of all the many dishes you will come across, make sure you include Mohinga (rice&noodle fish soup) in at least one of your meals.

This staple soup made of fish broth, rice noodles, banana stem, and egg can be found at nearly every kind of eating joint – be it local shacks or high-end restaurants. It will serve you in good stead before a whole day of sightseeing!

Khao Suey is a refreshing and simple chicken noodle soup, made with coconut milk, a trademark Burmese ingredient.

‘Hto hpu new’ is also another breakfast staple. This yellow porridge is made of chickpea and served with noodles and vegetables.

Next, you’ll want to have a bite of Lephet Thoke. Made of fermented tea leaves, this leaf salad also includes cabbage, beans, nuts, and a host of other condiments. It serves as a good vegetarian add-on to your meals.

If you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth, you’ll also enjoy sticky rice topped with coconut! While you’re at it, don’t miss out on the exotic fruits the nation offers – mangosteen, rambutan, snake fruit, and jackfruit are local favorites and specific to south-east Asia.

Best Things to See in Myanmar

Most vacations take about two weeks to cover the popular spots, so you can tinker about and do more unusual things in the country if you have some extra time. Here’s a short itinerary for your reference if you’re looking to cover the main spots in the easiest possible way!

Mandalay and Surrounding Areas

Mandalay Hill, Myanmar

Mandalay Hill

If you’re flying into Mandalay Airport, it’s best to cover the sights in and around the city before you move to Yangon.

While in Mandalay, you should make enough time to visit the four main attractions in the city – Mandalay Hill, Mandalay Palace, Kuthodaw Pagoda, and the Shwenandaw Monastery. Before visiting all these sacred places, make sure you dress properly.

Mandalay Hill is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists, with shrines and religious historical spots along its 1700-step climb to the top. At its summit, there are several temples for you to visit, in addition to breathtaking views of the sunset and sunrise that the hilltop offers.

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Mandalay Fullday Sightseeing
  • Mandalay Half-Day Sightseeing

Royal Palace

royal palace mandalay

Going back down, you should cover the Mandalay Palace at the foothill – a reconstructed complex of what was once the royal residence, it is complete with a serene moat and stunning vistas of the surrounding geography from its watchtower.

Kuthodaw Pagoda

kuthodaw pagoda mandalay myanmar

Not too far away is the iconic Kuthodaw Pagoda with the largest book in the world – this is the un-miss-able pagoda of gold flanked by 700 smaller white ones, each with a stone slab – an unmissable attraction!

Recommended tours & activities:

  • The Sites and Landmarks of Mandalay
  • Explore Highlights of Myanmar on a Budget

Shwenandaw Monastery

Shwenandaw Monastery Mandalay

Finally, you should not omit to visit the Shwenandaw Monastery, famed for its intricate wood carvings, a specimen of Burma’s finest teak architecture.

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Mandalay Day Tour
  • Private Full-Day Mandalay Heritage Tour

Mingun Pagoda and the Hsinbyume Pagoda

Hsinbyume Pagoda Mandalay Myanmar

Next, take the boat across to the town of Mingun, which houses three ‘must-do’s. Here, you’ll find the colossal Mingun Pagoda, which offers captivating panoramas of the town, hills, and river.

Close to is the largest working bell in the world, the Mingun Bell, made for what is now the unfinished temple.

Finally, you cannot miss out on the Hsinbyume Pagoda, a structure of stark white that has taken Instagram by storm with its distinctive white waves.

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Private Mingun Village and Surroundings Tour From Mandalay
  • Full-Day Mingun and Ancient Capitals of Mandalay Tour

Maha Muni PagodaMaha Muni Pagoda Mandalay Myanmar

Then, make your way over to the Maha Muni Pagoda, en route to t. This temple is home to an enormous gold statue of Buddha, covered with hundreds and thousands of pieces of gold leaf.

U Bein Bridge

U-bein Bridge
Further down south, is the U Bein Bridge. Here is where you’ll find the lake with the most stories to come out of visitors to Burma. It’s a mistake not to stop here to watch the lake shimmer at the sunset or sunrise!

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Sunset at U Bein Bridge Mandalay Evening Tour
  • U Bein Bridge Sunset Cycling Day Tour from Mandalay

Bagan

bagan myanmar

The easiest way to get to Bagan from Mandalay is either by boat or an overnight bus journey. The main attraction here is Central Plain, dotted with over 3000 temples and shrines.

To enter the site, you’ll need to pay an entry fee of 25.000 kyats or $20. The most popular thing to do is to get to a higher spot and watch the sunrise over the complex of temples, with the silhouettes of hot air balloons and temple spires offering unparalleled vistas.

You could also book a balloon ride in advance, which offers the best view! The best way to explore the temples and the surrounding town is to rent a bike from local shops.

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Balloons Over Bagan
  • Golden Eagle Ballooning Myanmar
  • Discover Bagan Full Day Tour
  • Old Bagan Sightseeing Tour
  • Guided E Bike Tour in Bagan

The temples have paintings and sculptures thousands of years old, and the town is the best place to pick up some traditional souvenirs!

Some of the must-visit temples are the Gubyaukgyi Temple, Annada Temple and the Shwezigon Pagoda. If you haven’t had intimate experiences with south-east or south Asian villages already, pop into one of the local markets to get a taste of ordinary Myanmar!

Inle Lake

inle lake myanmar

Most travelers opt to spend a few days here, exploring both the lake and the surrounding areas. You can get to the town of Nyaungshwe, where the lake is, most conveniently by bus. There’s a $10 entry fee to the area of the lake, payable just one time.

Boat rides

The best thing to do is to take a lazy boat ride on the lake. Most boatmen will charge a separate, higher price if you want to hire a whole boat for yourself, so most tourists get a shared ride for a sixth of the price.

Most trips cost between $15- $16. The boat ride will take you to tourist spots and local stops along the lake.

You’ll get to see many fishermen at work and stilt homes of local residents. If you’re up to it, you can take the long ride to the south of the river, which provides views of an ancient capital with some haunting sunken stupas.

Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda

Shwe Inn dein Pagoda

One of these stops is the Inn Dein temple complex, which houses a large number of petite and extremely old temples, bundled together in a small area. This is a great location for interesting pictures!

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda

This temple is the main attraction for pilgrims and tourists alike. The temple is a massive pagoda housing five iconic gold Buddha statues.

They are taken around to the surrounding villages once a year in an annual tradition. There is also a market in the temple, where tribals come down to sell their traditional spices!

Cycling

One of the best ways to explore the surrounding locality is to hire a cycle at one of the stops and go wandering for a few hours!

You’re bound to meet friendly locals, lively markets and get a glimpse of the life of the Shan people. Hiring a cycle is cheap and will cost you less than $2 a day.

Yangon

Yangon (Rangoon) myanmar

For the last leg of your journey, head to Yangon. The colonial capital of the country, this city was called Rangoon when it was still ruled by the British, and is a delight for tourists in love with the old architecture of the British Empire!

If you loved central Kuala Lumpur and Calcutta, then you should definitely spend an extra day at Yangon, meandering through its streets and buildings. Among the best things to do in Yangon are:

Shwedagon Pagoda

shwedagon pagoda myanmar
This temple at the heart of Yangon is considered to be one of the oldest stupas in the world. It is also one of the holiest, believed to contain body relics of the Buddha.

The pagoda is a sight to see, with its stupa covered in gold and crowned with diamonds and gems in its chhattri. It glimmers at night when it is lit up – sitting by the stupa in the evening makes for a truly surreal experience.

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Tradition and Culture Small-Group Tour in Yangon, Including Shwedagon Pagoda Visit
  • Best Yangon City Tour with Experience English Speaking Guide
  • Half-Day Spiritual Shwedagon Pagoda Join in Tour in Yangon

Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda Yangon

This quaint little pagoda is at the centre of town, surrounded by the urban city. Once you’re done taking a peek at this Buddhist temple, walk around the locality to see Myanmar’s multicultural diversity, complete with churches and synagogues!

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Yangon Walking Tour (Culture)
  • Highlights of Yangon Full Day Tour

Bogyoke Market

Bogyoke Market Yangon

A great place to pick up some traditional Burmese tidbits to take back home before you leave, this market is a popular stop for fabrics, precious stones and fruits!

Circular Train

Yangon Circular Train

Another popular activity in the city is to take the circular train, which transports locals and tourists alike, dropping them off around varies spots in the city.

It’s a great way to get a taste of regular city life in the country and the cheapest way to get around too!

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Private Yangon Day Tour with Circular Train
  • Yangon by Circular Train: Life Along the Loop
  • Yangon most highlight and hidden places, full day tour

Appreciate Myanmar’s History

In Yangon, you will be able to relive Myanmar’s colonial past through its buildings on Pansodan Street, and commemorate the fallen of the Second World War at the somber Taukkyan Memorial and a four-hundred-year-old Portuguese church.

For history buffs, the last king of India’s mighty Mughal Empire is buried in the city too.

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha

This site houses a massive statue of a reclining Buddha, most noted for the intricate symbols on the soles of the Buddha’s feet, painted gold on blood red.

Other Things to Do in Myanmar

You could also drop by some lesser travelled, but equally enthralling and unique places in Myanmar.

Mahar Sadan Cave

myanmar cave

This cave contains within its chambers several pagodas, idols of Buddha, rock formations, paintings and drawings. It also offers some great views when you return by boat!

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Fantastic Hpa-An, full day tour
  • 3-Day Private Guided Golden Rock (Kyaik Hti Yoe) and Hpa An Tour from Yangon

Kalaw

trekking inle lake to kalaw, myanmar

Popular with more adventurous travelers, this spot is great for hiking and trekking. At a higher elevation, this cool settlement lets you walk through villages and forests, offering a view of the hill tribes in the region.

This hike could be made from both ways, either Inle Lake to Kalaw or Kalaw to Inle Lake and is one of the most incredible hiking trails in Asia.

Recommended tours & activities:

  • Trekking Kalaw to Inle Lake
  • 3Days Less Touristic Way Trekking from Kalaw To Inle
  • Hello, who like to make fantastic trek with the most experienced guide in Kalaw.

Mergui Archipelago

Mergui Archipelago Myanmar

One of the country’s best-kept secrets, the Mergui Archipelago has some of the best beaches on the continent, with stunning white sand and clear blue turquoise water.

Ngapali Beach

Ngapali Beach Burma

Amongst the countless attractions in Myanmar, Ngapali Beach towers higher than many other destinations.

See also: Best Bars And Pubs in Myanmar

The sceneries comprising of unique landscapes, the lake, beach, and other diverse features make Ngapali’s beauty absolutely unbelievable, thrilling, and absorbing, leaving tourists to wonder about the richness of nature, and to long for another visit.LIKE IT? PIN IT

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Catalin Geangos
Catalin Geangos is the founder and previous owner of TravelTrained. He has been to more than 35 countries and lived in a few more before. He was a digital nomad travelling and backpacking extensively in Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam and others parts of South East Asia from 2020 to 2023. He wrote about many articles about his first hand backpacking and partying experiences in these countries. He stayed in many hostels and hotels, met many other backpackers, travelers and locals whom he partied and shared his story with. His articles have inspired travelers, mostly single backpackers, around to world to take the leap to explore South East Asian countries from grassroots and not just the tourist attractions but also the real and happening life on the streets after the sun sets down! He now writes about outdoor gear and hiking.