Yangon must see sights: our top 20 things to do in Yangon, Myanmar!
With 48 hours to explore Yangon we set out on a mission to check out the best sights that Myanmar’s largest city had to offer. The heady mix of golden Pagoda’s, British colonial architecture, street food and high rise buildings instantly captured our imaginations and makes Yangon an unmissable stop on the Myanmar tourist trail. If you’re planning a visit to Yangon here’s a round up of our must see sights and tips as well as some unique Yangon experiences and quirky hidden gems. Enjoy!
1 | Watch the sunrise over the Shwedagon Pagoda
Watching the sunrise over one of the most famous and beautiful Pagodas in the world is most definitely a Yangon bucket list moment. The Shwedagon Pagoda is one of Buddhism’s most sacred sights and the golden Pagoda glistens in the morning sunshine. The gold leaf pagoda is adorned with thousands of diamonds and rubies and a 76 carat diamond crowns the sacred sight which dominates the Yangon skyline.
2 | Dine with the locals at 999 Shan Noodle
Squeeze into the tiny 999 Shan Noodle and slurp on the cheap and tasty noodles accompanied by the delicious Burmese dips and vegetables which are served with every meal! There are no bells and whistles at 999 Shan Noodle but the food is good and the staff are funny making for a unique Yangon experience!
3 | Stroll through China Town
Bustling and vibrant, Yangon’s China Town is full to the brim of market stalls, street food and barbecue stands and an evening stroll down 19th street at night should be high on any Myanmar itinerary. By day, China Town gives a fascinating glimpse into the life of some of Yangon’s residents as well as the architecture of the city.
4 | Feel the history at the Sule Pagoda
In contrast with its newly constructed surroundings, the 2,500 year old Sule Pagoda is the oldest in Yangon and its prominent location meant it was the scene of protests during some of the most significant moments in Myanmar history.
Yangon sightseeing tip: the busy intersection location of the Sule Pagoda meant it was difficult to appreciate from street level. Our favourite view of the Sule Pagoda was from above!
5 | Feel tiny at the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple
Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple houses the incredible 217 foot reclining Buddha which is among the largest in Myanmar and is easily one of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen: this is probably attributed to the fact that the Buddha’s face was reconstructed after initially being considered as having too severe an expression. The details on the Buddha, from the long eyelashes to the inscribed feet, make it worth the jaunt from downtown Yangon.
Yangon sightseeing tip: don’t forget to visit the enormous seated Buddha in the Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda which is across the road from the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple. We missed it but it looks incredible!
6 | See a sacred Buddha hair relic at Botataung Pagoda
As we made our way down to the Yangon River our driver, through a mix of broken English and hand signals, insisted we vist Botatung Pagoda and we were glad we did. The Pagoda, which translates to ‘1000 military leaders’, was named in honour of the 1,000 military leaders who formed a guard of honour to pay their respects to the eight hair relics of the Buddha which were delivered from India over two thousand years ago. One sacred hair relic remains in Botatung today making it one of the most revered Pagodas in the city.
7 | Stroll through Kandawgyi Park
Kandawgyi Park is a total escape for the hustle and bustle of Yangon city life and the lake is the perfect spot to catch a Myanmar sunrise or sunset. It’s fascinating to watch local family life in full swing, admire the impressive dragon boat which resides on the lake and gaze in awe at the reflections of the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda.
8 | Embrace the serenity of Kaba Aye Pagoda
Pagoda’s are abundant in Yangon and Kaba Aye was another of our favourites. The circular World Peace Pagoda is serene and peaceful with the focus being a silver Buddha centerpiece.
Yangon sightseeing tip: shoes cannot be worn in the places of worship so bring a bag if you want to carry yours with you. Also, mind your feet as you step out of the Pagodas: the ground can be extremely hot and even burn your feet.
9 | Feed the catfish
We were a little apprehensive at the suggestion to feed some fish in a Yangon Lake but we ambled down to the water and purchased some huge chunks of bread from a local vendor. The size of the bread was an indication of what was coming next: huge catfish thundered out of the water as we threw our bread pieces into the lake and a feeding frenzy ensued. There are fish, and then there are catfish… it certainly give us a giggle in Yangon!
10 | Experience the calmness of Shwedagon Pagoda at night
Shwedagon Pagoda is a real treat at any time of the day but there’s something special about the quiet calm of visiting after dark. The pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist Pagoda in Myanmar as it is believed to contain the relics of four previous Buddhas and, at night it’s filled mostly with worshippers. Despite Dave disappearing down a dark hole while trying to capture a pic (he was fine!) we loved the golden beauty of the Pagoda after darkness fell.
11 | Visit the Kalaywa Monastery during morning meal time
Kalaywa Monastery is a monastery for young orphaned boys and girls in Yangon and we visited during the morning meal time as over 500 novices and monks lined up for food. The monks and novices reacted to visitors with shy smiles and curiosity and we interacted as much as the language barrier would allow.
12 | Enjoy a cocktail at the luxurious Strand Hotel
The Strand Hotel is a Myanmar icon and is widely regarded as one of the finest hotels in Yangon. We couldn’t resist taking a step back in time to embrace its old world charm and British colonial elegance plus the cocktails were excellent!
13 | Explore a Pagoda with a modern touch at Maha Wizaya Pagoda
Maha Wizaya Pagoda is located at the top of a small hill but it could very well have been Everest we were climbing in the mid afternoon sun! The climb was worth it for two reasons: the quirky animal murals painted on the blue dome ceiling and the cute turtles which reside in the Pagoda grounds!
14 | Take the bumpiest train ride of your life at Yangon Train Station
Myanmar trains are legendary for their bumpy rides, frequent derailments and excessive delays but it’s all part of the journey! The beautiful colonial train station is well worth a visit itself and the Yangon Circular train offers a fantastic opportunity to experience it for yourself. The super cheap three hour ride provides a glimpse into local life and has lots of great photo ops.
15 | Have your heart broken by the stray dogs
There are so many strays in Yangon and throughout Myanmar that it’s hard not to be heartbroken by their plight. These two little puppies stole our hearts making it incredibly hard to walk away.
16 | Tickle your taste buds with the Yangon Street food!
We couldn’t resist the calling of the aroma of Yangon street food. From fish broth to skewers to samosas the street stall offerings taste as delicious as they smell and our taste buds and stomach’s were happy out!
17 | Take in the best views of Yangon at The Thiripyitsaya Sky Bistro
20 stories in the sky, the Thiripyitsaya Sky Bistro has epic panoramic views of Yangon from downtown to the Shewadagon Pagoda dominating the skyline. We loved our afternoon chilling out with an ice cold Myanmar beer (it’s the best!) and taking in the city views. Bliss!
18 | Witness the beauty of Swe Taw Myat Pagoda
It’s no surprise that Pagoda’s feature heavily in our Yangon must see list since Buddhism is practiced by almost 90% of the country’s residents. Swe Taw Myat is a stunning construction: a heady mix of gold and white interspersed with eye catching angles and a maze of entrances. It’s famous for the Buddha tooth relic that it houses.
19 | Admire the stunning colonial architecture in downtown Yangon
Despite being desolate and almost crumbling down the colonial buildings of downtown Yangon still manage to convey their once magnificent beauty. From the Strand Hotel to Yangon Railway station, the city is fighting to save some of its most stunning tourist attraction. The mix of old and new, grand and compact and desolate and crammed makes for an intriguing mix.
20 | Stroll with the locals along the Yangon River
An evening stroll along the Botahtaung jetty is a lovely way to end a day of sightseeing in Yangon and it’s a great place to indulge in a spot of people watching.
Yangon sightseeing tip: If you have time Hpa-an and the Golden Rock are both excellent day trip options from Yangon.
Where to stay in Yangon
Where we stayed: We stayed in the Chatrium Hotel (booked through Agoda) and we paid USD 277 per night for a Club Deluxe Lake/Pagoda View room in the Chatrium. This included an airport transfer, 2 pieces of laundry per day and snacks and drinks in the Club Lounge.
Agoda: we use Agoda.com for our accommodation booking across Asia as it has the best selection of hotels and the best prices especially in Myanmar. Prepaying was a lifesaver as we didn’t have to carry large amounts of cash as often credit cards weren’t accepted or the internet connection was too weak to make a transaction.