Myanmar is a spectacular country and, full to the brim of iconic sights, it stole a piece of our hearts the moment we stepped off the plane and landed into the crazy, wonderful and inspirational country. Myanmar boasts an incredible array of things to do: from stepping back in time at Inle Lake to the chaotic royal capital of Yangon to the breathtaking Bagan temple plain, Myanmar remains as one of South East Asia’s hidden gems. Here’s our 10 best places to visit in Myanmar!
1 | Watch the sunrise over the Bagan temple plain
Bagan sunrises are truly breathtaking and, watching the sun light up the Bagan temple plain, is an iconic Myanmar moment. The temples stretch as far as the eye can see, a morning mist rises over the plain, a rainbow coloured sky emerges through the darkness and hot air balloons drift over the horizon.
Where to stay in Bagan
Hotels in Bagan are located across Old and New Bagan and Nyaung-U. Nyaung-U, a mix of boutique hotels and local residents about 3km from the temples, is our favourite.
- ZFreeti Hotel, Nguang-U: we stayed in the Zfreeti, a small hotel with lots of great restaurant options in the surrounding streets and an inviting swimming pool – click here for prices!
- Other good options in Nguang-U include the Sky View Hotel and Hotel Zein
- Aureum Palace Hotel and Resort, Old Bagan: located within the Bagan Archaeological Preservation Zone among the ancient temples this hotel has best views of the Bagan plains – click here for prices!
- Bagan Lodge, New Bagan: If you prefer New Bagan this might be your best option – click here for prices!
2 | Climb the 777 steps of Mount Popa
Mount Popa is a Myanmar postcard sight: a sacred monastery, with stupas glistening gold, perched atop an extinct volcano. 777 steps lead the way to the top of Mount Popa, the headquarters of Myanmar’s most powerful Nats, and the route is lined with monkeys keen to get up to mischief with the tourists in their search for food! Mount Popa is a popular half day trip from Bagan.
3 | Get lost among the thousands of Stupas at Kakku, Inle Lake
One of Myanmar’s most spectacular pagodas, Kakku is a Shan State hidden gem ane of the most incredible things to do at Inle Lake. It is a collection of 2,478 stupas commissioned 2,000 years ago and it is a religious centre for the Pa’O people, a Buddhist tribe from Myanmar. It’s accessible by a half day trip from Inle Lake and, due to local laws, it is required to take the trip with a local guide – check tour prices here!
Where to stay in Inle Lake
A visit to Inle Lake centres around the lake itself and we found staying on the lake itself an unforgettable experience. We highly recommend staying at one of the resorts on the lake, which all offer direct access to the lake from the hotels.
- Inle Princess Hotel: We stayed in the beautiful Inle Princess Resort which is situated on the shores of Inle Lake. The villas are stunning, the food excellent and the views unbeatable – check prices now!
- Myanmar Treasure Resort: A collection of stilted luxury rooms overlooking the lake – check prices now!
- Royal Nyaung Shwe Hotel: an excellent budget friendly option in Nyaung Shwe – check prices now!
4 | Take a sunset boat ride on Inle Lake
Inle Lake is one of the most stunning lakes in the world and the stilt houses and Buddhist temples rising from the marshy reeds only add to its appeal. The best way to experience Inle Lake is to take a ride on one of the slender long tail wooden boats and experiencing the silence and emptiness of the lake is an absolute privilege as is watching local village life while floating by. Inle Lake can certainly hold its own on the sunset front: the beautiful colours of the Myanmar sunset reflect from the glass like lake making for a picture perfect setting.
5 | Be amazed at the sight of hundreds of ancient stupas at Indein, Inle Lake
Hundreds of red, white and brown stupas stand in varying states of disrepair on a hill in Indein, a Myanmar village located at the end of a narrow creek directly off Inle Lake. The journey to Indein is a joy: the twists and turns of the creek took us past farmers, accompanied by water buffalo, tilling the rice paddies and families bathing along the banks.
6 | 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 worshipers. The golden beauty of the Pagoda is breathtaking after darkness falls and it one of the unmissable things to do in Yangon.
Where to stay in Yangon
- Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon: Where we chose to stay during our time in Yangon and we couldn’t recommend it more highly. With a great location close to the lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda this is our favourite hotel in Yangon – check prices now!
- The Novotel Yangon Max and the Loft Hotel are both excellent mid range options in great locations.
- Luxury options include the Belmond Governor’s Residence and the colonial favourite, The Strand, where we enjoyed afternoon cocktails.
7 | Cruise the Irrawaddy River from Bagan to Mandalay
Cruising along the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar’s longest river, brings the promise of a glimpse into life both on its waters and along its banks. Passing rural villages and local fishermen while watching Myanmar daily life unfold along the banks of the river is an authentic and peaceful experience – check boat prices here!
8 | Step back in time at the Shwenandaw Kyaung Monastery, Mandalay
Once part of the Roayl Palace, the Golden Palace Monastery near Mandalay Hill is adorned with spectacular teak carvings of Buddhist myths. It’s completely different from any of the other religious sights in Myanmar and an absolute highlight of Mandalay.
Where to stay in Mandalay
We stayed in central Mandalay which was a great base for exploring the city. The main sights are dotted around Mandalay so staying in a central hotel makes exploring the city much easier.
- Smart Hotel: where we stayed is basic (upgrade to one of the better rooms if you can) but was perfect for exploring the city. It’s a good budget hotel and has a low key rooftop bar/restaurant with traditional puppet shows in the evening – click here for prices!
- The Link 78 Mandalay Boutique Hotel: a boutique hotel in central Mandalay and a perfect base for exploring the city. Enjoy the sunset from the rooftop restaurant – click here for prices!
- Hotel by the Red Canal Mandalay the perfect location for exploring the Golden Palace and Mandalay Hill, with a beautiful pool and spa – click here for prices!
9 | Mahamuni Pagoda, Mandalay
The Mahamuni Pagoda is one of the most significant Buddhist pilgrim sites in Myanmar and houses the Mahamuni Buddha image which is the most highly revered Buddha image in the country. Only men are permitted to enter the inner chamber and place a gold leaf on the Buddha while women watch on.
10 | Watch the sunset over the U Bein Bridge, Mandalay
Stretching over 1 km across the Taungthaman Lake, sunset at the traditional teak U Bein Bridge is one of the most photographed sights in Myanmar and is more than worthy of the accolade. As the sun sets on another Myanmar day the local monks make their way across the bridge returning to their monastery and it makes for an iconic Myanmar scene.