Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been a difficult destination for many years. It is now emerging from decades of a rather repressive military regime with free elections and the normalization of relations with the west. Now is a great time to go!
Where should you go on your trip to Myanmar? While our suggestions aren’t exhaustive, they give you an idea of the discoveries you can make in this often overlooked country.
Yangon: The cultural capital is the starting point for most trips to Myanmar. Visitors shouldn’t miss the the Shwedagon Pagoda, said to have more gold on the stupa than the bank of England has gold in its vaults! A guided visit will give travelers a deeper insight in the Buddhist religion and how the spiritual belief is mixed with the belief in nats – the Myanmar spirits.
Visitors interested in cultural tours can experience the evening as locals do: enjoy drinks in the highest tower of Yangon, walk in the downtown night market, try teas and snacks and have a simple dinner shared with local residents. In the morning get up before dawn to enjoy a visit to markets! Try visiting a busy fish market on the Yangon River and then continue to a vegetable market where you can enjoy a famous Burmese breakfast called Mohinga, a mild fish stew with noodles and crackers. You can also witness monks passing through the streets to collect their alms and donate some food to them. The amazing tours are included in our 8-Day Myanmar Adventure.
Bagan: This plain filled with over 2,000 stupas and temples is perhaps Burma’s most famous site. From the Buldei Pagoda you’ll have amazing views over the entire area. Other areas of Bagan to visit include Anandam, Dhammayangyi and Sulamani. Be sure to enjoy a tour of Bagan by bike to take in the area at a leisurely place to to get off the main tourist path. For a little luxury you can also fly over the plains in a hot air balloon.
Mandalay: Mandalay is the perfect place to dive deeper into Burmese culture. Visits to temples will give you an idea of the Buddhist way of life. You can visit a monastery and make a detour to Mahamuni, an excellent place to shop around for the perfect Buddha statue (bronze or wood). Don’t leave the area without enjoying a day cruise on the Ayeyarwaddy River visiting Mingun and Ava.
Inle Lake: The lake is best known for the famous leg rowers who fish the lake. On a guided tour you can discover its natural beauty, visit floating gardens, and have some tea at a local family’s house. You will also want to visit a local cheroot factory (where the Burmese cigars are made) and a weaving factory as well as traditional markets frequented by Shan and Pao people.
Near Inle enjoy mountainous scenery, the Indein ruins (resembling a “pagoda forest”) and the Phaung Daw Oo pagoda.
Adventure: If you are looking for adventure we recommend trekking in Kalaw to discover rural Myanmar culture. Here you’ll visit a protected forest in an area that has been developed to support sustainable tourism. On a trek you can meet village elders and have the chance to help prepare dinner with the local hill tribe people before sleeping in a village monastery. Cap off a rural experience with a visit to an elephant camp where you can learn more about community projects in the area. You can help feed and wash the elephants and learn some basic commands used by the mahouts. This is a unique and unforgettable experience!