12 Top Sights and Attractions in Myanmar
Myanmar is also known as the “Golden Land”, and rightly so. Its rich history, culture, and natural resources make this country absolutely enchanting. Though, it has endured several decades of imperial and military dictatorships, today, the country is full of many fun and exciting things to do, such as hiking, sunbathing, and exploring temples. Check out Myanmar’s top attractions below.
1. Shwedagon Pagoda
A trip to Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, would be incomplete without a visit to this historic pagoda. The Shwedagon Pagoda is considered the religious center of the country and is one of the most famous in the world. This golden icon can be seen from all over the city. Many clubs and bars provide rooms where you can enjoy the magnificent view of the pagoda.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is a symbol of pride for the Burmese people, and this stately building is almost indescribable. It has four entrances, leading to a staircase, which then leads to the pagoda’s platform. You’ll also find eight planetary posts, one for each day of the week, at this landmark; with Wednesday being divided into two. According to custom, Burmese Buddhists pray at the post which corresponds to their date of birth.
The fascinating archaeological site of Bagan is a must-see during your stay in Myanmar. Bagan is filled with over 2,000 temples that rise out of the forests into the clouds. The best thing to do here is to explore the numerous brick buildings while taking in the panoramic view of the Arakan Mountains.
A hike to the jagged peaks also give you another breathtaking view of the historic, royal city from above. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can even take a hot-air balloon ride over the temples and admire this sacred place from the sky.
Thanks to the growing appreciation for Myanmar’s eastern mountains, the town of Kalaw is becoming an increasingly popular destination for hikers and adventurers. Located on the ridges of the Shan Mountains with a pleasant climate, this town was used as a health resort during the British colonial period. British soldiers would come to this plateau town for a break from the heat of the Asian plains.
When you visit this charming town, you will be enchanted by the markets, pagodas, temples, and cozy guesthouses. The city is a popular starting point for hikes to the Pindaya Caves, Inle Lake, and more.
In northern Myanmar, on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, you will find this former royal capital. When you’re there, be sure to visit the Shwenandaw Monastery that is covered in gold. The Buddhist temple is a popular hotspot for travelers and has even inspired poetry by famous writers such as Rudyard Kipling.
Mandalay is also the perfect place if you want to learn more about the history and culture of Myanmar. Other sights here include the Kuthodaw Pagoda with its “marble-ous” inscriptions and the Konbaung Dynasty Royal Palace. You can also use a staircase to reach the top of the nearby hill and get a full-picture view of the city.
5. Kyaiktiyo (The Golden Rock)
Just a short trip east of Yangon lies one of the nation’s most revered Buddhist relics, the Golden Rock. This granite mass is crowned by the golden Kyaiktiyo pagoda on its top and is located on a ledge where it seems to defy gravity; according to locals, it is only hanging on by two of Buddha’s hairs. Appropriately named, the name Kyaiktiyo means “stupa on the hermit’s head.” Male pilgrims are allowed to climb the 1,102-meter cliff to admire the pagoda up close or even meditate there if they’d like.
There are also many other temples, smaller shrines, and Buddhist sites nearby for you to explore. This top attraction in Myanmar is best visited when the granite rock glows golden under the evening sun.
6. Inle Lake
One of the top things to do on your trip is to take a boat ride on Inle Lake. On your way, you’ll see the heart of rural Myanmar and feel like you’ve gone back in time. Enjoy the creaking of the carved canoes as you glide across the water. This experience is further transformed by the farming methods of the locals, as you will pass by lush gardens growing straight out of the water.
There are also many religious sites along the shore that you can visit. For example, the shrine of Phaung Daw Oo Paya with its golden statues, or the Kyaung Daw and Shwe Inn Dein pagodas. If delicious local cuisine speaks to your stomach, then you’ll have to give it a try while you’re here.
7. Ngapali Beach
This is a particularly popular spot in Myanmar on the Bay of Bengal. The city of Ngapali is located directly on the turquoise sea and is hugged by huge palm trees. This is the perfect place to try the local seafood during your visit and to have a relaxing day on the beach.
You can also try one of the many water sports offered here. The water is great for water-skiing, diving, jet skiing or kayaking. A huge bonus for the city, is that it has its own airport, which is easily accessible from the capital, Naypyidaw.
This huge city has a relaxing atmosphere and is the perfect place if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of other Burmese metropolises like Yangon and Naypyidaw. Mawlamyine is in the Mon State at the mouth of the Saluen River and near the Thai border. It offers a unique cultural experience that you won’t find elsewhere in Myanmar.
There are many cultural attractions to explore, such as Mahamuni Paya Temple or the Uzina Paya Pagoda. You should also head to the city’s central market to buy delicious fruits and other great finds. Or, take a boat trip to the so-called Shampoo Island, which is home to many colorful Buddhist shrines.
9. The Mergui Archipelago
At the southernmost tip of the country, you will find the Mergui Archipelago in the Andaman Sea. Also known as the Myeik Archipelago, or Pashu Islands, the area is largely untouched and consists of over 800 islands with a diversity of plants and animals. Without a doubt, this is the best place to come if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet.
Secluded beaches and wild mangroves with their macaques make for a scene that will feel dreamlike and surreal. Some of the best things to do here include visiting the Lampi Island National Park or sailing and other water sports.
Ngwesaung is in a prime location right on the Bay of Bengal. This area is quickly becoming the beach destination in Myanmar for both travelers and locals. That’s why in this small fishing town you can find five-star resort hotels. So, if your wallet is ready, you can stay right along the 15 km of sandy beach.
There are also many restaurants in the city where you can try delicious Southeast Asian seafood. Another highlight here is the Lover Island. You can walk to this islet at low tide or take a boat to the nearby Bird Islands and snorkel there. If you’re looking for some time away from the water, there are also beautiful coconut plantations to marvel at.
Mrauk-U is an archaeological gem hidden among the misty hills of the Rakhine State and is a perfect alternative to the popular Bagan. East of the Kaladan River, you can see the city’s magnificent stupas and temple spires – this is a particularly fantastic sight under the morning haze. Many of the Buddhist temples here are also well-preserved and are ready for you to explore!
Founded in 1430, Mrauk-U was the capital of the last Arakan Kingdom. It grew into a powerful trading center during the Middle Ages before falling in 1785. That’s why, even today, numerous trading boats from India and Europe still float in the bay. This is truly a sight worth seeing on your travels through this city.
The capital of Myanmar also offers unique sights that you won’t find anywhere else. It is a grid of huge palaces and government buildings, as well as nationalist monuments, that make for an interesting visit.
You should also visit the parliamentary complexes and the golden Uppatasanti Pagoda in the city. The latter is a replica of Rangoon’s stunning Shwedagon Pagoda and is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks. If you’re looking for a more relaxing atmosphere amongst the city streets, there are many parks and lakes to spend your time.
Myanmar may still be overshadowed by its famous neighbors for travelers, but if you give this country a chance, it will offer you a lot for a fantastic trip with its top attractions. Between archaeological sites, picturesque mountain villages, former royal cities, and golden beaches, it’s the perfect bundle. So, grab your backpack and let’s go!