Planning a trip to Myanmar and wondering what sights are not to be missed? From archaeological wonders to pristine palm-lined beaches, panoramic viewpoints to colossal caves and serene lakes, there are plenty of reasons to visit Myanmar. We’ve profiled the top 10 tourist attractions in Myanmar, one of Asia’s fastest emerging destinations.
This gravity-defying golden boulder is one of Myanmar’s holiest sites, with every Burmese Buddhist aiming to make the pilgrimage to the sacred summit of Mt. Kyaiktiyo at least once. Golden Rock is perched precariously on the precipice of a mountain outcrop overlooking a deep gorge that plummets more than a thousand feet to the valley floor below. Legend has it that this gigantic rock is secured only by one of Buddha’s hairs and its mystical aura is known to regularly convert visitors. The views and atmosphere of the site are unforgettable and well worth the five-hour drive south of Yangon.
The mesmerising U Bein Bridge, found in Amarapura near Mandalay, is one of the country’s most iconic and photographed sights. Constructed around 1850 entirely out of teak and spanning 1.2 kilometres it is the oldest and longest bridge of its type in the world. Strolling its rickety walkways is a real experience as the bridge attracts hundreds of people throughout the day, from fishermen to tourists, hawkers to monks, serving as a bustling hub for the local community. Plan your visit for sunset to capture the perfect silhouette of this unique bridge against a blazing orange sky.
Situated on the Bay of Bengal in the far west of the country, Ngapali is Myanmar’s best-known beach spot and a real draw for those in search of the perfect place to wind down during their travels. Expect miles of soft white sand, tall coconut palms and calm turquoise waters that are ideal for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. The beach is backed by picturesque thatched huts, a few water sports outfitters and some fantastic seafood eateries.
One of Myanmar’s most important archaeological sites (second only to Bagan), the remains at Mrauk U stand testament to the mighty Arakan Empire that once ruled this land. You’ll find over 700 pagodas and temples, predominantly made from stone, and dispersed amongst a still-inhabited rural backdrop of farmer’s fields and small villages. This site receives comparatively few visitors, largely because the only access is via a lengthy river journey, which only adds to the sense of awe and adventure.
Besides the beautiful mountains, lakes and temples that characterize this region, Hpa-An is home to some of Myanmar’s most impressive caves. Dozens of ancient limestone caves dot the landscape, serving as natural Buddhist temple shrines filled with stunning statues, pagodas and wall carvings. Be sure not to miss the gigantic Sadan Cave, where you can explore towering chambers complete with Buddhas, huge stalactites, walls of crystals, flocks of bats and even a hidden internal lake.
Flowing from the Himalayas to the Andaman Sea, this is Myanmar’s longest and most significant river. It passes many of the country’s major sites, including Bagan and Yangon and is fast developing as a popular river cruising destination. Travelers gain unparalleled insight into the heart of the country, passing small rural villages, fishing communities, pagodas, temples and colorful markets. Cruise past areas of serene natural beauty and witness some fantastic wildlife en route. Enjoy comfortable stylish surrounds, fantastic amenities and gourmet cuisine, and all without the hassles involved in independent overland travel.
This scenic freshwater lake in eastern Shan state is one of Myanmar’s greatest natural treasures. It’s a peaceful destination to come to relax, admire stilted houses, floating vegetable gardens, ancient stupas and monasteries, and simply watch the local fishermen and farmers go about their daily lives. Renting a canoe will enable you to tour some of the lake’s most interesting features and settlements. Inle lake is also surrounded by a mountainous landscape that makes it one of the country’s premier hiking spots. The route between Kalaw and Inle Lake is particularly popular, passing picturesque stilted villages and spectacular viewpoints.
Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, is brimming with fascinating sights, and none more awe-inspiring than the gold-clad Shwedagon Pagoda – one of Asia’s most impressive Buddhist monuments and important Myanmar destination. Nestled right in the heart of the city, this 2,500 year old stupa is adorned with 27 metric tons of gold leaf, along with thousands of gleaming diamonds that make it almost blinding in the sunlight. The interior is minimalistic and eerily quiet, providing a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Yangon’s streets.
Most visitors to Myanmar’s former capital head straight for the iconic Mandalay palace, and rightly so. But don’t miss the chance to gain a breath-taking bird’s eye perspective over the city and its surrounding landscape from the 760 ft. Mandalay Hill. The walk up covered stairways, passing an abundance of beautiful shrines along the way, is an experience in itself and takes about half an hour. Up top, admire panoramic view over Mandalay, including the glistening Irrawaddy River snaking along the plain and the mist-shrouded green hills on the horizon. Be sure to make your way up for sunset for the best atmosphere.
Myanmar’s premier tourist attraction is undoubtedly the sublime medieval city of Bagan, home to more than 2,000 temples, pagodas and stupas that span the vast plains just east of the Irrawaddy River. Explore on foot or rent a bicycle or cattle cart to visit the highlights, including the famous Ananda temple with its glistening golden spires. Or venture off the beaten path and you never know what you might discover amongst the sprawling remains. For a truly memorable experience, take a hot air balloon ride over Bagan at sunrise and gain a breath-taking perspective over the sheer scale of this ancient city.
*Images of Golden Rock, Ngapali Beach, Mrauk U, Shwedagon Pagoda, Mandalay Hill are all courtesy of Wikipedia. Image of Hpa-An is courtesy of Trip Advisor.
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