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Top 10 Things to Do in Myanmar

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An enchanting Asian country that opened up late, Myanmar is a culturally thriving destination with well-preserved ancient charms and mystic vibes. It is home to countless gilded pagodas and temples, and ethereal archaeological ruins. Its diverse and distinctive culture is a big draw for worldwide tourists. Beyond brilliant cultural experiences and time-honored heritages, Myanmar also offers stunning landscapes and excellent pristine beaches that make for a laid-back getaway and breathtaking photos.

To inspire your Myanmar travel planning, here we covered the top 10 things to do in Myanmar.

1. Visit the Most Sacred and Glittering Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

No matter your duration in Myanmar, Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, as an iconic landmark and pride for Myanmar people, is a can’t-miss. This massive stupa is over 100 meters high, coated with hundreds of gold plates, and decorated with 5448 diamonds and 3217 rubies, with a 76-carat diamond on the very top. Around the principal monument, you can also see a forest of subsidiary shrines which are also glittering.

It’s recommended to visit the pagoda on sunny days (especially at sunset) when the pagoda shrines are sparkling under the sunlight and lights. Known as the most sacred pagoda in Myanmar and even Asia, Shwedagon Pagoda sees flocks of pilgrims who come to pray for success and good luck.

Ticket Price: around 8,000 kyats (US$6)

Opening Hours: 04:00 – 22:00 (seven days a week)

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Shwedagon Pagoda

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2. Admire the Bagan Plain and Thousands of Temples from a Hot-air Balloon Ride

A top tourist destination in Myanmar, Bagan is a heritage paradise packed with eye-catching ruins of religious sites. Over 1,0000 Buddhist temples and pagodas were built in the Bagan Plain along the banks of the Irrawaddy River from the 11th – 13th centuries (the heyday of Pagan), and over 2,000 of them are still retained to this day.  

Riding a hot-air balloon at sunrise to catch the otherworldly view of the temples and Bagan Plain is a highlighted experience in Myanmar. It will be a lifetime experience as you fly serenely across the skyline and observe the fabulous scenery of the temple group and Bagan plain from above.

Good to know:

The flights are guided by professional ballooning companies, with each balloon accompanied by an experienced pilot.

Bagan hot air balloon ride
Hot-air Balloon Ride

3. Walk on U-Bein Bridge at Sunset

U Bein Bridge in Amarapura (outside Mandalay City) is the longest and oldest wooden bridge in the world, with a length of 1.2 kilometers. It is now the center of a local community, where you can get closer to nature and local life.

The bridge is extremely breathtaking during the sunset as the sky changes color and the magnificent orange or violet sunset is reflected on the surface of the lake. Don’t forget to carry your camera to catch great photos. You can also hop on a small boat to catch the stunning sunset scenery over the water.

Mandalay U Bein Bridge sunset
U-Bein Bridge

4. Take a Boat Ride on Inle Lake and See Traditional Fishermen

Nestled among the Shan Hills, Inle Lake is a top popular attraction in Myanmar thanks to its picturesque scenery, the unique lifestyle of local ethnic groups, and great views of golden temples.

Hopping on a long-tail wooden boat is the best way to explore the essence of the lake and encounter the local daily life close up. You will paddle through rustic stilt houses, and thriving floating gardens, and encounter local fishermen fishing in the traditional way: with one leg standing on the boat, the other leg rowing the boat and dipping the fishnet into the water.

You’d better tour this area at sunrise or sunset when it is at the most beautiful moment.

Inle Lake fishermen's remarkable fishing technique
Inle Lake fishermen's remarkable fishing technique

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5. Get Lost among Over 1600 Ancient Stupas in Indein

A small village on the west of Inle Lake, Indein is home to the Shwe Indein Pagoda which houses over 1600 ancient stupas of the 16th century. On the way to Indein, you will flow through the narrow waterways that lead you into local people’s unique stilt houses and floating gardens, and encounter many local boatmen.

When you reach Indein, you’ll be wowed by the countless stupas of different colors standing in rows. You can walk among the red, white, and brown stupas to observe their exquisite details. If you are keen on this kind of destination, you can also make a trip to the nearby Kakku after visiting Indein. Both of these two places offer great photography opportunities.

Ancient stupas in Indein Village
Ancient stupas in Indein Village

6. Cruise the Irrawaddy River: from Mandalay to Bagan

The Irrawaddy River is the principal river of Myanmar that bisects the country from north to south. Stretching about 1,350 miles (2,170 km), this important waterway provides an awesome cruise experience with ever-changing yet timeless landscapes, riverside villages, lesser-known gems, and many iconic attractions of the country.

Mandalay to Bagan is the most scenic section of the Irrawaddy River, and a cruise between the two destinations is the most popular for tourists, which will reward you with a leisurely 3-4 days break filled with natural and cultural wonders.

Irrawaddy River Cruise
Irrawaddy River Cruise

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7. Feast Your Stomach with Traditional Myanmar Food

Myanmar food is an important part of Burmese life and culture. Local people pay more attention to the cooking procedure rather than ingredients, and most meals are dominated by fish products, noodles, seafood, and rice. Usually, the dishes are served with a host of accompaniments, having at least three of the five tastes.

The must-try dishes in Myanmar include Shan Noodles (combining thin noodles and marinated chicken or pork), Burmese Pancakes, Mohinga (a breakfast dish with slender rice noodles, fish soup, and boiled egg), Nan Gyi Thoke (a kind of warm salad with rice noodles, chicken or beef curry).

Myanmar Food - Tea Leaf Salad
cai rang floarting market

8. Enjoy Leisure Time on Ngapali Beach

Located in North East part of Myanmar, Ngapali Beach is a lesser-known beach that sees far fewer tourists than most Southeast Asian beaches. In 2018, this untouched beach was ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the world by TripAdvisor.

Besides the intriguing white sandy beaches, visitors can also expect many thrilling activities here. Water activity lovers can hop on a sightseeing boat to Perl Island to enjoy swimming and snorkeling. The fisher village – Jaketaw on the southern end of the beach is where to glimpse into the local bustling fishing life. The balloon ride is also available here allowing visitors to enjoy the sea from above.

Beautiful sunset of Ngapali Beach
Ngapali Beach

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9. Visit Mingun Pahtodawgyi - the World’s Largest Unfinished Pagoda

The Mingun Pahtodawgyi is the largest unfinished pagoda and the largest brick building in the world. It was initially constructed by King Bodawpaya in 1791 to house relics of the Buddha, and was planned to stand 490 feet (149 m). However, in the process of construction, there was a prophecy that the country would be lost at the temple’s completion. The superstitious King thus slowed down its construction and then abandon it, leaving the temple never completed and finally standing 164 feet (50 m). Visitors can climb up the temple to admire the surrounding amazing views.

Near the pagoda, visitors will see the Mingun Bell, the second-largest working bell in the world.

Mingun Pahtodawgyi in Mandalay
Mingun Pahtodawgyi in Mandalay

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10. Trek in Kalaw

Myanmar trekking is popular among tourists for offering a good opportunity to explore some untouched parts of the country. Among the many trekking routes in Myanmar, the Kalaw to Inle Lake section is the most popular one among tourists since it can be easily added to any trips from Bagan to Inle Lake. The Kalaw-Inle Lake trek lasts 2-3 days, covering rolling hills, thriving plantations, local hill tribes and villages, and will offer you a chance to glimpse into local ethnic culture along the way.

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