After international sanctions were lifted in 2012, Myanmar has been put to the top of travel destination lists and it has quickly become the hot new place to visit. Closed off to the world for centuries, this is a fascinating country, which is as warm and welcoming as the ruling military junta were harsh and oppressive.
Yangon: This ex-capital is a wonderful juxtaposition of modern life and Myanmar’s colonial past. The colonial buildings abound, particularly along the Strand Road, and the Strand Hotel is not to be missed – even if it’s just for a cocktail at Friday night’s happy hour. Don’t miss a visit to the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in the country.
Inle Lake: From the Intha’s unique style of fishing to their floating markets and stilt houses, Myanmar’s second largest lake is worth a visit.
Hsipaw: This is a small rural town with a far richer history. This was one of the most powerful towns in the Shan State and the best place to find out more is at the Shan Palace.
Pyin-Oo-Lwin: The British hill station is now a busy town on the road between China and Mandalay, but remnants of this romantic getaway can still be found. Beautiful Tudor buildings and the botanical gardens can be seen from a ride on an old stagecoach.
Mandalay: This city was devastated by WW2 and has since been reinvented by the Chinese, yet it offers so much to visitors that it is trying to reinvent itself as the cultural capital of Myanmar.
Chin State: Recently opened up to tourists, this is a tough destination to travel to, but any visitor is rewarded with great scenery and incredible people. The tattooed women whose faces illustrate a tradition going back to the 5th century represent a changing culture.
Bagan: was once capital of the Kingdom that fully integrated Buddhism into the country. Myanmar now has the highest proportion of Buddhist monks in any Buddhist country. This unique landscape sprinkled with thousands of temples and stupas is often the highlight of a trip to Myanmar.
Rakhine State: Ngapali Beach is the main draw for tourists to this State, not least because religious wars have left most of the state hostile. If you have the time & the area is safe, a boat ride to Sittwe and journey to Mrauk-U is unmissable. If you thought Bagan was impressive…
Myanmar Kyat (MMK)
Although the country has officially changed its name from ‘Burma’ to the ‘Union of Myanmar’, the national language in is still called Burmese.
Around 59 million
When to visit:
November through to April are the most popular months to visit. The monsoon season has just ended, the skies are clear and there are festivals throughout the country. The weather gradually starts heating up until it reaches around 40 degrees Celsius in April.
What To Wear:
80% of the population here is Buddhist and for women it is still very important to respect their dress code. When visiting religious sites always remember to cover your shoulders and legs. Everyone should be aware that there is a strict ‘shoes off’ policy in these locations too, so be prepared to keep taking your shoes off.
Don’t Forget to Buy:
Pottery from the Delta Region near Yangon
Puppets can be bought all over Myanmar, but the best place to buy them is from Mandalay Marionettes, after watching a performance.
The main way to reach Myanmar is by air – into the previous capital, Yangon. However there are now land crossings from China and Thailand, just ensure you have the correct visas and permissions before travel.
The main way to get around the country is by road, but visitors are not allowed to rent their own vehicle. Travelling by bus is the most economical financially, but with many journeys taking 8-10 hours this isn’t necessarily the best use of time.
Railways are a difficult transport to manoeuvre around. They are by far the cheapest way to travel and a great way to meet some of the locals, but if you choose this method, comfort shouldn’t be your top priority. The other thing to note is that these rail links are all government owned, so while the amount of money you’re spending is minimal, the government receives all of it.
In Yangon, the circular railway is an interesting way to spend half a day and if you don’t have time for some real adventuring in the country, it’s a great way to feel like you’ve got off the beaten track.
Flying between destinations is surprisingly easy. Tickets won’t yet break the bank, but the money does go into the hands of the government, or (in the case of Air Bagan) Tay Za.
Festivals & Events
Festivals & Events
1. Naga New Year (Layshi). JANUARY
2. New Year, Thingyan Water Festival (throughout the country). APRIL
3. Monk novitiation ceremony (throughout the country). MARCH & APRIL
4. Moken/ Salon festival (Mergui Archipelago). MAY
5. Hot Air Balloon Festival (Taunggyi). NOVEMBER
6. Golden Rock, 9000 Lights Festival (Kyaiktiyo). DECEMBER
7. Shwedagon Festival (Yangon). FEBRUARY
8. Ananda Pagoda Festival (Bagan). JANUARY
Must Sees & Do's
BAGAN: The plain of Buddhist temples
SHWEDAGON PAGODA, YANGON: This glittering pagoda is Myanmar’s most revered temple.
SHAN PALACE, HSIPAW: Best place to visit to find out about the history of this small, but Royal town.
MOUSTACHE BROTHERS, MANDALAY: Love it or hate it, you can’t knock the Moustache Brothers for their bravery in continuing their political satire show despite it still being illegal.
CHIN HILLS: Visit Mt. Victoria and the tattooed Chin ladies
INLE LAKE: Great place to meet some of the hill tribes of the Shan State & the famous Intha fishermen.
PUTAO: Hiking in the Himalayas is the reason most people come here. Check that no restrictions apply.
NGAPALI: This is the country’s most developed beach destination & its picture postcard scenery really is stunning.
KYAIKTIYO: Golden Rock Pagoda. A feat of nature recognised by the Buddhist population.
MERGUI ARCHIPELAGO: It may involve three flights from Yangon, or two flights from Mwalymine, but this stretch of stunning coastline has 800 islands. It can also be reached from Ranong in Thailand with a special permit.
Where to Sleep
The Strand Hotel, Yangon
Built by the legendary Sarkies brothers and recently renovated, the Strand Hotel still epitomises British Burma.
The Hotel by the Red Canal, Mandalay
A gorgeous hotel
Laguna Lodge, Ngapali
This is a fantastic guesthouse on a stunning coastline. It really is the picture postcard beach that every traveller wants at the end of an adventure and the people who run this lodge are extremely welcoming. A perfect retreat.
Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort, Inle Lake
Lily’s Guesthouse, Hsipaw
Lily’s is the perfect home for travellers to Hsipaw. It’s basic, yet comfortable and from the moment you arrive, the welcome you receive will
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