Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is generally known to the general public as a country dominated by conflict, which has tragically accounted for much of the country’s recent history. Despite this, Myanmar is a country with a rich and extensive history spanning millennia and also known for its stunning natural beauty.
One of Myanmar’s most iconic landmarks, the Shwedagon Pagoda is located in the city of Yangon. Otherwise known as the ‘Great Dragon Pagoda’, Shwedagon is the country’s most sacred Buddhist site, believed to house important religious relics. It is known for its striking golden exterior and major cultural significance. It is believed to have been built at some point between the 6th and 10th Centuries, although an exact date is unknown. One of the definitive symbols of Myanmar, it is arguably the country’s most recognisable landmark.
One of the world’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites, the Kyaktiyo Pagoda is located in the Mon State region of the country. Nicknamed the ‘Golden Rock’, the shrine was, according to canon, hanging from a strand of the Buddha’s hair. A balancing rock, it is a true sight to behold and it give s the appearance of defying gravitational logic. While it is one of the most spectacular and culturally significant Buddhist sites in the country, women are not permitted to visit.
One of the most scenic destinations in Myanmar, this freshwater lake is the second-largest in the country and is known for its natural beauty and incredible biodiversity. It boasts a wealth of species endemic to the region, which makes it a major draw for tourists. The lake is the centre-piece of a number of major festivals, including the Hpaung Daw U Festival, held at the nearby Pagoda. The lake is known for its unique cuisine, which makes use of the local ingredients that cannot be found elsewhere.
A volcano and major Buddhist pilgrimage site, Mount Popa is situated in the region of Mandalay. Often cited as a Buddhist analogue to the Greek Mount Olympus, Mount Popa is rife with legend. Many Buddhists believe the mountain to be associated with Nats, spirits worshipped in the Buddhist religion. Due to its natural beauty and cultural significance, Mount Popa is well worth seeking out.
Dating back to the end of the 16th Century, Bagaya Kyaung is a Buddhist monastery and one of the most significant in the country. Located in the small town of Inwa, it is known for its distinct and decrepit physical appearance, the monastery still functions today despite superficial damage.
One of Myanmar’s most spectacular sites, the Ananda Temple dates back nearly 1000 years, having been built in 1105. It is amongst the holiest and most culturally significant sites in the entire country. Known for its distinct architectural style, which combines Indian and Mon influences, it it one of the most visually striking buildings in the country. It is also well-known for the Buddha statues and stone relics that it houses.
Otherwise known as the ‘Shrine of the 80,000 Images’, this is one of the most dense and complex temples in the country. It is best known for its centre-piece-the Shittaung Pillar, a sandstone monolith measuring up to 10 feet tall. One of the lesser-known temple complexes, it is well-worth seeking out.
One of the most spectacular natural sights in the country, the Saddan Cave is known for its immense size and wealth of Buddha statues. One of the most unique travellers’ destinations in Myanmar, it is well-worth seeing, combining cultural activity with natural beauty. A word of advice to travellers-the cave is best accessible during the dry season.
National Kandawgyi Gardens
In the mountain town of Pain U Lwin are the National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens, one of the most beautiful and serene sights in the country. Established by Briton Alex Rogers in 1915, the gardens are modelled after Kew Gardens in London. In addition to the wealth of flora on display, the gardens are also home to a number of museums, including the Fossils Museum.
One of Myanmar’s most significant Buddhist pilgrimage sites, Mandalay Hill is known for its wealth of monasteries and pagodas. Also known for the arduous climb to the summit, it is a site of enormous cultural significance to the country’s Buddhist population. Notable religious sites include the Sandamuni Pagoda and the Kuthodaw Pagoda. The site offers stunning panoramic views of the region below.