Myanmar is quite the hidden gem of a country, and hasn’t yet been overrun with tourists. Still untouched and authentic, Myanmar is a true wonder and an off-the-beaten path destination, waiting to be explored. With incredible sights to offer, the friendliest people on earth and a tasty cuisine, Myanmar is a curse. Because once you visit Myanmar, you’ll fall head over heels in love with it and already start planning your next visit.
There are so many beautiful places to visit and I’ve managed to see quite a few in my one-month backpacking trip around the country. I’ve been from north to south and from east to west and the places that truly stuck to my heart are the ones below.
Here are 10 Awesome Things To Do in Myanmar:
1. Admire the balancing fishermen at Inle Lake
Myanmar is well known for its natural beauty. The country has pristine beaches, valleys full of temples, majestic mountains and fascinating lakes. Inle lake is one of those places where you will find peace. It’s surrounded by mountains and if you’re traveling off-season there are almost no tourists around. (score!)
The best thing you can do at Inle lake is to take a boat trip. Visit the long-neck women, admire the floating tomato gardens, explore the floating villages, buy some fresh vegetables from the Five Day Market and visit the incredible Inn Dein Pagoda. These are just some of the things you can do at Inle Lake.
Inle Lake boat trip price: 18.000 Kyats ($12) per day
2. Visit the biggest reclining Buddha in the world in Mawlamyine
When you think you’ve seen it all, book a flight to Myanmar and head to Win Sein Taw Ya, the biggest reclining Buddha in the world. The statue is 180 meters long and 30 meters high and it sits on a hill near Mawlamyine. This statue is a must see for those who are passionate about culture, religion and quirky things.
You can even go inside the statue and reach a terrace situated near the statue’s ear. You’ll find many other statues and 500 real-sized stone monks on the grounds near the reclining Buddha. Even though Win Sein Taw Ya is not yet finished, seeing it should definitely be on your travel bucket list.
Win Sein Taw Ya TIPS:
- To reach Mawlamyine you can take a local bus from Hpa An. From the Mawlamyine bus station take a tuk tuk to the statue (35,000 Kyats both ways)
- There is no entrance fee to Win Sein Taw Ya. Donations are welcome.
3. Visit the temple caves of Hpa An
Hpa An is an emerging tourist destination in Myanmar and a great place to escape the hustle & bustle of big cities for a few days. It’s the perfect place for those who like to travel at a slower pace. Rent a tuk tuk for one day and explore all that Hpa An has to offer. From endless rice fields, majestic mountains and beautiful temples, Hpa An has something for everyone.
However, my favorite activity was visiting the temple caves. There are many caves around Hpa An and most of them have been transformed in temples. With sculptures embedded into the caves’ walls, the sights are fascinating. My favorite cave was the Kawgun Cave. There were thousands of Buddha statues scattered around the temple so don’t miss it if you’re ever in the area.
Hpa An Cave tips:
- Renting a tuk tuk for one day costs around 35,000 Kyat ($23)
- Before entering any temple or cave, make sure to take your shoes off
4. Admire the Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
I’ve been to hundreds of temples around Asia but Shwedagon Pagoda is hands down the most beautiful and impressive one. Once you set foot inside this temple, you’ll be amazed by hundreds if not thousands of golden, pointy rooftops. There are hundreds of shrines and smaller temples inside, each one having its own story to tell.
Apart from its impressive architecture, there are a few things that makes Shwedagon Pagoda unique. The main stupa measures 99 meters in height and is entirely covered in gold, real gold. The estimated quantity of gold used is between 9 and 60 tonnes but this is not all. The top of the pagoda is decorated with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies and at the very top sits a 76 karat (15 grams) diamond.
Wandering between so much richness and beauty is truly an incredible experience.
Shwedagon Pagoda tips:
- It is customary to walk clockwise when visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda
- You’ll have to dress conservatively – take your shoes off, cover your knees and shoulders
Shwedagon Pagoda entrance fee: $6.5
Shwedagon Pagoda opening hours: 4 am – 10 pm
5. Take a ride on the Circular Train in Yangon
There is no better way to really experience the Burmese culture than taking a ride in the Circular Train in Yangon. Probably one of the cheapest trains in the world (only $0.13), the circular train will take you through local neighborhoods, villages and markets. Be prepared for a once in a lifetime experience.
As the train will make its way through Yangon and its suburbs, local vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables and local dishes will come through the wagons. For three and a half hours you will be a part of the local community. You will see kids going to school, housewives doing their groceries and people going back home from work. The Yangon Circular Train is a delight for the senses.
Circular Train tips:
- The train ride takes three and half hours
- Bring some water with you
Circular Train price: $0.13
Circular Train operating hours: 6.10 am – 5.10 pm (the trains run every half an hour)
6. Get lost between the temples of Bagan
Once upon a time there used to be over 10,000 temples in Bagan. However, due to the passing of time and some major earthquakes, nowadays there are only about 2,000 left. After spending three days exploring the temples of Bagan, I visited dozens of them but only a few stuck to my memory.
Ananda Temple looks like it’s part of a fairytale, the Dhammayan Gyi Temple looks like a pyramid and the Taung Guni Temple’s architecture is fascinating. There are many more beautiful temples and stupas but visiting all of them would take months.
Bagan Temple Tips:
- When visiting any temple, you will have to dress conservatively and take your shoes off
- You can rent an e-bike for 6,000 Kyat ($4)/ day to explore the temples
- Climbing on top of the temples is not allowed anymore
Bagan entrance fee: 25,000 Kyat
7. Climb to Mount Popa
Mount Popa is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Myanmar. Sitting on an extinct volcano, you’ll have to be pretty brave to climb to the top. There are “only” 777 stairs waiting ahead and a few monkeys eager to make some new friends. However, once you get to the top you will be rewarded with some of the most incredible views over the surrounding area.
Although it’s a challenging climb, Mount Popa is one of the most important tourist attractions in Myanmar and a great way to explore the Burmese culture.
Mount Popa Tips:
- To avoid the unwanted attention of monkeys, don’t bring any food with you
- You can rent a car with a driver from Bagan to Mount Popa
Mount Popa entrance fee: $5
Mount Popa opening hours: 8 am – 5 pm
8. Visit the incredible Hsinbyume Pagoda
This famous white temple in Mandalay is becoming an Instagram sensation. The Hsinbyume Pagoda’s beauty cannot pass unnoticed. When I first saw it I couldn’t help to think that this is the most beautiful temple I had ever seen. Its round shape, the terraces that looked like waves and the pointy roof heading to the sky make this place seem out of this world.
Behind this temple’s beauty there is a sad love story. The pagoda was built by the Bagydaw prince as a way to show his love for his wife, Queen Hsinbyume. The queen unfortunately died during childbirth. Although the story of Hsinbyume Pagoda is sad, I felt incredibly happy and lucky to visit it.
Hsinbyume Pagoda Tips:
- To get to this pagoda, you will have to wake up early in the morning and take the boat from Mandalay to Mingun
- There is no entrance fee for visiting this temple
9. Walk on the longest teakwood bridge in Mandalay
U Bein Bridge is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mandalay. This 1,2 kilometer-long bridge is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. Built around the year 1850, a walk across this bridge at sunset offers some jaw-dropping views. Be prepared to bump into hundreds of locals crossing the lake from one side to another.
For the best perspective over U Bein Bridge you’ll have to rent a boat. Don’t forget your camera home as the views are simply stunning!
U Bein Bridge Tips:
- Make sure to also visit the nearby Taung Mingyi Pagoda
- You can use the Grab App to get to the temple from Mandalay
- There is no entrance fee
10. Visit the famous Golden Rock
One of the most beautiful temples in Myanmar is the Golden Rock, also known as the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. This rock covered in gold leaves seems to defy gravity. Legend says that the Golden Rock is precariously perched on a strand of Buddha’s hair.
The Golden Rock is situated on the top of a mountain, somewhere between Yangon and Hpa An and it offers some of the most incredible views in Myanmar. It is an important pilgrimage site and a great way to learn more about Buddhism.
Golden Rock Tips:
- The Golden Rock is only accessible by large trucks with benches fitted in the back. If you get car sick, it might not be a great idea to visit it
Golden Rock entrance fee: $6
Golden Rock opening hours: 24/7
I hope these 10 awesome things to do in Myanmar has inspired you to add this magical country to your bucket list!