From breathtaking Buddhist architecture to picturesque water communities, Myanmar gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy great beauty as well as rich history and culture. To help you plan your journey through this up-and-coming tourist destination, here are 9 must-see attractions in Myanmar.
Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon — Sacred Golden Shrine
One of the most sacred religious sites in Myanmar, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a breathtaking 2,500-year-old monument. Standing 325 feet tall, it is the defining feature of Yangon city’s skyline. The pagoda itself is plated with 21,841 gold bars and encrusted with over 5,000 diamonds, making it glimmer in the sunlight.
The evening is possibly the best time to visit the pagoda in order to see it with the sunset in the background and to witness local people saying their sunset prayers.
Shwenandaw Monastery in Mandalay — Teak-Carved Marvel
Shwenandaw Monastery is made of traditional royal teak and was originally part of the royal palace before it was moved to Mandalay to become a monastery. Although it is no longer plated with gold, the monastery is still a repository of teak-carved masterpieces, which adorn the walls and ceiling.
There are carvings of many objects, including animals, mythical creatures, dancers and flowers. Each carving showcases incredible craftsmanship, with intricate detail and beauty. The monastery is a great example of traditional Burmese architecture and wood-carver’s art.
Kuthodaw Pagoda and the World"s Largest Book in Mandalay — Marble Book of the Buddha’s Teachings
Built in 1859, this gilded pagoda is surrounded by hundreds of shrines containing “the world’s largest book”. Taking 8 years to complete, the pagoda was built as a gift for future generations and contains the teachings of Buddha.
The “book” consists of 730 marble tablets placed in shrines surrounding the golden pagoda. Visually stunning and an important cultural heritage, the Kuthodaw Pagoda attracts tourists and scholars alike.
U-Bein Bridge in Amarapura — Bridge Over Sunset Waters
At 1.2 kilometers in length, U-Bein Bridge is the longest teak bridge in the world; and it is also the oldest. Built with teak salvaged from the ruins of the former palace, U-Bein Bridge has become increasingly admired for its picturesque beauty.
At sunset, you can observe the bridge and the local people using it silhouetted against the sky. It is a beautiful scene of everyday life that visitors will enjoy. A good way to take in the view is to rent a boat and relax while watching the sunset.
Inwa Ancient City in Mandalay Region — Ancient Imperial Capital
Inwa was the imperial capital for a total of 360 years. It’s an ancient city with many stories to tell. A trip to Inwa means the opportunity to explore the ruins of an ancient city.
The best-known structures in the city include the 90-foot tall Nan Myint watchtower built in the 18th century, the Maha Aung Mye Bonzan monastery with its elaborate design, and the Bagaya Kyuang Monastery which sits on 267 large teak stilts.
Located on a man-made island between the Irrawaddy and Myitnge Rivers, the best way to reach Inwa is by a short ferry ride. Once you arrive, you can begin to tour on foot, by bicycle, or with a horse and carriage.
Sagaing in Mandalay Region — Pagoda-Speckled Hills
Sagaing is another ancient capital of Myanmar on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, particularly famous for its views. It has a hilly landscape covered with hundreds of white, silver, and golden pagodas that are still actively used by local people.
The most famous shrine on Sagaing Hill is the Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, originally built in 1312, making it one of the oldest in the city. It is famous for its beauty and its statues of Buddha, and provides an excellent location for viewing the surrounding countryside.
Inle Lake in Shan State — Scenic Water Community
An iconic destination, Inle Lake is known for its serene beauty as well as its unique local culture. The local Intha people are largely self-sufficient farmers and artisans who live in communities based entirely on the water.
Making and selling handicrafts is very common and important for the local economy. Fishermen move about the lake using their unique rowing technique and casting their nets. If you like fresh fish, the catch of the day can be sampled at local restaurants.
Inle Lake has floating gardens, villages, and markets which can all be explored using the local mode of transportation: small traditional boats. Boats can easily be hired and provide a great way of relaxing on the lake and enjoying the surroundings.
Ananda Temple in Bagan — Temple of the Four Buddhas
A beautiful fusion of Mon and Indian themes, Ananda temple is an architectural wonder. It’s sometimes called the "Westminster Abbey of Burma" because of its elegant and awe-inspiring design. Its shining golden spire can be seen from miles around and is lit up at night by spotlights, creating a beacon in the sky.
The temple houses 4 impressive gold leaf Buddha statues. Each stands about 30 feet tall and faces a different cardinal direction: north, east, south or west. These four Buddhas represent the attainment of nirvana.
Shwezigon Pagoda in Bagan — Resilient and Glimmering
Built in 1090, this pagoda is one of the oldest in Bagan. It is a survivor of earthquakes and natural disasters and has been renovated from time to time over the centuries. Previously it was gold-plated but during one of the renovations, it was re-plated with copper, giving it a stronger and equally beautiful finish.
Shwezigon pagoda is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. It is a good place to go and observe local culture and customs, as it remains a favorite center for prayer and reflection. Like the Shwedagon pagoda, it is best viewed at sunset, when the burnt colors of the sky create a beautiful backdrop for the glimmering golden monument.
Visit Myanmar with Asia Highlights
We provide tailor-made tours to Myanmar. Tours typically start or end in Yangon or Mandalay and last approximately 9 days; visiting Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake.