Formerly Burma, Myanmar is a Southeast Asian nation that is home to lush parks, bustling markets, and an innumerable number of pagodas in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Much of the country remains untouched as tourism there is still a growing industry, which means that visitors will be able to have an authentic experience where they can meet and learn about the people of Myanmar, its history, and its culture.
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Standing on the eastern banks of the Ayeyarwady River, Bagan is an ancient city that is renowned for its Bagan Archaeological Area. There are over 2,000 ancient temples in this famed archaeological site, all of which combined create a stunning landscape of stupas towering amongst a lush, green background. The wondrous metropolis is gleaming with beautiful ritual artistry and jaw-dropping ruins that every person visiting Myanmar must experience. The temples are believed to be a product of the 12th century, and at its prime would have had over 10,000 temples and pagodas. Bagan is best toured on foot so that you can get an up-close experience with the ruins, but hot air balloon rides are also available for stunning aerial views.
2.Chin Tsong Palace
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Part European mansion and part pagoda, Chin Tsong Palace is an ornate villa that was constructed by Lim Chin Tsong, a Burmese merchant who made a fortune off his family’s rice business. The architectural masterpiece took two years to build and was finally completed in 1919, but Tsong did not get to enjoy it for long as he passed away in 1924. The palace spent many years housing various businesses such as the Burma Broadcasting Station and as the Kanbawza Yeiktha Hotel before it was turned into a cultural center. Visitors today will be able to see several aspects such as the grand staircases, towering columns, pagoda-like towers, and murals of the Great Wall.
Kabar Aye Pagoda Rd, Yangon, Myanmar
3.Floating Gardens of Inle Lake
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Floating Gardens of Inle Lake comprises a series of tiny artificial islands which were created by the communities around the shore as a way to cultivate their crops so that they wouldn’t limit their space just to the land that was available. The articulately crafted floating gardens bob over the water, swaying with the currents as farmers glide from plot to plot with a boat. Many of these unconventional gardens grow tomatoes, which are 90% of the gardens’ yields and have proven to be a prominent crop. Visitors will find the entire experience to be unique and provoking - you can even spend time talking to the farmers and getting an idea of what it is like for them to work in such a space.
4.Giants of Mudon
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Win Sein Taw Ya, or more commonly known as the Giant Buddha of Mudon, is a statue of the world’s largest reclining Buddha. Towering at 30 meters high and 180 meters in length, the amazing shrine can be seen from miles away. Though it is a place of worship, visitors are invited to explore the Buddha and the many rooms that are housed within it. As you walk through, you’ll be able to see several artifacts and dioramas which showcase the teachings of the Buddha. It’s an amazing sight to see and an attraction that shouldn’t be missed while in Myanmar.
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Inwa, locally known as Ava or Ratanapura, was originally founded in 1365 on an artificial island formed by a canal. It spent a majority of the following five centuries as the capital and imperial city of successive Burmese kingdoms. Although it had been destroyed and rebuilt many times prior, a series of devastating earthquakes which hit in 1839 flattened the city and forced the capital to be moved. Inwa has since then been left to nature and farmers, many of whom you will see grazing livestock and raising crops amidst the remains of massive city walls, palace towers, and pagodas. Local guides provide tours of the stunning site via horse-drawn carriages throughout the year.
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According to legend, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda all begin with a single strand of hair that was given by the Buddha to a hermit, who in turn gave it to the king. To show his gratitude, the king used magical powers to retrieve a boulder from the ocean that was in the shape of the hermit’s head. The boulder was perched on the edge of a cliff and a small pagoda was built atop it to enshrine the Buddha’s hair for eternity. Centuries later, pilgrims from all across Myanmar flock to the pagoda to give offerings to the Buddha and to meditate. The stone is now covered with gold-covered leaves and is beautiful glittering sight at night, especially in March during the Full Moon day of Tabaung when 90,000 candles are lit at the site.
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Sitting on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Mingun is a small town that is renowned for the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, an immense yet unfinished ruins of a pagoda. Construction on the monument began in 1790 by King Bodawpaya but was not completed due to a royal astrologer’s prediction that the king would die upon its completion. Had it been done, it would have been the world’s largest stupa at 490 feet. Another aspect visitors of Mingun will be able to see is a gigantic bell cast that was to go with the stupa; the bell weighs 90 tons and is still the largest ringing bell in the world today.
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8.Thanboddhay Pagoda - Monywa Temple
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The Thanboddhay Pagoda, commonly known as the Monywa Temple because of its location, was originally built in the 14th century and then reconstructed for preservation in 1939. The temple complex is sure to strike you with awe as its drastically different, yet eerily similar, to many of the other temples you will come across in Myanmar. For example, instead of the entrance being guarded by lions, you will instead find them flanked by statues of two imposing white elephants. Inside, you will find a colorful array of images and statues depicting the Buddha - over 500,000 of them in fact. The images vary from miniatures plastered on the pillars to large statues that draw your attention, each of them brightly screaming out praise for the religious figure.
9.Myanmar Adventure Outfitters
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Myanmar Adventure Outfitters gives you the opportunity to experience uncommon adventures near the Burma Road while also contributing to the better living standards of the communities and villages you will visit. The company is the passion project of a Canadian/ American couple who have spent much of their time together trying to develop the livelihood of the people of Myanmar. Each of the adventures are customized to how you would like to spend your time; options include hiking, trekking, paddle boarding, mountain biking, motorcycling, caving, waterfall swimming, and relaxing in one of the area’s many hot springs. Take it one step further and opt to stay overnight in one of the villager’s homes, dining with them and getting to know their family.
No. 2, Kwa Nyo Rd, Quarter 2, Lashio, Myanmar (Burma), Phone: +95-97-95-36-64-26
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10.Nagar Glass Factory
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The Nagar Glass Factory was founded by a master glass craftsman and his wife in 1948, but it wasn’t until his seven children took over did the factory really rise to fame for their unique hand-blown designs. It was so renowned that the factory completed several high-profile commissions for renowned properties and projects all over the country, include the five-foot-high glass eyes of the Chauk Htat Gyi reclining Buddha. In 2009 disaster struck and the factory, along with much of the machinery and kilns, were destroyed beyond repair. Though no glass has been produced since then, the site has become a hidden gem for visitors and locals alike. You can visit the chaotic wonder and unearth lovely treasures from piles of bowls, jugs, glasses, and more.
Hlaing Mahasi Rd, Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar
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The National Museum of Myanmar was founded in 1952 and had several homes before permanently settling down in its current location. You’ll find the museum is a spacious five-story building that is surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds. Inside, visitors of all ages will enjoy spending hours looking through the priceless ancient artifacts that are on display; these include historic memorabilia, works of art, and pieces from the Yatanabon Period among others. One of their most popular exhibits displays the evolution of the Myanmar script and alphabet all the way back to its origin, while another is the Throne Room which has miniature models of ancient thrones used by Myanmar kings.
66/74 Pyay Road, Dagon Township, Yangon 11191, Myanmar, Phone: +95-1-37-86-52
12.Sa Ba Street Food Tours
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The difference between a tourist and a traveler is the craving and passion that person has for a truly authentic experience. This can be through better understanding the religion, culture, tradition, people, and of course, food, of the place they are visiting. With Sa Ba Street Food Tours, you’ll have one of the most memorable experiences of your entire trip to Myanmar. The walking tour is perfect for those who are naturally curious and looking to explore places, meet the local people, and try flavors they may have never had before. One of their most popular tours is the Trishaw Food Tour which lets you cruise around in one of Myanmar’s most common modes of transport as you stop by food stalls and eateries brimming with delicious dishes.
13.Sacred Mount Popa
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Situated atop a massive volcanic formation 2,500 feet up in the air, the Sacred Mount Popa was established and maintained by a hermit in the early 20th century. The shrine and monastery, popularly known as the Mount Olympus of Myanmar, draws thousands of pilgrims each year. It has become the center of Nat spirit activity with the most popular of the 37 spirits portrayed there being Ko Gyi Kyaw, the patron saint of tramps and alcoholics. You’ll have to climb 777 steps from the base of the pedestal up to the shrine; along the way you’re sure to see various flora and fauna including an estimated 2,000 Rhesus macaques that live in the monastery.
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Though Myanmar has many religious sites and natural wonders, the Saddar Cave is one of its most stunning. Your journey starts in Myanmar’s Zwegabin mountain range which is surrounded by lush fields. At the base of one particular towering monument, you’ll find a steep staircase which is painted white and will lead you into the hollowed cave. Once inside, the sights of incredible rock formations and hundreds of Buddhist statues will amaze you. The statues are of all different shapes and sizes, from hundreds of miniature golden icons to a pagoda the size of a van. In addition to the sculptures, you will also see several stalactite and stalagmite formations as well a pristine blue lagoon which you can paddle through on a canoe.
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Believed to be over 2,600 years old, the Shwedagon Pagoda has a unique story behind it; it is said that two traveling brothers came across the Buddha beneath a tree and offered him food. In return, the Buddha gave them exactly eight strands of hair from his head which they then built an entire temple complex around with the help of the king. The strands of hair are considered holy to this day and have been said to be miraculous, allowing the unable to walk, the blind to see, and much more. Whether you choose to believe in the legends or not, it is no down that the pagoda is one of the most stunning sights you’ll see, especially in the night sky when the gold-plated stupa and diamond and ruby-crusted tip shine brightly.
16.Shwenandaw Kyaung Temple
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One of Mandalay’s most significant historic buildings, the Shwenandaw Kyaung Temple is the perfect example of 19th century Burmese teak architecture. The temple is the only remaining structure of King Mindon’s wooden Royal Palace and was originally a part of a temple complex in Amarapura before it was moved to the Glass Palace. The temple was a part of the King’s royal apartment and eventually became his final resting places as he died in the structure in 1878. His son was then convinced that his father’s spirit still haunted the grounds and moved it out of the Royal City - which is the only reason it is still preserved for visitors to enjoy today as the rest of the old Royal City was destroyed during World War II.
17.Werawsana Jade Pagoda
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The Werawsana Jade Pagoda was constructed between 2012 and 2015 and claims to be the first pagoda in the world that is constructed entirely from jade - a fitting choice as Myanmar produces nearly 70% of the world’s jadeite. Work on the monumental structure began long before its actual construction; U Soe Naing, a jewelry trader, had been stockpiling the precious stone for almost 25 years prior. He needed over 11,000 tons of it to build the 75-foot-tall structure. You will be able to see the stunning pagoda long before you reach it, as almost every inch of it is covered in gemstones giving it a shimmery gleam that glistens from afar. Once you get there, be sure to take in its majestic beauty, see the carved footprints of Buddha and explore the array of inscriptions, amulets, and sculpted leaves.
18.World's Largest Book at Kuthodaw Pagoda
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Book lovers from around the world will rejoice at being able to see the World’s Largest Book at Kuthodaw Pagoda but may find themselves annoyed that they can’t actually read it. The “book” actually comprises over 700 stone/marble tablets or slabs which surround the glittering and golden temple, Kuthodaw Pagoda. Each stone tablet is five inches thick and stands over five feet tall. The stones are inscribed with the teachings of Theravada Buddhism and were built, along with the temple, by King Mindon Min in 1857. Initially, the letters were filled with gold ink and decorated with diamonds, rubies, and other precious gems, but British troops looted the temple site after their invasion in the mid-1880s. Today, visitors can explore the stunning “book” which now has a simpler black ink but is still as glorious as the day it was unveiled.
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Titled as Myanmar’s “first modern waterpark”, Yangon Waterboom is an entertaining and exciting attraction that the entire family will enjoy. This recreational destination boasts several world-class rides and slides that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. Get your adrenaline pumping with the 15-meter-high Free Fall Slide which will send you crashing into a pool at speeds faster than you’ve ever experienced. The Octopus is another popular option that will make you feel like you’re flying through the air. Littles ones love the funky rides, water sprays, and other age-appropriate games that are available at the Kiddy Pool. Other features include a wave pool, a lazy river, and a futsal playground among other things.
Shu Khin Thar (Yangon Waterboom), Yamone Nar Road, Dawpone Township, Yangon, Myanmar, Phone: +95-19-19-06-12
20.Balloons Over Bagan
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It is indescribable the amazing beauty you will see as you fly in a hot air balloon over Bagan, a view that Marco Polo once described as “one of the finest sights in the world”. With Balloons Over Bagan you can take this amazing aerial journey over Myanmar’s ancient city and take in a bird’s eye view of over two thousand stupas towering amongst the lush foliage that surrounds it. The company has been around for nearly twenty years, giving thousands of tourists the privilege to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Take to the sky on an hour-long tour with Balloons Over Bagan’s experienced and intuitive professionals.
Near Hotel Zfreeti, Thiripyitsaya Block No. (5), Nyaung U (Bagan), Myanmar, Phone: +95-06-12-46-07-13
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Have the ultimate archipelago adventure with Burma Boating, a company founded in 2013 that is dedicated to providing a memorable experience out on Myanmar’s waters. You can organize a sailing holiday that is sure to be one of the best parts of your trip, no matter if you decide to charter a private yacht or join one of their cabin cruises. Adventures can last anywhere from four day to four weeks or longer depending on how much time you want to spend discovering beautiful beaches, pristine islands, and meeting the amazing people that live and work there. You’ll be navigating through the Mergui Archipelago with some of the most experienced and passionate sailors in Myanmar.
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If you want to experience Myanmar like a local, then there’s no better people to do it with than the experienced professionals at Grasshopper Adventures. Each of their tours are carefully curated by people who have spent their lifetime in the tourism industry but wanted the fluidity to really show visitors a side of Myanmar that isn’t often seen. Sometimes this is in the form of a street side eatery and other times it’s in a remote uninhabited destination that has the most amazing view. All of the tours are led by bicycle, can last anywhere from a few hours to two weeks, and is perfect for ages 5 to 85.
23.Green Neco Travels & Tours
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The Green Neco Travels & Tours company was established in an effort to introduce foreigners to the interesting communities of Myanmar in a sustainable manner that protects the natural environment while also supporting the livelihood of locals. Some of their most popular tours include a visit to Harris Island or Melgy Islands, where you can explore the remote island, visit a dried fish factory, go kayaking or snorkeling, or bathe under a waterfall. The tour also includes an authentic lunch that reflects the flavors of the region and includes meats and vegetables which are seasonally available. Their two-day island-hopping tour includes additional experiences such as camping out in a tent, floating through a mangrove forest, and snorkeling in the coral reef.
Mya Wut Yi Street, Myeik 60202, Myanmar (Burma), Phone: +95-94-54-84-84-51
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HOME Myanmar is a travel agency and tour company that specializes in local experience tours and special interest tours. Comprising a dynamic and diverse group of individuals, you’re sure to be paired with a bilingual guide who has tons of experience on the area, it’s people, and history. You can choose from one of their many day trips or overnight trips; a popular option is the Nyaung Shwe Food Tour which lets your try concoctions that the area is famed for including delicious Shan noodles. With this travel experience, you’re sure to gain a true understanding of Myanmar and all that it offers.
No.139, Kan Thar Quarter(4), Nyaung Shwe, Shan State, Myanmar, Phone: +95-94-28-68-98-35
25.Inle Urban Adventures
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Sure to pale in comparison to your everyday bike ride, Inle Urban Adventures offers a cycling tour that will take you through bustling Shan villages, lush jungle, the glistening Inle Lake, and gorgeous rice paddies. Your local bilingual guide will take you through all of the most picturesque spots so be sure to have your camera ready. Each cycling tour lasts approximately seven hours and will give you the opportunity to meet local fishermen and learn about their work, take a boat ride across the lake, as well as stop at restaurants for a taste of traditional Shan cooking. You’ll be able to feast on snacks like soybean crackers, tofu, and dried beans during the journey before stopping at the foothills of a lovely village to feast on a traditional lunch.
Meeting point: Nyaung Shwe City Hotel, No. 20, Win Quarter Nyaung Shwe Township, Southern Shan State, Phone: +95-1-65-62-59
25 Best Things to Do in Myanmar
- Bagan, Photo: Courtesy of lkunl - Fotolia.com
- Chin Tsong Palace, Photo: Courtesy of jabkitticha - Fotolia.com
- Floating Gardens of Inle Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Martin M303 - Fotolia.com
- Giants of Mudon, Photo: Courtesy of tommy021 - Fotolia.com
- Inwa, Photo: Courtesy of Stéphane Bidouze - Fotolia.com
- Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Photo: Courtesy of Anna ART - Fotolia.com
- Mingun, Photo: Courtesy of Glebstock - Fotolia.com
- Thanboddhay Pagoda - Monywa Temple, Photo: Courtesy of happystock - Fotolia.com
- Myanmar Adventure Outfitters, Photo: Courtesy of MICHEL - Fotolia.com
- Nagar Glass Factory, Photo: Courtesy of Emmanuel - Fotolia.com
- National Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Morten - Fotolia.com
- Sa Ba Street Food Tours, Photo: Courtesy of cascoly2 - Fotolia.com
- Sacred Mount Popa, Photo: Courtesy of R.M. Nunes - Fotolia.com
- Saddar Cave, Photo: Courtesy of Alexander - Fotolia.com
- Shwedagon Pagoda, Photo: Courtesy of Soonthorn - Fotolia.com
- Shwenandaw Kyaung Temple, Photo: Courtesy of nui7711 - Fotolia.com
- Werawsana Jade Pagoda, Photo: Courtesy of TOTI - Fotolia.com
- World's Largest Book at Kuthodaw Pagoda, Photo: Courtesy of rudiernst - Fotolia.com
- Yangon Waterboom, Photo: Courtesy of Creativa Images - Fotolia.com
- Balloons Over Bagan, Photo: Courtesy of Svetlana Nikolaeva - Fotolia.com
- Burma Boating, Photo: Courtesy of Pierre-Jean DURIEU - Fotolia.com
- Grasshopper Adventures, Photo: Courtesy of sarah - Fotolia.com
- Green Neco Travels & Tours, Photo: Courtesy of whitcomberd - Fotolia.com
- HOME Myanmar, Photo: Courtesy of MARIA - Fotolia.com
- Inle Urban Adventures, Photo: Courtesy of Jeffery - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of nuttawutnuy - Fotolia.com