The Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Myanmar

Cover photo for The Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Myanmar post -  couple siting on Hsinbyume Pagoda

Myanmar was one of the biggest surprises for us on our travels in Southeast Asia. From the incredible sites to the friendliest people we met, it didn’t take us long to fall in love with the country. With so many beautiful places to visit, it’s not difficult to see why Myanmar is fast becoming every traveller’s favourite destination.

After nearly 50 years of military dictatorship, Myanmar (formerly Burma) was isolated from the rest of the world. All that has changed now and the nation has recently opened its doors to tourism. Steeped in history, culture and natural beauty, Myanmar somehow remains relatively unvisited compared to places like Thailand and Bali.

That could change in the next few years which is why now is the best time to visit Asia’s Final Frontier! Take a look at these beautiful places in Myanmar and start planning your trip now!

Beautiful Places To Visit In Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda

Jeff and Zuzi walking through Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

The stunning Shwedagon Pagoda is not just Yangon’s most famous landmark but it’s also the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar. Sitting on top of Singuttara Hill, the pagoda stands at 112 metres high and dominates the Yangon skyline!

Originally thought to be constructed over 2,500 years ago the Shwedagon Pagoda is the oldest Buddhist Pagoda in the world. According to legend two brothers were given eight strands of Gautama Buddha hairs after his enlightenment. The hair relics were then enshrined at Singuttara Hill and the pagoda was built over the relic chamber.

The pagoda is covered in real gold plating, covering the brickwork underneath. The top of the pagoda is covered with thousands of diamonds and rubies. This quite literally makes Shwedagon the jewel in Myanmar’s crown!

There are four entrances to the pagoda and that you’ll need to remove your shoes so bring a bag. It is also a Buddhist custom to walk around stupas in a clockwise direction. However, we saw plenty of people (including locals) walking in the other direction.

Golden Rock

Image of the Golden Rock in Myanmar where a religious gold boulder is perched on a cliffside

I know what you’re thinking! How has that rock not fallen and who put that temple up there?

Well, the giant boulder, real name Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, is a famous Buddhist site 4-5 hours from Yangon. It’s completely covered in gold leaf and according to legend, the only thing stopping the boulder from falling is a strand of Buddha’s hair! I’d like to know what shampoo he was using!

The Golden Rock is perched on a natural platform and is an extremely important pilgrimage site meaning that you’ll likely see just as many locals as you will tourists. With that in mind, please dress appropriately.

Unfortunately, women are unable to enter the inner vicinity of the rock. However, the outer sanctuary is fine and there there are several other temples at the top of the hill.

Bagan Temples

Sunrise over Bagan (one of the most most beautiful places to visit in Myanmar) showing the many temples and hot air balloons. There are a couple of dogs in the foreground

Possibly the most famous images of Myanmar are of Bagan and its 2000 odd temples. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Myanmar. It was also our favourite place in the whole country.

Most of the temples were built between the 10th and 13th centuries when Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom. At the height of its power, there were over 10,000 religious monuments spread over 100 km² (40 miles²) built over 250 years!

One of the best ways to see the temples is a sunrise hot air balloon ride. I’m sure you’ve seen the beautiful photos on social media! Although the prices are a bit steep, it’s a must-do if you can afford it. It’s an incredible experience plus be back at your hotel in time for breakfast!

Another popular way to get around is by electric bike. Which is basically a weak electric scooter. This was a really fun way to get around and you can navigate your way across the dirt paths to many of the unexplored temples. Just be careful of the soft sand!

Bagan is also famous for its traditional puppet shows. It’s possible that this form of entertainment could even date back to the Pagan Kingdom centuries ago so make sure you catch a show while you’re in town.

Don’t miss the Shwezigon Pagoda! It became the model for all religious monuments across Myanmar. Even the Shwedagon Pagoda was renovated in its image after falling into decline.

Mount Popa

Image of Mount Popa which is a monastery built on top of a volcanic plug

Mount Popa is one of the most popular day trips from Bagan. The little monastery sits on top of a hill and is just 50km away.

Well, technically, Mount Popa is the extinct volcano and the Buddhist monastery, named Taung Kalat, is a few kilometres east from there. It sits on top of a volcanic plug, which is what remains of a volcano vent when the land has eroded away.

The impressive monastery was established by a Buddhist hermit in the early 20th centuries and sits around 200 meters from the ground. At the summit, there are many shrines dedicated to nats, that can bring good luck and prosperity to those who bring offerings.

Getting to the top involves climbing the 777 steps. It’s not too difficult but you’ll be barefoot and you’ll need to avoid the monkey ‘presents’ on the floor! There are supposed to be 2,000 of these rhesus macaques too so don’t eat or carry food up the stairs!

If you visit on a clear day you’ll get some fantastic panoramic views from the top. If you’re lucky you might even spot Bagan in the distance.

Kuthodaw Pagoda

Jeff and Zuzi from Life of Y look at each other at Kuthodaw Pagoda. The white stupas contain slabs with Buddhist scripture on them

The Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay may seem like any other Buddhist stupa at first glance. After all, it’s covered in gold plating and was modelled after the Shwezigon Pagoda like all the others. The interesting thing about this particular place is that it also contains the world largest book!

Spread across the complex are 729 white stupas. Each of them containing a page of the Tripitaka, a collection of Buddhist scriptures. Each page is around 5 metres high by 1 metre wide and 13cm thick! Not exactly an easy bedtime read!

The stupas are neatly arranged into rows and the grounds are a great place for a social media-worthy photograph. Especially if you visit as the sun sets when you’ll get that warm glow on the white stupas.

You can also visit Sandamani Pagoda just next door to see more white stupas if you haven’t had enough!

U-Bein Bridge

Image of the U-Bein bridge at sunrise. A fisherman is casting his net into the water with the orange sun behind

This 1.2 kilometre (0.75 miles) bridge is believed to be the oldest teakwood bridge on the world. Built around 1850, it was thought to have been the longest in the world at one point.

The bridge spans across the Taungthaman Lake and the wood that was used to construct it was recovered from an imperial palace at the ancient capital of Inwa. The beauty of this place really comes alive in the late afternoon when the sun starts to set over the lake.

Tourists flock both the ends of the bridge to see the bridge silhouetted against the fading orange sunlight. You’ll have to arrive early to get a decent spot though. Or you can rent one of the many fishing boats to gain a better vantage point.

If you’re after a more magical experience then set your alarm and get to the bridge for sunrise instead. The bridge is just as stunning but it won’t be bustling with tourists! It’ll be just you, the river and a handful of other travellers who to see the beautiful landscape in peace.

Hsinbyume Pagoda

Jeff and Zuzi walk though Hsinbyume Pagoda while Zuzi is holding an umbrella

You won’t see any temple in Myanmar like the Hsinbyume Pagoda in Mingun. Sometimes called the ‘White Temple’, the pagoda was built to resemble Sulamani Pagoda on Mount Meru – a temple from Buddhist mythology.

The pagoda was constructed by King Bagyidaw in 1816 in memory of his first wife, Princess Hsinbyume, who died in childbirth nearby. The flowing, concentric terraces represent the seven golden mountain ranges that encircle Mount Meru.

There are many statues of mythical creatures along the terraces such as nagas, serpents and spirits. It’s worth walking around absorbing the beautiful architecture as you won’t see another white temple in Myanmar.

Hsinbyume Pagoda is also one of the most photogenic temples you’ll see and not just in Myanmar. If you have a guide or find some helpful locals you’ll end up with some amazing photos from these budding photographers!

Inle Lake

A fisherman at Inle Lake is balancing on the edge of his boat while holding a big wooden net

The beautiful Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar. Peaceful and serene, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the stunning mountainous landscape.

Most travellers will end up staying in Nyaung Shwe but there are plenty of accommodation options as the the lake is a massive 116 km²!

The obvious thing to do in Lake Inle is the obligatory boat trip. Your long tail boat will take you to some of the important pagodas and monasteries around the lake. You’ll also have a chance to see how they make some local products such as cheroot cigars.

Lake Inle is also where the famous fishermen reside but you should know that this is an act. While you may see some fisherman using the tradition leg-rowing technique, most are just posing for photos. This is still really cool to see though (for a small tip) especially around sunset.

One of the best ways to arrive at the lake to do a two or three-day hike from Kalaw. You’ll pass through many ethnic villages such as the Pa’O and stay and eat with locals. It’s definitely one of the most memorable things you’ll do in Myanmar!

Shwe Indein Pagoda

Zuzi is standing in front of the ruins of Shwe Indein Pagoda in Myanmar

One of the highlights of Lake Inle is the Shwe Indein Pagoda. This complex of around 1,600 stupas were built around the 14th to 18th centuries.

Shwe Indein is normally one of the main stops on a typical boat trip in Lake Inle but you can always hire a boat and make your own itinerary. The site is quite large and you might only get one hour to explore it on a day trip.

Many of the pagodas at Shwe Indein have been reclaimed by the surrounding nature and are in various states of restoration. Like many pagodas around Myanmar, you’ll often see sculptures of mythical creatures as well as the Buddha.

Even though some of the pagodas have been heavily restored, most of the stupas wouldn’t look out of place in somewhere like Angkor Wat.

Kakku Pagodas

Zuzi walks through the many pagodas at Kakku Pagodas complex in Myanmar

The Kakku Pagodas are a must-see in Myanmar! In my opinion, they are more spectacular but less visited than Shwe Indein too due to their location some 50-60 km (35 miles) from Lake Inle.

There are around 2,500 pagodas in this huge collection. Most are from the 17th and 18th centuries with some dating back as far as the 3rd century BC. There is one well-maintained stupa in the centre of the complex but the older ones are far more interesting to walk around.

The Kakku complex is maintained by the local Pa’O people, who are the second-largest ethnic group in Shan State. The local law states that tourists must be accompanied by a Pa’O guide although we didn’t know about this when we visited and didn’t have any troubles.

It’s not easy to get to Kakku from Lake Inle as the road conditions can be quite poor in places. The road also takes you through some twisting and turning mountains but it’s all part of the adventure.

Ngapali Beach

Image of Ngapali Beach beachfront with giant palm trees and bamboo umbrellas

Did you know that Myanmar has one of the nicest beaches in Southeast Asia? The clear turquoise waters and soft sand along this 7km stretch rivals any beach in Thailand or the Philippines!

Ngapali Beach is a slightly more ‘premium’ destination but there are enough cheap stay options to stay on budget. Eating at local restaurants will also your money go further.

The best thing to do in Ngapali is, of course, the beach. It’s the perfect place to just chill, eat fresh fruit and play a bit of football (or ‘soccer’) with some local children.

Now Is The Best Time To Visit Myanmar!

Jeff stands with a dog on the bank of a river next the U-Bein Bridge at sunrise.

Myanmar is truly beautiful but the secret is already out so you should plan your visit soon!

I think you’ll agree that there so many beautiful places to visit in Myanmar. We didn’t know what to expect but we ended up having so many magical moments in this amazing country. It’s no surprise that more and more people are adding Myanmar to their Southeast Asia itinerary.

People often say that Myanmar is often how they imagined what Thailand was like before tourists arrived. My advice is to get your ass to Myanmar now before mass tourism becomes the norm!

I hope these beautiful places have inspired you to add Myanmar to your future travel plans. If you liked this post, or want to know anything else, please leave a comment or get in contact. Thanks.

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