Myanmar has slowly but surely been coming into the tourist fold in the last couple of decades. As the iron-fist of its military junta slackens and fair elections sweep across the nation, there’s a newfound love for the backpacker and adventure traveler.
The country -sandwiched between India and the mainstays of Southeast Asia – certainly has its fair share of awesome things to see though. You can experience the frenetic pulse of modern Burmese life in the pagoda-topped metropolis of Yangon.
There are oodles of ancient temples here too, with places like Bagan coming up trumps with its carved stupas and old Hindu motifs, not to mention fascinating Buddhist relics and some seriously sun-kissed beaches lining the Bay of Bengal.
Breathtaking Bagan bags a well-deserved top spot on this list of the best places to visit in Myanmar.Most all travelers who head this way leave with a distinct sense of awe and amazement.And it’s easy to see why! A sea of countless temple tops pierce the clouds and the forests; plumes of dust coalesce at the spires of ancient stupas; the faded outlines of forgotten Hindu demigods beckon from the great platforms, and all the while the serrated tips of the Arakan Mountains loom in the background.
Seeing Bagan by balloon is becoming increasingly popular, and offers a truly unique view over this 26-square-mile land of temples.
Yangon found glory in the days of British rule, rising with the rise of the Raj and becoming a patchwork of elegant Victorian townhouses and Georgian builds. Much of that side of the city remains intact too, and today you can navigate the tuk-tuk-packed roadways to see the likes of St Mary’s Cathedral and its Anglo spires.
However, the real piece de resistance (and what typically magnetizes travelers to this erstwhile Burmese capital) has to be the Shwedagon Pagoda. This marks the sacred spot where the holy lotus buds once appeared to signal the coming of Gautama Buddha and guide the learned to Nirvana.Be sure to visit the site and wonder and the glimmering gold construction, the prayer rooms, and the exquisitely carved pavilions for pilgrims.
You can only imagine just how resplendent the city of Mandalay would have looked when that mighty Shwenandaw Monastery glimmered with its coverings of gold leaf, and it’s easy to see why even the very name of this mysterious temple-topped town in the depths of central Myanmar has inspired poems and lines by perhaps Asia’s most prolific English eulogizer: Kipling.
However, modern Mandalay does well to balance all those elegant Bamar pagodas and carved stupas with a real bout of Burmese pandemonium.
It’s just a short jaunt east from Yangon to the soaring heights of Mount Kyaiktiyo, which are famed as the home of one of the most revered Buddhist relics in the nation: the precariously-placed Golden Rock.
This awesome, gravity-defying mass of granite can be found perched on its own ledge atop the rolling forests and green hills of south-central Burma. The site is surrounded by its own temple and pagoda, complete with immersive little shrines to lesser-known Buddhist spirits.
5. Inle Lake
The moment you spot the curious leg rowers of Inle Lake, and hear the creaking splash of those carved canoes drifting across the water, you’ll know you’re in the heartlands of rustic Myanmar.
A place where time has stood still, this huge body of water is peppered with stilted villages made of wood. The locals are known for their on-surface agricultural methods, and you’ll be able to see dashes of green gardens growing straight from the lake.