26 Best Sights in Myanmar


Fodor's choice

Although the inboard motors make boat trips around Inle Lake loud (we recommend earplugs), they're still languid and, more importantly, the reason visitors come here in the first place. Inle is Myanmar's second largest lake, 44.9 square miles at an altitude of 2,900 feet. Boats leave from the jetty in the village of Nyaung Shwe, where you'll be dropped off after the trip in from the airport; the ride from the airport is an hour, and it takes almost an hour to get to the southern end of the lake. Lining the narrow road where the airport vans leave you off are a handful of tiny travel agencies through which you can arrange boat trips, bicycle hire, and airport drop-off service. Expect to pay around K25,000 for a full-day boat tour and K19,000 for half a day. The only way to get to hotels on the lake is by boat; depending on how far south you are, expect to pay up to K63,000, though the price will drop significantly if you're using the same boatman for touring.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Fodor's choice

This 325-foot-tall gilded pagoda is Yangon's top tourist attraction and, at 2,500 years old, the world's oldest pagoda. It is simply stunning. Admission is free for locals, and you'll see families, kids, groups of teenagers, and solo visitors milling around the pagoda all day, every day—praying, meditating, and just hanging out. The space is massive and never feels crowded. Women need a longyi (traditional sarong) or knee-length skirt to enter the pagoda, and all visitors are required to remove their shoes in the parking lot. During Yangon's hot days the pagoda glistens in the sun—it can be truly sweltering, and the floor can burn your bare feet. A better option is to come after the sun's gone down, when the Shwedagon is beautifully illuminated. There is an elevator for those who do not wish to climb up.

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U Bein Bridge

Fodor's choice

The world's longest teak bridge runs three-quarters of a mile over Taungthaman Lake in Amarapura, Burma's former capital and now part of Mandalay. More than 1,000 teak poles make up the bridge, each scavenged from the former royal palace by then-mayor U Bein. During dry season (November to April) the lake is quite shallow but, during summer, it nearly doubles in height, with water reaching up to just below the bridge's planks. Around sunrise is the best time to come, when a stream of monks and villagers, some on bike, cross back and forth. Most visitors are dropped off at the western end and then walk across; at the eastern end is a small village where you can munch on hot, fresh chapatis and sip very sweet tea. If you're staying near Mandalay Hill and heading to the bridge for sunrise, book a cab the night before; it will run you around K18,000.

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Yout-Saun-Kyaung Monastery

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A Myanmar Cultural Heritage Site, the towering Yout-Saun-Kyaung monastery (1882) is Salé's major point of interest for its superb, intricately carved teak-wood figures depicting stories from the Buddha's 550 previous lives. Beautiful, strange, and often fantastical, these remarkably expressive figures were carved by the region's most eminent sculptors and is kept in tip-top condition by resident monks (it was renovated in 2003 with government funds). The monastery is also home to the Salé Museum, which displays several centuries of artifacts, including notable Buddhist sculptures, colorful carved furniture, and a rare paper writing tablet used for Buddhist rituals. Part of the museum is devoted to U Pone Nya (c.1807-1867), the renowned Burmese writer, satirist, and playwright, who was born in Salé.

Bagan Archaeological Museum

Old Bagan

Complement the stupa ogling with a visit to this museum, which is a short walk from Ananda Temple and Old Bagan's restaurant row. It's been woefully neglected and is a mess, but there are roughly 850 objects on display here, all pieces of Bagan's rich history. There are excellent wood carvings of the Buddha, intricate bronze pieces, and even ancient coiffures used at the time by the chicest of women. It's interesting to see the frescoes here and then compare them to the real ones inside the temples.

Bagan-Nyaung-U Rd., near Ananda Temple, Bagan, Myanmar
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Rate Includes: $5; kyat sometimes accepted, Daily 9–4:30

Bagan Archaeological Zone

Some 2,200 11th- to 13th-century ruins dot Bagan, an enormous amount but a mere fraction of the more than 10,000 that once stood. The temples, pagodas, and stupas are simply astonishing. Some are very large and have been renovated, while others are tiny and stand in disrepair among rambling grasses and brambles. The expanse of the ruins is staggering; from the side of a long, dusty dirt road they pop up, completely abandoned and yours for taking. Each and every stupa, temple, and pagoda is truly breathtaking, but visitors will find the liveliest is Ananda Temple, which has beautiful frescoes and houses four 31-foot-tall Buddha statues. Its location at the end of restaurant row means it gets busiest around lunch.

Bagan, Myanmar
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Rate Includes: $20, paid at airport on arrival

Buddha Museum

The Shan ethnic group has its own unique culture but, because this is a government-run museum, you'll find no symbols of it here. Instead, eye Buddha images before turning your attention to the building itself, a teak-and-brick mansion that was once home to Sao Shwe Thaike; he was the 33rd and last Shan king and the first president of independent Burma, from 1948 to 1962, until the junta coup d'état.

Museum Rd. (Haw St.) near Myawady Rd., REVIEW LISTINGS per JIRA - Inle Lake, Myanmar
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Rate Includes: K2,500, Wed.–Sun. 10–4

Dallah and Twante

Just across the river from Yangon is the small village of Dallah, reached by ferry from the city's jetty. It's a 10-minute ride where you'll stand among vendors selling fruit, fried snacks, knickknacks, and fresh-rolled cheroots and cigarettes. Make a quick stop at the pagoda in Dallah before moving on to Twante (40-minute drive; go via cab, moto, or pickup truck). Once there, hop a trishaw or a horse and buggy for a visit to the Shwesandaw Pagoda, a miniaturized version of the Shwedagon, and to the local pottery sheds. From Yangon, you can also go to Twante directly on the two-hour ferry. Tickets for both ferries are K1,200 each and can be purchased at Pandosan Street Jetty, from which the boat leaves (across from Strand Hotel).

Floating Gardens

A far cry from the vegetable farms of the west, these floating gardens are a testament to the ingenuity of Inle Lake's villagers. The floating gardens are just north of Nampan (the southern end of the lake), and here Intha farmers grow a cornucopia of colorful produce using wooden trellises that rely on floating mats for support. Vegetables and flowers stand tall and strong on the trellises, which are lovingly tended by farmers floating by in their long wooden canoes.

Inthar Heritage House

This beautiful wooden house, on stilts in the middle of Inle Lake, was completed in 2008 but appears older, thanks to reclaimed wood from which 80% of it is built. It's a wonderfully multiuse space. Downstairs is a cat sanctuary, where pampered Burmese felines lounge about lazily. The cats are the result of a two-year breeding program, an effort to reintroduce them to their native Myanmar. Upstairs from the cats is a re-creation of a traditional bedroom with impressive dark wooden period furniture. Then there's the hotel and catering school, and the art gallery, which hosts quarterly exhibitions of local artists' work, and then Inthar Restaurant, which is excellent—mostly Chinese dishes, with coffee, tea, shakes, and desserts—and a lovely, peaceful space. The restaurant's vegetables come from the house's own organic farm; cooking classes are also offered.


Spending an hour or two meandering around this village, which is on land and reached by a narrow canal, is a nice way to break up monotonous, albeit pretty, Inle Lake cruising. The stupas start just behind the village proper with Nyaung Ohak, where a grouping of them stands in disrepair, surrounded by jungle. Keep going up the hill until you reach Shwe Inn Thein Paya; on the way up the stairs, you'll see vendors selling souvenirs, so bring some cash with you. The climb is worth it; you'll find a slew of 17th- and 18th-century stupas—some are crumbling, but others have been lovingly renovated, so there's a nice contrast.

Inya Gallery of Art

Yangon native and self-taught artist Aung Myint opened this gallery in 1989. Aung was the first Burmese artist to win an ASEAN Art Award, and his work is in the permanent collections of the National Art Museum of Singapore and National Art Gallery of Malaysia, among others. Inya Gallery of Art showcases Aung's work as well as that of artists who work with similar themes. Most of the paintings are colorful, though Aung does have a series of black and whites.

Inya Lake

The British created this artificial lake in 1883, and it's said to look much the same today as it did then. About 10 km (6 miles) north of downtown, the area surrounding the lake is home to the Yangon Sailing Club (established in 1924) and expensive homes belonging to Aung San Suu Kyi and the U.S. ambassador. You can circle the lake on foot in about two hours, and many of the paths are well shaded. Adjacent to the lake and next to Yangon University is the 37-acre Inya Park, enormously popular with young couples who come to canoodle, watch movies on their laptops, and gaze at the lake. There are small snack and drink shops near the parking lot and benches dotted all over. On the western side of the lake is Mya Kyuan Thar, a peninsula with a kids' playground and an amusement park.

Intersection of Inya Rd. and Pyay Rd., Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar

Kaung Daing

Five miles from Nyaung Shwe is this sleepy village inhabited by the Intha ethnic group, who live around Inle Lake. Shan tofu is made here using not soybeans, but yellow split peas. Kaung Daing's big draw is its hot springs; there's a swimming pool and private bathhouses for men and women, and the water supply all comes from natural springs. It's a 45-minute bike ride here from Nyaung Shwe, one that runs over a bridge, along a dirt road, and through marshes, eventually depositing you at the hot springs for a well-deserved soak. A boat here will take 30 minutes (K3,000–K3,500 each way), and a moto will do the round-trip for K5,000–K5,500.

Lokanat Galleries

The motto of this gallery, which opened in 1971 and claims to be Myanmar's longest-running gallery, is "Truth, Beauty, Love." The nonprofit NGO is dedicated to promoting local artists, and represents 21 of them. It hosts exhibitions every few months and also works with embassies and other NGOs to put on shows and fairs.

Man Paya Pagoda

This serenely monumental Buddha, completely covered in gold, dates back to the late 13th or early 14th century and is said to be the largest lacquer construction of the Buddha in Myanmar.
Salé, Morocco

Mandalay Hill

The city's name is derived from this hill, which, at nearly 800 feet, can seem a lot more like a mountain when you're schlepping up it on a 100-degree day. For those unable to make the climb, there's an elevator as well as a road to an escalator that leads up to the gilded Sutaungpyei Pagoda at the top of the hill. Burmese Buddhists have been coming here for nearly two centuries, paying their respects, and you'll still see monks here, mostly sweet teenage boys who are eager to chat with visitors and practice their (already quite good) English. On the way up, you'll see a giant standing Buddha, his right hand pointing to the city. Legend has it that when the Buddha visited Mandalay Hill, he prophesied that in the year 2400 (Buddhist calendar), a "great city" would be founded at the bottom of the hill. In the Gregorian calendar, that year is 1857, exactly when King Mindon decreed that Mandalay would be Burma's new capital. Sunset over Mandalay is best viewed from the top of the hill, and the climb can take 40 minutes, so give yourself plenty of time. Bring wet wipes to clean off your feet.

Mandalay Hill, Mandalay, Myanmar
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Rate Includes: K1,000 camera fee

Mandalay Palace

The last royal palace of the ultimate Burmese monarchy, Kings Mindon and Thebaw's onetime residence was built between 1857 and 1859 in accordance with the Buddha's prophecy that, in the year 2400 (1857 in the Gregorian calendar), a "great city" would be built at the bottom of Mandalay Hill. The east-facing palace is inside a walled fort whose four 1¼-mile walls form a perfect square. Part of the palace was transported by elephant from then-kingdom Amarapura. When the palace was later looted by invading British troops, many artifacts were swiped, and some can now be seen at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. During WWII, the Japanese took over the palace and, when bombs hit the city, it was almost entirely destroyed, with only the mint and one watchtower (which can be climbed today) surviving the attack. The structure that now stands was built in 1989 and is a faithful re-creation of the original. The palace itself is an important sight, but what's even more interesting is the village inside the citadel walls, where locals go about their daily business within spitting distance of what were once Burma's most hallowed halls.

East Moat at 19th St., Mandalay, Myanmar
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Rate Includes: K10,000 combination ticket with the Shwenandaw Monastery

Mount Popa

If you've got an extra day in Bagan and have tired of the temples, this is an easy half-day trip. Fifty miles southeast of Bagan, the extinct volcano of Mount Popa, known as Popa Taung Kalat, rises to 2,418 feet, on the flank of Taung Ma-gyi (the "Mother Mountain"), an extinct volcano which is almost 4,980 feet high. It's a 777-step barefoot climb all the way to the top; along the stairwell are souvenir sellers and, at the top of Mount Popa, a complex of pagodas, monasteries, shrines, and stupas, collectively known as Popa Taung Kalat Temple. Beware of monkeys who can turn nasty if they sense you've got treats and whose droppings are everywhere; wet wipes are a must. A taxi (four passengers) from Bagan will run you around K45,000, and you can stop on your way at a palm sugar plantation and distillery. Nearby Popa Mountain Resort is lovely and offers great views.

Off Byat Ta Pan Sat Rd., Kyauk Paduang Township, Bagan, Myanmar

New Treasure Art Gallery

Halfway between the Shwedagon Pagoda and Inya Lake is this gallery, which is owned in part by Min Wae Aung, Burma's best-selling artist, most well known for his highly detailed paintings of Buddhist monks. New Treasure's goal is to showcase the work of young Burmese artists, but Min Wae Aung also has a collection of 20th-century work from which today's artists draw much inspiration. Walk directly north and you'll reach the southern tip of Inya Lake; walk directly south and you can enter People's Park from the northern gate.

84A Thanlwin St., Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar

Popa Mountain Park

If you fancy more exercise than stepping your way to the top of Mount Popa and intend to take to the trails around Taung Ma-gyi, the "Mother Mountain," allow an additional full day (or leave at dawn) and bring your hiking shoes. There are a variety of hiking trails, some leading to the rim of the volcano crater and others to waterfalls. The word popa comes from the Sanskrit word for flower, and as you're hiking up, you'll see how lush it is, and how the vegetation changes with the altitude. This is a good hike on which to follow a guide; your driver should be able to find you one or you can ask at Popa Mountain Resort. From there to the crater can take up to five hours.

Off Byat Ta Pan Sat Rd., Kyauk Paduang Township, Bagan, Myanmar

Pyin U Lwin

Pyin U Lwin is 67½ km (42 miles) from Mandalay and, at an elevation of 3,500 feet, feels much cooler than the stifling town. After capturing Mandalay during the Third Anglo-Burmese War, the British set upon Pyin U Lwin (then known as Maymo or May Town) and made it their hill station, and it remained as such until the end of British rule in 1948. The town is still quite charming and is best enjoyed by bicycle or perched in a colonial-style horse-drawn carriage. Start off in the town center where you'll see the Purcell Clock Tower (1936) and redbrick All Saints' Church (1912). Mandalay is a desert compared with Pyin U Lwin, so soak up the green at the 435-acre National Kandawgyi Gardens, which were built in 1915 and in which can be found nearly 500 plant species. There's a lovely lake, a butterfly museum, an orchid garden, an aviary, and a swimming pool. The best place to see Pyin U Lwin's old colonial buildings is along roads Circular and Forest, which you can cycle or bump along in your horse cart. Buildings run the style gamut from Tudor to plantation, and both the Candacraig Hotel (once the British Club) and the former Croxton Hotel are worth an ogle. A private car to Pyin U Lwin should cost K30,000–K35,000; a shared taxi, which leaves from downtown Mandalay (27th and 83rd Streets) should cost K7,000 per person; the trip takes two hours. A more scenic, albeit bumpy, trip can be made by train, which leaves around 4 am and arrives just before 8 am; tickets are K5,000 for ordinary, K10,000 for first class, and K12,000 for upper class.

Mandalay, Myanmar
Sight Details
Rate Includes: K6,500 adult, K2,500 kids under 12, K1,250 camera (not strictly enforced), Daily 7 am--6 pm

Sasana Yaunggyi Monastery

Sasana Yaunggyi Monastery is noted for its 99 colorful mural paintings lodged in an intricately carved and gilded interior wooden wall.
Salé, Morocco

Shwenandaw Monastery

King Mindon built this intricately carved structure in the mid-19th century as his apartment and then died there in 1878. His son Thebaw believed his father's ghost was still in the building, refused to live there, and had it taken down and moved outside the citadel walls and turned into a monastery. In doing so, he unknowingly saved it from pillaging by the British (1885) and certain ruin during the WWII Japanese invasion. At its inception, the building was more regal than it is today because gold plating and the exterior glass mosaics are now gone, but the interior remains in quite good shape.

62nd St. near 14th St., next to university, Mandalay, Myanmar
Sight Details
Rate Includes: K10,000 combination ticket with Mandalay Palace

Strand Road and Southern Yangon

This meandering walk through southern Yangon gives a good overview of the city's streets, leading you to the Strand Hotel on Yangon's southernmost boulevard, adjacent to the river. Your first stop is Saint Mary's Cathedral (Bogyoke Aung San Road and Bo Aung Kyaw Street), a Dutch-designed Gothic Revival structure dating back to 1899. The cathedral survived a 1930 earthquake and the World War II bombings, although its original stained-glass windows were shattered and have been replaced. There's a small swing set in the cathedral's yard. Backtracking a bit, walk south and west toward Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue (85 26th Street, near Maha Bandoola Road), Burma's only remaining synagogue. Constructed in 1896, it's small but well maintained, with beautiful, simple stained-glass windows. Today its congregation contains just a few families. The street on which the synagogue sits is lined with Indian-run paint shops, and the shophouses are painted in gorgeous, eye-popping colors such as robin's egg blue, violet, and dark orange. From the synagogue, walk east and south to the Strand Hotel (92 Strand Road at 38th Street), which opened in 1901 and was frequented by Rudyard Kipling. Steep yourself in the hotel's rich history by enjoying traditional afternoon tea; both the classic English and a Burmese version are available.

Bogyoke Aung San Rd. and Bo Aung Kyaw St., Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar

Yangon Circular Railway

There's no better bang for your buck in Yangon than a ride on the city's circle line. The three-hour tour covers 46 km (29 miles) and 39 stations on a railway loop that connects tiny towns and the suburbs with downtown Yangon. You'll see urban Yangon followed by shantytowns, grazing cows, ponds, barefoot giggling kids, and lots of greenery. The journey starts from the grand Yangon Central Station, whose style combines colonial and traditional Burmese architectural elements and is itself a sight. The train is the great unifier, with vegetable sellers, monks, kids, and commuters all hanging tight. Trains leave from Yangon Central platforms 4 and 7, one going clockwise and the other counterclockwise; the kindly ticket seller will personally guide you to the proper platform. Tickets are available at the station master's office at platform 7. You may be asked to show your passport to purchase tickets.

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Pansodan St. and Kun Can Rd., Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar
Sight Details
Rate Includes: K1,000, Daily 4 am–10 pm