Things to do in Myanmar

The many things to do in Myanmar may seem similar to activities around top tourist attractions in Southeast Asia but upon closer inspection, visitors quickly notice how distinct the country and its people really are. With several years of lockdown behind them, Myanmar is finally opening up to outside visitors, who will quickly come to realize the difference between this Asian country and nearby neighbors like Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. Unfamiliar yet stunning at every turn, quiet and serene and encompassing everything Buddhist, Myanmar is incomparable, a beautiful gem that hasn’t been polished. It is in all this simplicity that Myanmar’s beauty is found.

Temples & Pagodas

Temples & Pagodas
Temples & Pagodas

Temples and pagodas are two of the most common types of Myanmar attractions. Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is the most famous in the country. It’s perched on the city’s skyline on Singuttara Hill and is the most sacred Burmese pagoda with vestiges of the last four Buddhas preserved inside. Between the 11th and 13th centuries there were upwards of 10,000 temples and pagodas built within Bagan and today exploring the remaining 2,200 is one of the top five things to do in Myanmar when visiting.

Mandalay Palace

Mandalay Palace
Mandalay Palace

The Royal Palace in Mandalay was the last one built for the Burmese monarchy, constructed between 1857 and 1859 as a tribute to the city founded by King Mindon. Also called the Golden Palace, or Mya Nan San Kyaw, the walls surrounding it are rectangular shaped, each stretching more than four miles in length. On March 17, 1945, an air raid by the British all but destroyed the entire palace. It was rebuilt some years after, with great care taken to restore it to its original grandeur. Using original palm leaf manuscripts, pictures, and photographs, the almost 90 main halls were recreated, and the entire palace was finished on September 9th, 1996. Today, the palace is looked upon by a host of Myanmar accommodations found in Mandalay and is one of the top things to do in Myanmar.

Museums

The spacious building housing the National Museum in Yangon, is an interesting place to explore Myanmar culture and history. The collection inside is priceless. Inside, visitors will see the Royal Regalia, images of Buddha, the king’s Lion Throne, and traditional Burmese folk art. The upstairs of the museum in Yangon houses an art gallery and the country’s ancient history and natural history. The Myanmar Gem Museum is the place to find gems to buy and peruse. The four-story building displays Myanmar’s precious gems including sapphires, jades, rubies, and pearls on the third floor and features a gem market and jewelry shops on the second and third floors.

River Cruises

River Cruises
River Cruises  Image: Allan_Grey (flickr)

One of the most enjoyable ways to explore Myanmar, feel its heartbeat and experience its legends is via an Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River cruise. Life along the Irrawaddy riverbanks presents ongoing fascination; from excited kids running alongside the river, women minding their daily tasks, and traditional  bamboo and teak homes to vast fields plowed by ox carts as in ancient times. A river cruise illustrates Myanmar attractions and culture well. Cruisers enjoy the country’s best visuals; elegant pagodas, opulent monasteries and ancient, ruined temples reveal a wealth of treasures comprising Myanmar history. From a few hours on the river to five and ten-night luxury trips, river cruises along the beautiful Irrawady River provide one of the most exciting things to do in Myanmar.

Bike Tours

Bike Tours
Bike Tours

Bike tours are an intrepid way to explore some of the top attractions in Myanmar and to get a close-up look at the country’s most impressive natural sights. Cycling can comprise almost any timeline, from a day or two to two weeks and more. Beginning in Yangon, Inle Lake’s stilt villages can be explored by bicycle before moving on the stunning and diverse landscape of the Shan Hills. Move on to Mandalay, cycle Mount Popa, and get to the most exciting region of Bagan, where discovering ancient temples, stupas, and pagodas by bike are extraordinary. Cycling tours can include Myanmar accommodations, meals, and transportation to and from start and end points.

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