Raw and untamed, but with incredible natural beauty. Myanmar is a unique Southeast Asian country shaped by its vibrant history. From the ancient Kingdom of Bagan to colonial struggles, the Japanese occupation right up to its ousted military government, Myanmar has had a turbulent past. A mix of different cultures, an in depth history and incredibly beautiful landscapes has put Myanmar back on the world map. Here is a list of some of the best places to visit in Myanmar.
Formerly Rangoon, the once colonial capital city is dominated with pagodas and colonial architecture. The perfect starting point.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is the single most important religious site in all of Myanmar. According to legend, the hilltop it resides on has been sacred since the beginning of time. The 98m-high gold gilded stupa dominates the skyline for miles around! It is one of the most impressive and eye catching parts of the complex.
Belmond Governor’s Residence
Staying at or having a meal at the Belmond Governor’s Residence is a must! This 1920’s Victorian-style townhouse was once home to the governors of the British Crown Colony of Burma. It feels like stepping back in time especially when sitting in the Mindon Lounge sipping a gin and tonic.
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This former Royal capital is located in the North of Myanmar on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. The city evokes thoughts of old Burma and is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the country.
Kuthodaw Pagoda, built in the 1800s is the site of the world’s largest book. 729 white washed stupas each contain a single page of the complete text of Theravada Buddhism’s most sacred text, Tripitaka.
The Shwenandaw Monastery is one of the more unique monasteries in Myanmar. The Monastery is made entirely out of teakwood with incredibly beautiful and intricate carvings. It was originally built in the Royal palace but later moved to its current location. It was the only major building from the Palace to survive the WWII bombs.
A visit to Mandalay would not be complete without an excursion to the U-Bein Bridge. One of Myanmar’s most iconic attractions, the 1.2km bridge crosses the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura. It is believed to have been first constructed in the 1850’s making it the oldest and longest teak bridge in the world.
Formerly Pagan and the ancient capital of the Pagan Kingdom. During the height of the Kingdom between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were built on the plains of Bagan. To this day, 2,200 temples and pagodas survive and are part of the Bagan Archaeological Zone, the most visited attraction in Myanmar.
The Dhammayangyi Temple is the largest of all Bagan’s temples. This temple was built during the reign of King Narathu, who gained the throne by assassinating his father. The inside of the temple is completely bricked up. Local legend is that King Narathu, ‘the bad king’, was bricked alive inside. The other interesting part of the temple is the 100s of bats who have made their home in the corridors.
Neither the biggest nor most intricate temple, the Lawkaoushaung Temple may be harder to find, but is 100% worth the effort.
Tip: The entrance is locked, but find the caretaker who will open it up. Then you get a Burmese Temple all to yourself!
The views from the upper deck are incredible and it is one of the best places to see a sunrise or sunset without the crowds.
A day trip from Bagan to Mount Popa is a nice way to break up what can be some intensive temple exploring. Mount Popa is a 657m high sheer-sided volcanic plug located 50km from Bagan. At the top of the 777 stairs, past the slightly mischievous monkeys, lies numerous gold topped Nat temples and relic sites. The views from the top on a clear day are incredible.
For more information about Travel in Myanmar check out the official tourism board website for more great things to see and do.
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