Myanmar is a vibrant place to visit with its rich natural resources and cultural history. Fast becoming a coveted tourist destination, Myanmar is well worth visiting for every tourist in this part of SE Asia.
Here are just a few of the must-see attractions and things to do in Myanmar:
Any visit to the vibrant city of Yangon should include exploring the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is among the most famous in the world. This pagoda is a symbol of pride for the locals and easily seen and admired from many rooftops throughout the city.
Shwedagon Pagoda is a magical and breathtaking place to visit with its multiple entrance points leading to the pagoda platform. Also, there are eight planetary posts which represent the days of the week (Wednesday is split over two posts). Each of the posts is associated with an animal – Sunday has a Garuda, Monday has a tiger, Tuesday has a lion, Wednesday (morning) has a tusked elephant, Wednesday (afternoon) has a tusk-less elephant, Thursday has a mouse, Friday has a guinea pig and Saturday has a naga. The local Buddhists will pray in line with their birth. This pagoda is very popular and open 7 days a week (4AM to 10PM) with an entry fee charged of about $6.
Get a great sense of the lively city of Yangon by taking a historical walking tour of the place. Even though parts of downtown can be a little chaotic and smelly, the colonial buildings and sights are quite stunning. This type of tour is the best way to really appreciate the region's history and easily organised via the Yangon Heritage walking tour office. The walking tour gives great insight into the modern and past history of the city and takes place three days per week (Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday). Also, tours can take place in the morning (9AM) or afternoon (4PM) with a cost of $30 per person.
Inle Lake is a very idyllic place for tourists on the Myanmar tours in search of a little relaxation after long days of trekking and travelling around Myanmar. A wonderfully authentic touch to staying in this part of the country is staying in a stilted house on the lake or in Nyaungshwe which is a nearby town and gives easy access to restaurants serving local and international dishes. An ecologically rich tour of the lake on a skinny, long boat gives the tour participants an opportunity to see the pagodas at Indein, silk weavers, and silversmiths.
There is a vast area of land around Myeik that is blessed with sea life, fish and unexplored corals. To get the best views of the Myeik Archipelago it is worth signing up for a diving trip with a local company that features a live-aboard with time to stop for scuba diving, snorkelling, or simply island hopping. Since it isn't easy to get around in this region it is usually best to sign up for one of the tour or cruise packages.
A must-visit destination on the Myanmar family tours is Bagan with its wide-ranging plains of historic temples, monasteries and pagodas. Hiring a motorbike for a day or two is the best way to get around the religious structures. The motorbikes are easily hired directly from hotels or one of the many stands. Even though it is possible to book a tour to see the temples, they are relatively easy to navigate independently with a map. However, there are literally thousands of temples there, so you may wish to research the most impressive before starting the tour of Bagan.
Also, there are many artists in and around the temple selling lacquerware and sand paintings which can make a fantastic gift or souvenir for friends or family at home.
A truly memorable activity to take part in while in Bagan is to ride in a hot air balloon. This is certain to give the most impressive views of the temples below, but it isn't for the budget travellers or those with a fear of heights. While the ride is wonderful and mystical it is quite expensive and costs in the region of $300/$400 per person (depends on the company and number of passengers).
Train journeys in parts of Myanmar are often said to be quite uncomfortable. But, for the adventurous travellers, they are great for those more willing to seek new experiences and less concerned with comfort. The Gokteik Viaduct is a railway trestle that is located between Pyin Oo Lwin and Lashio. Formally the largest in the world, the Gokteik Viaduct is still the tallest standing bridge in the country. A ride on the train gives a perfect opportunity to see the stunning landscapes of local villages and mountains.
For travellers looking to get off the beaten track and explore areas outside of the typical path of Yangon-Bagan-Inle Lake, a visit to Hpa An gives a perfect opportunity to see the magnificent Saddan Cave. This cave structure is rich in Buddha drawings, pagodas and statues. However, there are plenty of bats in the cave and any sudden movements can lead to them fly around and screeching. All temples and caves in Myanmar ask that visitors take their shoes off. Also, the cave at Hpa An can be explored by walking or hiring a small boat that lets cave-goers travel through certain sections of the cave structure. The Saddan Cave is open 7 days a week from 6AM to 6PM.
For the adventurous travellers on the Myanmar tour packages, a trek in Kalaw is certain to be an appealing prospect. Located in Shan State, this hill station is a short distance from Inle Lake, and treks can be organised to run for 1 or 2 days to a week or longer. Many of the organised trips work with local families to give the authentic feel with the option to stay in a homestay for the night, which also includes interacting with the local families and enjoying a home-cooked meal. This type of adventure makes it possible to appreciate Myanmar in a different way that is well away from the dust and pagodas. Also, the trekking tours are relatively low-cost.
Read our: Things to do in Myanmar