The mysterious land with sacred temples, golden pagodas, ephemeral landscapes, unique culture and charming residents, Myanmar is a beautiful place to visit. The atmosphere it offers can’t be found anywhere else in the world. No matter how many places you’ve already seen, Myanmar can surprise you. Unlike many other countries, it hasn’t been strongly affected by the Western culture and globalization. Here’s a list of the best tourist attractions in Myanmar.
Yangon and the Shwedagon Golden Temple
In 2005 the capital of Myanmar was moved to Naypyidaw, yet Yangon remains its largest city and economic center. With the monks strolling around in their robes, men wearing longyi (sarong-like piece of cloth), numerous pagodas and Buddhists statues, Yangon is a highly exotic city. It’s somewhat messy as well and chaotic. The historical and religious site’s mix with the wealth of colors guaranteed by street vendors selling various fruit, with the wild traffic and infrastructure not always able to handle it. An average house is, gently speaking, roughly built, there are also slums.
The city’s greatest treasure, the famous Shwedagon Golden Temple, dominates the center and is visible from nearly everywhere around Yangon. The name is not accidental – Shwedagon is golden indeed, dazzling and astonishing. According to the legend, the place where Shwedagon stands were sacred long time before the temple was built and not only, was it holy before the whole world as we know it was created. It is believed that the temple enshrines of the Gautama Buddha and three previous Buddhas. Because it’s the most important Buddhist center in Myanmar, pilgrims from all across the globe gather in the Shwedagon Pagoda and so do the tourists, making it one of the most often visited tourist attractions in Myanmar.
Full of temples, stupas, and pagodas, Bagan is one of main tourist attractions in Myanmar. The ancient city and its surrounding make the Bagan Archaeological Zone, dotted with sacred buildings, out of which every single one is significant in Buddhism. The whole zone is picturesque and magical with the Ayeyarwady River drifting through it, the mountains that can be seen in the west and the beautiful, mystical temples. The area offers basic tourist amenities, but keep in mind the “necessary” part – even though Bagan is growing as a tourist attraction, it’s still more of a quiet area.
In the small town of Kyaikhto, balancing over a cliff, there’s the Golden Rock. It seems as if it was about to roll down any second, but it isn’t. Defying gravity, the pagoda stands on the cliff forever. According to the legend, the gilded gold boulder is anchored to the hill by a strand of the Buddha’s hair he gave to Taik Tha, a hermit.
The hermit handed it to the king who, together with his mother, used his magical powers to find a rock at the bottom of the sea. The king of Tawadeintha Heaven (a heaven in Buddhist cosmology) helped him to find the right place and build a pagoda. Kyaiktiyo is located approximately 160 kilometers from Yangon. Pilgrims from all regions of Myanmar come to visit it. Reaching the rock might be a bit harsh, some walking and climbing are needed, yet it doesn’t scare away nor the pilgrims neither the tourists. Men are allowed to touch the rock, but women can only view it from a distance, it’s still a fabulous view, though.
This freshwater lake covers an area of 116 kilometers, although it’s surrounded by floating gardens and villages built on the stilts, which makes its borders rather blurry. Residents of the communities belong to different ethnic minorities and preserve fascinating traditions. The fishermen row the boats with their legs (it’s a unique, traditional Inle technique), gardens are filled with various plants, such as cauliflower or tomatoes, fields of vegetables float on the lake’s surface – Inle is full of life. You can sail on the lake, see the people in their bamboo and wooden houses and pass the fishermen catching Inle Carps. The atmosphere both on the lake and all around it is unique, enchanting and a bit surreal.
As the last royal capital of Myanmar, Mandalay is centered around the Royal Palace. It usually serves as a base for day-trips to nearby tourist attractions in Myanmar, yet the city itself deserves some attention as well. Maha Myat Muni Paya is a religious site, richly decorated and popular among pilgrims. There’s also the beautiful Maha Myat Muni Paya monastery made of teak wood. As for the short trips, you can go from the city, visiting Mandalay Hill, its temples, and pagodas are one of the best options.