Things to do in Myanmar
Go Pagoda crazy
The classic picture of Burma is one of gilded cones rising out of the mist, stretching into the haze of the horizon. Once in Burma, you won’t need to go far to take your own similar travel snap. The “Land of the Golden Spires” is literally packed with pagodas, temples and stupas – conical or burial mound-type structures, filled with relics, jewels and offerings to Buddha.
But not all pagodas are created equal, and to avoid the ever-present threat of “pagoda fatigue”, you should pick and choose which ones you want to see, rather than running after every shiny peak you see. Yangon’s Shwedagon is the country’s most iconic and sacred; the 99m-high structure contains eight strands of hair from Gautama – the historical Buddha. The pagoda is covered in gold; pilgrims from across Burma donate gold to add to it.
The stupa atop the Golden Rock wins the most precarious pagoda award; while Bagan is fascinating for their sheer quantity. With over 2,000 structures of all shapes, sizes and styles, this is for hardcore pagoda fans only. Cycle away from popular spots and find your own secret, favourite stupa.
Our Myanmar (Burma) Holidays
The mythical Irrawaddy River is a giver of life: irrigating rice field, used to transport goods, and supporting entire ecosystems and communities along the length of Burma
Cruise the "Road to Mandalay"
Boat tours follow the “Road to Mandalay”, exploring tiny riverside dwellings, markets, monasteries and – of course – hidden temples along the way. Take a daytrip, or settle down on deck-top mattresses for a longer cruise along the mighty Irrawaddy River, which flows all past Mandalay, Bagan and Yangon, out into the Andaman Sea. Bring your PJs – the waterway is refreshingly cool at night.
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Burma’s isolation encouraged self-sufficiency – and this has extended far beyond food and fuel. Burmese craftspeople are astonishingly skilled and resourceful, with no power tools or machinery to aid their art. Workshops can be visited around the country but Inle Lake is the artisan hub. There is a craft here for everyone – from the cheroot cigar rolling and silk weaving, to silversmithing and gold leaf pressing.
One of the more unusual crafts is lotus weaving – often done by the women of the Kayan tribe, many of whom still wear brass neck rings. The lotus stem is sliced and pulled apart, revealing thread-like fibres. These are coloured – often using natural dyes – and woven on handmade wooden looms. Supporting artisans encourages traditions to continue – and provides an income for communities with few alternatives, meaning this os one of the best things to do in Burma. You also get a wonderful souvenir!
Mix up your transport
Explore the countryside on foot, by bike and even by horse and cart, while the lakes and rivers are ideal for calming cruises and long-tailed boat rides past villages, fishermen and floating markets. More intrepid voyagers can hop on a local bus. It won’t be the most comfortable ride in the world, but it will be one of your most memorable, and a real glimpse into daily Burmese life.
The journey becomes the destination in Burma. You can ride slow trains through Yangon's suburbs and the countryside, using the opportunity to mix with local folk
More about Myanmar (Burma)
The best time to visit Myanmar/Burma is the winter season that lasts from November to February.
Myanmar (Burma) opened up to tourists again in 2011, and the appeal of seeing what lies beyond the borders of this once closed-off nation is still strong.
Our interactive map reveals our top Myanmar (Burma) highlights, plus suggested itineraries to make the most of each region.
Myanmar’s relative isolation has helped to preserve its long, rich culture and visitors today will be dazzled by its Buddhist temples, tempted by its crafts and charmed by its gentle, welcoming people, well known for their modesty and warmth.
Not visiting the temples of Bagan in Burma is akin to avoiding Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Myanmar’s second largest lake is a little bit special and not just for the 70,000 Intha people living and working around its edges.
Myanmar is not well known as a small ship cruising destination – its temple-studded interior tends to steal the limelight – but in the far south of the country, the remote Mergui Archipelago is a remarkable, pristine group of islands which can only be explored by catamaran.
Travelling in Myanmar with kids needn't be daunting if you do your research, book with a holiday company focused on all things family.
If you're wondering about the best place to meet elephants, how to bring up Burmese politics, whether the country is going to change much or where to see the war murals of Genghis Khan, our partner holiday companies share their Myanmar travel advice.
It's important wherever you go, but responsible tourism in Myanmar is an especially hot topic as this country is just opening up to tourism and Western involvement after decades of dictatorship and isolation.