Myanmar is a beautiful country with great ethnic diversity and plenty to see and do. Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Myanmar.
1. Explore The Temples Of Yangon
Temples or Pagodas, typically house Buddhist relics and feature prominently in Myanmar’s landscape. Therefore, they have to be on the list of best things to do in Myanmar.
Yangon (also called Rangoon) is the former capital of Myanmar and the perfect place for travellers who want to explore spectacular, ancient temples/pagodas.
In fact, you will find a temple in virtually every corner of the city. However, situated on Singuttara Hill in the centre of Yangon, Shwedagon Pagoda is the most famous and sacred Buddhist temple in Myanmar.
This world renowned temple is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present kalpa. No visit to Myanmar is complete without visiting this stunning, 99m high, diamond and gold covered pagoda.
Other pagodas in the city include Sule Pagoda and Botataung Pagoda, both also spectacular temples that offer an interesting insight into the Buddhist culture.
If you’re looking for a tour option, check out the Yangon: Private Half-Day City Tour. They looked after us during our stay in Yangon and gave us a great tour of the city.
2. Eat All Of The Street Food
After we’d finished exploring Yangon City, we headed out and grabbed some local street food.
With influences from China, India, Thailand and Vietnam, the cuisine of the Burmese is truly diverse.
A popular street food and unofficial national dish, mohinga is a fish an rice noodle soup. It can be found all across Myanmar, varying slightly depending on which region you are in.
Other tasty street foods include samosa salad, dosa sandwich, chickpea tofu, pancakes, Shan noodles and of course curry and rice.
For the true foodies based in Yangon, there’s the popular Yangon 4-Hour Guided Food Tour.
However if you prefer to trawl the streets for yourself, here are a couple of our favourite spots in Yangon:
Night Market on Strand Road – About as local as you can get. You’ll struggle to find another foreigner at Night Market, with the majority of city workers heading here for their evening meal.
Botataung Jetty – For the cheapest street food. There are rows of markets selling delicious local snacks from noodles and soup, to fresh fish and fried veg.
3. Visit The World’s Largest Reclining Buddha
Win Sein Taw Ya is the largest reclining Buddha in the world and at 30 meters high and 180 meters in length, can be seen for miles. Visiting this famous statue is a big Myanmar bucket list tick!
Located around 15 miles southwest of Mawlamyine, you can actually explore the inside of the concrete statue and tour the three (soon to be eight) floors of chambers.
From the outside, the Buddha and grounds speak for themselves. An impressively large scale buddha with a similarly impressive 100 monk statues lining the road on the way in.
From the inside, what you will find are many statues in human size, which are painted to replicate different stories in Buddhism. Some interesting, some which seem to be really cruel!
4. Take A Cruise Down The Thanlwin River
This river, also known as the Salween and Nu, is the longest undammed river in mainland southeast Asia. Furthermore, from its origins in Tibet, to its estuary in Myanmar, it remains wild and relatively untouched.
Taking around three and a half hours in total, this was a fantastic way to travel and see all the different communities living and working along the banks of the river.
For us, the morning boat ride along this impressive river was perfect. It was super relaxing and a great scenic switch-up from wheels and tarmac!
5. Kayak In Hpa An
Hpa An is certainly not on most travellers Myanmar itinerary. However we had a great time there including Kayaking in some beautiful surroundings.
We were visiting Kaw Ka Taung Cave in Hpa An when we discovered the opportunity to jump in a kayak.
Kaw Ka Taung Cave is one of the oldest caves in the country, it houses more than a thousand images of Buddha and is a respected and sacred place for the local people.
Also, at the back of the cave, there are a handful of floating restaurants and a beautiful natural Ruby Lake that the locals use as a swimming pool.
However, if you’re looking for something more adventurous, the kayaking here is an awesome way to switch off and get your muscles working.
6. Explore Saddan Cave
Named after Saddan, the king of elephants who lived close to the cave, this gigantic cave is home to some pretty impressive stalagmites and stalactites.
This amazing, naturally formed cave is full of history and lots of religious stories about the rock formations. At the exit of Saddan Cave, there is a large lake which is said to be King Saddan’s bathing lake.
The best part however, has to be the river taxi taking you back round to the entrance of the cave. It was quite an eerie but really fascinating place to visit.
Definitely one for the list of best things to do in Myanmar.
7. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as Golden Rock, is a well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site in Mon State, Myanmar.
It is a small pagoda, 24 ft high, built on the top of a granite boulder covered with gold leaves pasted on by its male devotees.
The Golden Rock itself, according to legend, perches itself on a strand of the Buddha’s hair. The hair is said to have been given to a hermit by Buddha himself, who in turn found a boulder which resembled his own head.
The balancing rock really seems to defy gravity and perpetually appears to be on the verge of rolling down the hill. An interesting one for the list of best things to do in Myanmar!
If you are looking for a full day of visiting all the best spots in this area, including the Golden Rock, then From Yangon: Full Day Excursion to Golden Rock is perfect.
8. Explore The Temples Of Bagan
Thousands of tourists flock to Bagan to tick off this unique experience on their Myanmar bucket list.
Bagan is an ancient city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mandalay area of Myanmar. It’s famous for its thousands of temples that were built from the 9th to 11th centuries.
Today the area is home to more than 2,500 Buddhist temples and monasteries. However, at the kingdom’s height there were over 10,000!
The Bagan Archaeological Zone covers an area 13 km by 8 km (8 mi x 5 mi). An entrance fee of 25,000 Kyat gives you access to every pagoda within the area and is valid for 5 days.
Bagan is small enough to explore on two wheels, so grab a map and go and explore some of the many temples. You can rent E-Bikes from most shops around town, or jump on a Full Day Guided E-Bike Tour and explore with a gang.
9. Sunrise Balloon Ride
Whilst in Bagan, there’s probably no better experience than jumping in a hot air balloon at sunrise and floating over the temples.
The season for hot air balloons runs from around the beginning of October, until the beginning of April.
With flight duration a minimum of 45 minutes to 1 hour, Golden Eagle Ballooning in Bagan is one of the highest rated companies in Bagan.
We missed out on taking a hot air balloon ride, due to lack of planning, and have never lived it down! Our friend said that it was one of the best experiences of her life!
So don’t miss this amazing opportunity and make sure it’s on your list of things to do in Myanmar.
10. Take An Inle Lake Tour
It’s the second largest lake in Myanmar and is famous for its floating villages and gardens. Along with the unique way of life of the local Intha people. Amazingly, these communities are based entirely on the water.
From traditional fishermen, floating gardens, gold and silver workshops, the Jumping Cat Monastery and the ‘Long Neck Tribe’, there is so much to see here.
The best way to enjoy everything on offer at Inle Lake is to take a tour.
Tours range from around 20,000 – 40,000 Kyat, depending on the level of tour you opt for.
For the sheer amount of unique and interesting things we saw, this was definitely one of our favourite things to do in Myanmar.
11. Dee Dot Waterfall
If, like us, you love a good waterfall, then Dee Dot Waterfall, an hours drive from Mandalay, has to be on the list of things to do in Mandalay.
We hadn’t seen a waterfall in so long, so as soon as we found out about Dee Dote Waterfall there was only one option.
From Mandalay we’d recommend hiring a driver for the afternoon, or paying for taxis each way. The cost of a Grab Taxi from Mandalay to Dee Dote Waterfall is approximately 120,000 Kyat one way.
The waterfalls were not the largest or strongest flowing falls we had ever seen but the clear blue water of the swimming holes was spectacular and very inviting.
So, if you have the time, don’t miss a visit to Dee Dote Waterfall. It’s genuinely one of the bluest waterfalls we’ve ever seen!
12. Kuthodaw Pagoda
If you enjoy reading, Kuthodaw Pagoda is home to the world’s largest book. Spread over 729 in-scripted slabs at the base of this beautiful Buddhist temple, you probably won’t have time to finish it!
Built in 1857 by King Mindon Min, this golden temple lies at the foot of Mandalay Hill. However, the inscribed marble slabs were not unveiled until 1868.
Each ‘page’ is a marble slab, about 150cm x 100cm in size, inscribed with instructions on how a Buddhist should lead a moral life. With each one being housed in its own temple or shrine.
Kuthodaw Pagoda opens daily from 8 am until 8 pm. It is totally free to enter. However, camera use may incur a small fee.
Seeing the world’s largest book is certainly on the Mandalay bucket list for lots of tourists.
If you prefer a tour, a great way to visit Kuthodaw Pagoda is as part of a Mandalay Full-Day Private Tour.
13. Sunset At U Bein Bridge
Dating back to 1850 and named after the mayor who commissioned it, the U Bein Bridge is the oldest and largest teak wood bridge in the world!
It spans Taungthaman Lake, near the ancient capital of Amarapura. Once the royal capital, it has now become absorbed into the city of Mandalay.
U Bein Bridge is a footbridge, so there are not any cars or scooters to avoid. Although, as one of the areas leading attractions, there are always lots of people on the bridge, especially at the golden hour of sunset.
One of the most popular ways to beat the crowds and see the bridge in all its beauty is via a boat ride. The Ava & U Bein Bridge Sunset Bike Tour includes a boat tour and is highly recommended.
This unique and beautiful bridge offers a multitude of stunning views to capture and is a must see of things to do in Myanmar.
Where To Stay In Myanmar
For pre-booking accommodation when travelling, we always recommend Booking.com!
From 5 star hotels, to budget backpacker hostels, it’s got everything and the site is super easy to use.
So to compare deals, and pre-book all of your Myanmar accommodation, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.