Why travel to Myanmar? Simple: It’s amazing!
This captivating country is richly endowed with spectacular scenery, colorful cultures and awe-inspiring historic sites, with something new to discover around every bend.
While it’s true that Myanmar only recently relaxed its travel restrictions, this should be no deterrent. As local experts, we can assure you there’s plenty of travel infrastructure and as many chances to experience luxury as there are to immerse yourself in the country’s rustic charms, or to delve into its spirituality.
Drawing on decades of experience in the region, we can think of multiple reasons why you should book a trip to Myanmar without delay. Here, we give you 21 reasons why you should see Myanmar as soon as you can…
1. Natural beauty
Myanmar really is one incredibly good-looking country.
Paradise beaches with perfect water and white sand, misty mountains, tangled jungles, majestic Inle Lake, the wide Irrawaddy River, the rugged highlands, the lush lowlands – Myanmar’s stunning landscapes are truly breathtaking.
Combine these stunning backdrops with some of the world’s most well-preserved historic sites and you’ve got pure travel magic.
2. The ‘undiscovered’ vibe
A tourist hub Myanmar is not. While the capital, Yangon, has its fair share of expats, Western brands and five-star hotels, you don’t have to venture far to feel as if you’ve departed the beaten path.
In Yangon, you can hop aboard the circular railway for an authentic view of local life, and all across the country, even the most visited places have minimal crowds if you travel in low season.
When it comes to lesser-known areas, such as the Mergui Archipelago or Putao in the Himalayan foothills, you’ll truly feel like an explorer no matter when you travel.
3. Balloons over Bagan
A bit about Bagan: It is one of Myanmar’s most visited sites. It is incredibly scenic. It comprises more than 2,000 ancient stupas. It dates back to the 9th-century Pagan Kingdom. It is possible to float over these spires in a hot air balloon.
Bagan is a must-see. Ballooning is the more unconventional way of taking it all in and one that may not be possible for much longer depending on local laws. If ballooning over Bagan is on your bucket list, we recommend not waiting too long.
4. The majestic Mrauk U
From 1430 to 1785 Mrauk U was the center of the Arakanese Kingdom. A powerful merchant city situated on the Bay of Bengal, remnants of this lost civilization still stand, dotted around the town and the surrounding countryside.
5. Mouth-watering flavors
Myanmar is a melting pot of cultures, which is another way of saying it’s a crock pot of flavors. You’ve got tea, courtesy of the British; curry, thanks to Yangon’s Indian population; Chinese food; Shan noodles; traditional Burmese cuisine; fish dishes and even locally produced wine.
The spectrum of Myanmar’s culinary delights ranges from street food to fine dining, within which are certain dishes you must not miss.
If you only eat two local dishes in Myanmar, make them mohinga, a breakfast noodle dish with fish broth and crispy fried fritter things on top, and laphet thoke an iconic salad of fermented tea leaves. (Both taste much better better than they sound).
6. A really tall railway track
Don’t look down – the Gokteik Viaduct soars 100 meters above a deep ravine, taking a literally breathtaking route over waterfalls and lush tangled forest.
Constructed in the year 1900, it’s a nostalgic way to traverse the highlands to the pretty colonial outpost of Pyin Oo Lwin, serving up unbeatable mountain views along the way.
7. Literary footsteps
Bagan – or Pagan, as it was then called – was so beautiful, Marco Polo wrote about it. George Orwell used the town of Katha as the setting for his first novel, Burmese Days.
Then there’s the famous Road to Mandalay, penned by Rudyard Kipling, who never actually set foot in the city.
Myanmar is a place where you can retrace the steps of some heavyweight authors, where you can view its landscapes and cultures through different eyes.
To balance the colonial perspective, contemporary authors, such as novelist Wendy Law-Yone and non-fiction writer Thant Myint-U will provide a more modern point of view.
8. Pagodas of all types
Thailand’s got the Grand Palace, Cambodia has Angkor Wat, and Myanmar has a startling array of stupas, temples and pagodas.
There’s the aforementioned 2,000 temples of Bagan. Then there’s the soaring, glittering 2,500-year-old Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon.
There’s a temple atop the volcanic Mount Popa, which you can reach after climbing 777 steps. And a pagoda called Kyaiktiyo on top of a golden rock.
And don’t forget Kyauk Kalap pagoda out in Hpa An which is perched on top of a rock formation. If you like religious sites, Myanmar’s got you covered.
9. A luxury river cruise
A plush private cabin, a wide sundeck, a drink in your hand and the tranquil landscapes of the Irrawaddy passing by – can you think of a more luxuriously laidback journey?
Aside from the obvious advantages of comfort and convenience that a river cruise brings, it also lets you see Myanmar from a different angle.
Stop off in Bagan and Mandalay, float past sleepy riverside villages, enjoy fine dining onboard and toast to the stars from the deck.
There’s a timelessness about river travel – especially on a colonial-style steamboat – and the mighty Irrawaddy River only enhances that old-world mood.
10. BIG Buddha statues
Myanmar is home to the second-largest reclining Buddha statue in the world as well as the second-largest standing Buddha statue.
Both of these towering golden figures can be found at a place called Maha Bodhi Ta Htaung, a religious site just outside Monywa.
The 90-meter-long reclining Buddha is hollow, and you can walk inside it to see more Buddha images.
11. Lake life
Two words: Inle Lake. This 116-square-kilometer lake is not only visually captivating, it’s home to some truly unique sights.
For example, nowhere will you find fishermen who row with one leg wrapped around the oar while balancing on the bow of their narrow boat.
Then there are the townships hovering on stilts over the shallow waters, and the families who families ply between them on wooden canoes.
There’s hydroponic farming, traditional weaving, an unusual ‘jumping cat’ monastery (more on this later) and the crumbling stupas of Inthein – all worth more than a passing glance.
12. Taunggyi fire balloons
Combine the end of rainy season with hot air balloons and you’ve got yourself the Tazaungdaing Festival in Taunggyi.
The festival is held around the full moon in November, and is the equivalent of Thailand’s Loy Krathong festival.
The main difference is that instead of releasing lanterns, people release gigantic homemade balloons fitted with fireworks that literally explode over the crowd.
13. A village for cats
Did you know that, by the 1930s, Burmese cat breed had completely died out in Myanmar?
In fact, if not for the breeding center at Inle Heritage, Myanmar would have lost this important part of its culture.
In 2009, the cats were reintroduced and now more than 40 purebred pedigree Burmese have their own tiny island where you can go meet them and play with them.
Inle Heritage is a non-profit that incorporates a traditional Inthar stilt house with a gallery of local art, a guesthouse and a restaurant that provides vocational hospitality training to local youths.
It’s the purrfect day trip, even if you’re not the most enthusiastic cat person.
14. Mountain tribe treks
If you’ve got an adventurous spirit, Nat Ma Taung AKA Mount Victoria gives you reasonably easy hiking terrain through national parkland – green undulating landscapes and pure mountain air.
Drive to Kanpetlet from Bagan – perhaps in an open-top jeep, wind in your hair – and trek to Aye to meet locals who still practice traditional facial tattooing. If you’re inclined, organize a homestay and enjoy a home-cooked dinner.
15. A deserted tropical paradise
Imagine sailing through an idyllic archipelago, stopping off at deserted islands, each one more beautiful than the last, diving into crystal blue waters, strolling perfect white beaches, hiking virgin jungles.
Too good to be true?
Not for now, at least – the recently opened Mergui Archipelago on Myanmar’s Andaman Sea coastline gives you all of the above.
A sailing trip is the best way to see this breathtaking region – some parts are still officially uncharted, so stick with a crew who knows the area.
16. An 18-day festival
Phaung Daw U pagoda floats above Inle Lake like a shimmering mirage, and for 18 days a year it’s the center of one of Myanmar’s most unique festivals.
During the Burmese month of Thadingyut the pagoda’s five sacred Buddha images are taken around the lake on a royal barge-style boat so pilgrims can pay their respects to them.
It’s a colorful, upbeat affair where you can witness some expert foot paddling from local oarsmen.
17. Contemporary Art
Yangon is more than temples and teahouses – it’s a hotbed of artistic talent.
If you like to explore contemporary culture, one of your first stops should be the TS1 Yangon Pop-Up Project, which gives you plenty to mull over, with waterfront warehouses transformed into galleries.
Elsewhere in the city you’ll find everything from upmarket studios to NGO-affiliated galleries to local artisan boutiques selling handicrafts – an insider art tour is the best way to uncover these gems.
18. Pyin Oo Lwin
A picturesque military post high in the hills of Shan state, Pyin Oo Twin fast became a favorite with the British during British rule.
The highlands allowed an escape from the heat, so this summer capital flourished when the temperatures rose.
Well-preserved colonial buildings and horse carriage rides preserve the little township’s legacy.
19. ‘Jumping cats’ monastery
It’s been some time since the cats at Nga Phe Kyaung monastery have jumped through hoops, but there’s still a compelling reason to visit.
This is the oldest and largest monastery on Inle Lake, built in the 19th century and housing a collection of historic shrines and statues.
Aside from the fascinating religious iconography, there are also plenty of contended non-jumping cats to play with.
20. A beach getaway
Beach lovers will find plenty of reasons to visit Myanmar.
You don’t need to go sailing in a remote archipelago to find a paradise beach – the Bay of Bengal offers up idyllic Andaman coastline with all the white sands and clear blue waters you could hope for.
The most celebrated of all Myanmar beaches is Ngapali, where you’ll find luxurious resorts, amazing seafood, quality snorkeling and a welcoming, laidback coastal vibe.
21. A splashy New Year
Fancy a country-wide water fight? New Year in Myanmar includes the Thingyan Water Festival.
The entire New Year period is from April 13-19 and constitutes big water fights followed by a few days of peaceful reflection and merit making.
If you want to see Yangon at its most festive, plan your Myanmar trip to coincide with this wet and wonderful celebration.
If we’ve managed to whet your appetite for travel and you’d like to know more about touring Myanmar, don’t hesitate to contact our Travel Specialists today.