1. The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
The Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the Myanmar top tourist attractions. This giant golden structure in Yangon rises to a height of 99 metres with its exterior covered in around 60 tonnes of gold. If you look up at the top of the stupa, you can see a 76-carat diamond as well as more than 7,000 smaller ones throughout the complex. Inside Shwedagon, there are smaller pagodas and pavilions dedicated to different Buddhist deities. Admission is MKK 8000 ($6 USD) and you should expect to spend up to three hours here. Be aware that you need to remove your shoes and it may be advisable to bring a plastic bag to carry your footwear.
2. The Temples of Bagan
The Kingdom of Bagan was an ancient Kingdom responsible for building temples between the 11th and 13th century. In fact, this early civilisation constructed no less than 10,000 temples, monasteries, and pagodas within the relatively small area of Bagan. This is by far one of the best Myanmar tourist attractions and is one of the most visited places in the country.
You can rent an e-bike for a very reasonable price and explore the ruinous temples independently. Some are larger and in better conditions, whereas others are barely standing after centuries of exposure to the elements. Watching the sunrise or sunset over these ancient temples is a highlight for any tourist. If you’re not travelling on a budget, you can take a hot air balloon ride to gaze down at the temples and landscape below.
Tourists have to pay an entrance fee of MKK 25000 ($20) to enter the archaeological zone of Old Bagan. You have to buy this before leaving Nyaung U Airport near Bagan or the bus will take you to a ticket office before you enter the town.
3. Inle Lake
This is the largest lake in Myanmar and is another one of the top Burma tourist attractions. You can come here to explore the surrounding villages supported on stilts that extend out into the water. Various activities include taking a boat ride around a floating market and visiting the nearby temples and monasteries. You can also see the local Intha people, who use a unique style of paddling their boats using just one leg, for a more cultural experience. Inle Lake is one of the best travel destinations in Myanmar and offers a lot in terms of local culture.
.4 The Reclining Buddha in Yangon
The Reclining Buddha (Chauk-htat-gyi Buddha Temple) is a large image of Buddha in Yangon that extends for a distance of 16 metres. Locals come here to make offerings and to worship the image. When you visit, you’ll see different shrines that correspond to days in the astrological week. People make offerings to the shrine of the day that they were born on.
5. The Bogyoke Aung San Museum
Anyone with a knowledge of modern politics will know the name Aung San Suu Kyi, a former winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Well, she’s a prominent figure in the development of Myanmar and her father, General Aung San, helped to gain Burmese independence from the British. This museum is the family home of Aung San Suu Kyi and her father before he was assassinated. A trip here is one of the best Myanmar attractions for people with a love of modern history.
6. Mandalay Royal Palace
Everyone around the world has probably heard the name Mandalay Palace. It’s quite common in popular culture and is even the name of a resort and casino in Las Vegas. But you may not know that this was once the palace of the last Burmese Kingdom before British colonialism. For this reason, the Mandalay Royal Palace is one of the top tourist attractions in Burma.
When you arrive in Mandalay, the palace is in the centre of the city surrounded by a giant moat that stretches for 2 kilometres on each of its four sides. If you want to go inside, be aware that it can take several hours to walk around the perimeter. So, you want to make sure you know where the entrance is! Watching the sunrise or sunset over the walls of Mandalay Palace is an unforgettable experience.
7. A Climb Up Mandalay Hill
Mandalay Hill, reaching a total height of 236 metres, is one of the holiest places in Mandalay. This has several pagodas, monasteries, and religious images that rise up the side of the hill. Climbing up the steps to reach the top rewards travellers with views of the city and Mandalay Palace below. Tourists tend to say this is one of their top Burma attractions in Mandalay. And it also gives you an insight into the local Buddhist way of life.
As you climb up the hill, you’ll pass several pagodas and images of Buddha. There are several monks in the monasteries that hang around and like to practice their English with tourists. This is a great experience and you may be able to chat with some of the younger, more curious locals.
Admission is free, but you’re expected to pay a small ‘photography fee’ when you reach the Well-Wisher’s Pagoda at the top. It’s also worth mentioning that you need to remove your shoes to climb the steps. Again, it may be better to bring your own plastic bag to carry your shoes.
8. A Visit to Shan State and Trekking
Shan State usually isn’t considered among the top 10 tourist attractions in Myanmar. But, the region that you can reach from Inle Lake offers rolling hills and multiple opportunities for hiking and trekking. One of the best places is Kalaw and you can arrange a trekking tour away from the temples for a different experience. This is one of the best places to visit in Myanmar for anyone who loves the outdoors.
9. A Cultural Show in Yangon
Karaweik Palace is a large golden barge that doubles as a function centre and restaurant on Kandawgyi Lake in Yangon. The barge is a prominent feature that dominates the lake making it perfect for photographs. But, when the sun goes down, it gets even better. You can attend a culture show in the evening and a buffet dinner with traditional music and dancing. This is certain to be one of the highlights of any trip to Myanmar. For more information and to make a reservation, visit the official Karaweik Palace website.
10. Amarapura and U-Bein Bridge
Amarapura is another top tourist attraction in Myanmar. This was once the capital of the Burmese Kingdom before it was moved to Mandalay. There are lots to do in this small village including visiting the U Bein Bridge that spans across Taungthaman Lake. This is the longest and oldest teak bridge in the world. The lake is a great place to see the sunrise or sunset. You can also sit along the side of the lake and watch the locals on their boats paddle past.
11. The Colonial Architecture in Yangon
The British ruled in Myanmar for more than a century. In fact, you may not know that Burma was actually the old British name for the country. Because of this, there are a few colonial buildings that still exist in Yangon. The better ones include the Strand Hotel, the High Court Building, and the Minister’s Office.
Not everyone likes history, but Yangon is somewhat special. This city has the highest number of colonial buildings in all of South East Asia. The reason is that under the recent military regime, development in Yangon was restricted. As such, the colonial buildings were preserved, which makes it one of the more interesting places in Myanmar if you want to learn about the colonial past.
12. The Modern Capital of Myanmar – Naypyidaw
Naypyidaw isn’t exactly one of the must see attractions in Myanmar, but it should be on your list of places to see if you have the time. The modern capital is unique and very different to any other major city in the world.
It’s a fully built city with good roads, infrastructure, and everything else you would expect a modern city to have. Apart from one small thing that’s missing: the people. Hardly anyone lives there and the roads and streets are practically deserted.
Under the military regime, the new city was constructed in clandestine circumstances. Then suddenly, in 2005, it was announced to be the new capital. All the government was subsequently moved from the old capital in Yangon to Naypyidaw.
Attractions include seeing the giant parliament building, spending a few hours in the zoological gardens, and an empty 20 lane highway.
13. A Day Trip to Inwa
Inwa is another former capital of the Burmese Kingdom near Mandalay. In the 19th century, a devastating earthquake destroyed most of the city and it was later moved to Amarapura. If you visit today, you can see the ruins of the old pagodas and a large monastery made from teak where monks still attend today.
14. A Climb to the Summit of Mount Popa
Mount Popa is a mountain near Bagan that towers over the region below. This is considered to be the Mount Olympus of Myanmar and is a very holy place. Locals believe that Nat Spirits live here and several shrines and pavilions honour them. People come from all around the country to make their offerings to appease these potentially nasty spirits.
When you arrive, it’s free to climb up the 777 steps to reach the top. Several vendors sell their goods and you’re sharing the mountain with an army of monkeys. At the top, there’s a large pagoda and beautiful views of the dry, dusty landscape below. The best way to reach Mount Popa is to take a tour from Bagan.
15. Saddar Cave
Visitors generally associate a trip to Myanmar with pagodas and temples. Few know of the opportunities to get out and explore some of the subterranean wonders this country has to offer. Saddar Cave is a large cave system in Karen State that has a number of miniature golden images of Buddha, religious cave paintings and a mystical pagoda. As you’re walking through, it gives visitors an almost spiritual experience.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, there are a number of Myanmar top tourist attractions to visit and experience. Top activities include enjoying the exoticism of the golden pagodas and exploring the ancient temples.