Mandalay is famous for being the old royal capital of Myanmar. In the past, Burmese kings would have lived in the city and you can still see some of their palaces. The city itself still has a royal feel to it which is very different from other cities in Myanmar like Yangon. One or two days are enough to admire the unique architecture and pagoda’s and to visit the world-famous U-Bein Bridge which is the longest teak bridge in the world. Read in this travel guide about all the best things to do in Mandalay!
How to get to Mandalay
There is a big chance that you will either fly in or fly out from Mandalay city. But there are also many busses going to other parts in Myanmar. Either night buses or day buses, just check the times and route at oway.com We booked all our bus tickets via this website or via the hotel.
Best time to visit Mandalay
The best time to visit Mandalay is in the dry season from November to February. It enjoys pleasant weather with little rainfall and cool temperatures. Therefore, the dry season has become the peak tourist season in Mandalay.
How many days to spend in Mandalay
With 2 days you will have enough time to explore everything in Mandalay. But if you are short in time to visit Myanmar, you can also make a tighter schedule to visit all the places in Mandalay in one full day. There are also tours which you can book and where you will see all the highlights of Mandalay city.
How to get around at Mandalay
Also in Mandalay is Grab available, but here you can also rent a motorbike! It is the most easy way to transport yourself if you are confident enough to drive a motorbike. We rented a scooter for 15 000 Kyat per day which was a bit more pricey than the other places in Myanmar.
Best places to eat in Mandalay
- Nova Coffee. This Western orientated restaurant has a lot of healthy menu options and delicious hot and cold coffee! We ate here many times, lunch and dinner! And stopped by every day to grab a lovely coffee. Tip; their ice coffees are AH-MAY-ZING!
- Healthy Me Salad Bar. For a healthy Western meal or a yummy smoothie or juice you have to go to this restaurant!
- Mingalarbar restaurant. For a great Burmese meal you have to try Mingalarbar restaurant! Or try some street food (as long as it looks hygienic!)
Watch the sunrise or sunset from the U Bein Bridge
The U Bein Bridge is probably the most iconic site in Myanmar. This 1200 meter long teak wood bridge stretches from Mandalay to Amarapura and is famous for being the longest teak bridge in the world! The bridge is made of wood and is reinforced in places so that it doesn’t collapse. If you don’t fancy walking across the U Bein Bridge, then you can also rent a fishing boat to see the bridge from a completely different angle.
Climb Yankin Hill for a beautiful view
Yankin Hill offers a beautiful view over Mandalay with a pretty Buddha temple on top of the hill. The main reason to climb the hill is for the chance to enjoy the sweeping vistas over the rice fields for which Mandalay is famous for. The views stretch to the foothills of Shan province which you can admire on a clear day. It takes around 10 minutes to climb to the top of the hill using a steep set of concrete stairs. There are a number of walkways between the temple pagodas where you can also check out the amazing fish statues covered in gold leaf.
Mandalay Palace, or the Royal palace, is a huge fortress located in the centre of the city. It was the primary royal residence of King Mindon and is nowadays a huge tourist attraction. Mandalay Palace is actually not the original building but a reconstruction that was built in the 1990s. It is not one building, but a series of 40 different houses that were built from wood to resemble the originals which have been built in the 1850s. One of the highlights of your visit here is the wooden watchtower which is a great place to take in the scenic views all over the city.
The entrance fee is 10 000 Kyat ($7.5). This is a combo ticket that also gives you entry to the Shwenandaw Monastery, Kuthodaw Pagoda and a few more.
On the other side of the Irrawaddy rover you will find two very impressive pagoda’s, the Mingun Pahtodawgyi ruins and the Hsinbyume Pagoda. The Mingun Pahtodawgyi are the remains of a massive construction project begun by King Bodawpaya in 1790 which was intentionally left unfinished. This pagoda almost feels like a film scene and is worth a visit.
The first picture shows both pagoda’s lined up, first the Mingun Pagoda and the impressive white Hsinbyume Pagoda right behind. The second photo shows the interesting Mingun Pagoda from up close.
You can reach both the Hsinbyume Pagoda and Mingun pagoda by taking the ferry at Mingun ferry to cross the Irrawaddy river in about 50 minutes. Ferry tickets are 5000 Kyat per person for a return.
You have to pay another 5 000 Kyat per person at arrival to visit all the pagodas at this side of the river.
Explore the beautiful white Hsinbyume Pagoda
The other pagoda you need to visit when going to Mingun, is the beautiful white Hsinbyume Pagoda. You can walk up the stairs and explore every level of the pagoda and even go inside. This beautiful photogenic pagoda shouldn’t be missed while visiting Mandalay.
You have to pay 5 000 Kyat per person to see all pagoda’s in Mingun at the entrance.
Watch the sunset and chat with monks at Mandalay Hill
Watching the sunset at Mandalay Hill is a must-do. This 240-meter high hill gives you an incredible view on the surrounding area of Mandalay. Getting up is easier than you might expect, they build an elevator and escalator on the foot of the highest temple.
There are all nice benches to overlook the view and monks are very willing to chat with you. They practice their English, or might even talk your language! Don’t be surprised when local people ask you to take a photo with you. They just want to show this to their relatives.
Note to cover your knees and shoulders and take off your shoes. The entrance fee to Mandalay Hill is K1000. ($0.75)
The impressive white Kuthodaw Pagoda
The Kuthodaw Pagoda holds the world’s largest book and is surrounded by an insane amount of small white pagodas. The size of this area is impressive and super worth it to explore. Take at least 1 hour to walk and look around, and to cuddle with the local pups and kittens!
Built in 1880 of carved teak, this is one of the finest examples of traditional 19th century wooden monastery buildings in Myanmar. The monastery that is also known as he Shwenandaw Kyaung is a very finely carved teak wooden monastery building just outside the Mandalay Palace. The beautiful wooden details in the monastery are worth a quick visit. It small so you don’t need a lot of time and you can easily combine it with a stop from Mandalay Palace or Mandalay Hill.