Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is Myanmar’s largest city and the former capital of the country . It’s also the busiest city, but nothing to compare with the big cities in Asia like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. With a mix of golden pagoda’s, British colonial buildings, many street food stalls and the vibrant China town, Yangon has something to offer for everyone. While you wander around the city, you can enjoy some delicious street food bites, visit some of the more modern parts of the city and admire the old colonial architecture. End your day on the rooftop bar with a cocktail as you take in the city skyline with its glistering pagodas and lakes for which Yangon is so famous for. Read in this blog post about all the best things to do in Yangon Myanmar!
How to get to Yangon
It might be that your journey through Myanmar starts or ends in Yangon. Most of the time it is the cheapest way to fly in on Yangon and fly out from Mandalay. Of course this depends on where you are coming from, but check this before you book your flights! This is also the most logic route as you travel your way up north or south through the country so you don’t have to make a circle and cross the same roads.
There are many buses going to Yangon, either night buses and day buses, depending on the city you are coming from.
Best time to visit Yangon
Yangon is located in the south of Myanmar and remains relatively warm throughout the year. Generally, the best time to go visit Yangon is during the cooler season which is from November to February. During this period it is much cooler with relatively low rainfall. Yangon’s summer runs from March to May when temperatures can rise up to 35 degrees.
How many days to spend in Yangon
Yangon is often the gateway destination for many travelers to Myanmar. There are some beautiful things to explore in Yangon, but you won’t need more than 2 days. Even in 1 day you can see the highlights of the city like the famous Shwedagon pagoda, the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple, Kandawgyi park and close the day off with a cocktail in the sky bar.
How to get around in Yangon
Yangon is the only city in Myanmar where scooters are prohibited. So the only option to move around is to use public transport or Grab. You can walk to many spots in the city, but it’s a bit too large to do everything by foot. Grab works perfectly and is very cheap to use.
Best places to eat in Yangon
Yangon had some really nice places to eat healthy. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find food which is not fried or if you just want a healthy smoothie bowl, sandwich or some yoghurt for example! That might be hard to find in local restaurants, although the Yangon food is generally very good! But luckily Yangon has a nice variation in Myanmar / Thai cuisine and Western orientated healthy restaurants like:
- Nourish cafe is a plant-based restaurant in the heart of Yangon, located down a small unmarked side street on the east side of Alan Pya Pagoda. You can order delicious salads, smoothie bowls, juices, sandwiches and much more healthy stuff!
- Healthy Me has two locations in Yangon and serves a very healthy and delicious menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner! You can design your own salad, order a juice, smoothie, broccoli burrito, pumpkin carrot soup and grilled chicken breast with loads of veggies. With inspiring quotes on the wall you get easily motivated eat healthy!
- Bodhi Nava is a boutique hostel and cafe located a 6-minute walk from Shwedagon Pagoda. With their raw industrial design and healthy fresh food easily one of our favorite cafes in Yangon. They serve great coffee, smoothie bowls, curries and lots of other healthy Asian focussed food.
What to do in Yangon
Visit the famous Shwedagon Pagoda
One of the highlights of Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is amongst one of the most famous pagodas of the world and one of the most sacred sites for the Buddhist community in Myanmar.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is made up of a central structure which is covered in gold leaf and studded with thousands of diamonds and rubies and a 76 carat diamond crown. This beautiful monument dominates the Yangon skyline and is the absolute main attraction in Yangon.
Go with sunrise to see locals and monks praying or meditating. Tourists slowly make their way to the pagoda later in the morning. Another option is to go with sunset. Then you can take in the gorgeous skies across Yangon, and admire the beauty of the Pagoda in darkness after the sun has set.
Stroll through China town
Bustling and vibrant, Yangon’s China Town is full with market stalls, street food and barbecue stands. An evening stroll down 19th street at night should be high on your Myanmar itinerary as it gives a fascinating glimpse into the life of some of Yangon’s residents.
Admire the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple
The Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple houses the incredible 217 foot reclining Buddha which is among the largest in Myanmar. The Buddha’s face was reconstructed after initially being considered as having too severe an expression. If you are interested in Buddhism and large inclining Buddha’s, then it’s definitely worth it to visit the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple! You can see the beautiful details on the Buddha from the long eyelashes to the inscribed feet.
Walk around the Kandawgyi park
Kandawgyi Park, also known a Yangon lake, is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the Yangon city life. The 150-acre lake is surrounded by the 110-acre Kandawgyi Nature Park. With an wooden walk bridge over the water it makes up for the perfect morning or afternoon stroll to watch the sunrise or sunset in Yangon. You can also spot the impressive dragon boat which is a restaurant and resides on the lake. For photographers the reflections of the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda in the lake is a real treat. Especially with sunrise or sunset!
Visit the Maha Wizaya Pagoda
If you want to explore a much quieter pagoda than the famous Shwedagon, its neighbour Maha Wizaya Pagoda is the answer. A much smaller, but very elegant structure on top of a small hill. The entrance is free unlike the more pricey entrance for the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Have a cocktail at the rooftop bar of Sakura Tower
The Sakura Tower rooftop, also known as Thiripyitsaya Sky Bistro, is the best place in Yangon if you want to get a drink with a view. The rooftop bar is located on the 20th floor and offers stunning views over the city. With panoramic vistas over downtown Yangon which stretches to the Shwedagon Pagoda you can watch the city life go by. The entrance fee is 5000 Kyat but you can order a drink (beer, cocktail etc) with the voucher of your ticket. So basically you only pay for your drink. Get here before sunset and enjoy the views of the glistening Shwedagon Pagoda in the soft sunset light.
Check out the Sule Pagoda
The Sule Pagoda was built about 2,500 years ago and is besides the Shwedagon Pagoda one of the most famous temples in Yangon. What makes the Sule pagoda so unique is that it is located in the middle of the modern part of Yangon surrounded by colonial buildings. The Sule Pagoda, also known as Sule Paya, is made up of a 46 meter stupa that is shaped like an octagon. You can walk around the pagoda to check out all the architectural details inside the main building. The walkways around the pagoda are a calm oasis in the middle of the bustling city.
Admire the British colonial architecture in downtown Yangon
Yangon is one of the best places to see colonial architecture, as it even has the highest concentration of colonial buildings in the world! Myanmar became a colony of Great Britain in 1824 after the first Anglo-Burmese War, and remained until 1948. After independence, the country had been run by a military regime where no infrastructure improvements were made, leaving colonial buildings standing. However, many of these beautiful structures now stand in disrepair. From the Strand Hotel to Yangon Railway station, the city is fighting to save some of its most stunning tourist attractions. These impressive colonial buildings have seen a lot over the years. To name some; the colonial control, a Japanese invasion, military rule, and the struggle for peace. The mix of old and new, grand and compact and desolate and crammed makes for an intriguing mix in Yangon. You can book one of the “Yangon Heritage Walk” tours where you will see the highlights of Yangon’s historic architecture. Check their website for accurate prices.
Take a ride on the Yangon Circular Train
Myanmar is, just like Sri Lanka, known for epic railway journeys. Many of the train tracks were built during the British colonial period. If you don’t have time to explore outside the city, then you can go for a three hour trip on the Yangon Circular Train into the outskirts of the city. As you ride on the railway you will pass the emerald green rice paddies and other sights like rustic villages that dot along the railway line.
General tips for your visit in Yangon
- Download the Grab app so you can order a Grab taxi everywhere in the city. It is the cheapest and most convenient way of transport through the city.
- If you visit a Pagoda, make sure to wear appropriate clothes which covers your shoulders and knees.
- In every pagoda you have to take off your shoes. So if you want to carry yours with you, then take a bag with you so you can put them in there. Most easy is to wear flipflops so you can quickly put them on and off.
Our experience in Yangon
To be honest, we didn’t find Yangon that interesting or impressive. I would suggest to only stay here for one day, especially if you are short in time to travel around the country. There are so much other way more beautiful places to visit in Myanmar! The highlight of the city is the Shwedagon Pagoda. But if you’re not even into pagoda’s, (or if you’ve already seen dozens of them in Asia), you can even consider to skip Yangon on your Myanmar itinerary.
More Myanmar travel guides
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