How to get to Myanmar
Myanmar has two international airports, namely Mandalay and Yangon. So there is a big chance that you will either fly in or fly out from Mandalay or Yangon city. Mandalay International airport is Myanmar’s biggest, putting travelers closer to the country’s most beloved tourist attractions like Bagan and Inle Lake. Yangon International Airport, located far to the south, is older but has better international connections than its northern rival. So what you can do for example, is what we did. Fly in on Yangon, travel by bus to Hpa-An, then Inle Lake and from there to Bagan and Mandalay as the final stop before you fly out from there.
But you can also enter Myanmar from the mainland if you come from Thailand or Laos. The overland crossings in Myanmar are called Tachilek, Myawaddy and Kawthaung. The names of the Thai side of the crossings are at Mae Sai, Mae Sot and Ranong.
From Laos, you can enter from Wan Pong, near Tachilek in the Shan State into Luang Namtha province in Laos. The so called “Friendship bridge” in Kenglap is now also open, which is near Tachilek in Myanmar to Xieng Kok in Laos.
Best time to visit Myanmar – Myanmar weather
When planning a trip to Myanmar, the weather plays a major role in having a great holiday. So before booking, make sure to go in the right season which fits your needs. Myanmar has 3 distinctive seasons:
- November to February: cool & dry (but mid-February starts burning season)
- March to May: hot & dry (worst time to visit Myanmar because of the burning season)
- June to October: rainy season (but therefore also green season)
So the best time to visit Myanmar is during the drier winter months of October to mid February. It’s hot during the daytime, and lowland temperatures remain pleasant at night. Although, bring warm layers for the highlands and hill stations as they are chilly in the evenings and mornings.
Burning season in Myanmar
But, there is one important thing we want to warn you for before planning your Myanmar trip. It’s called burning season. This is the time when farmers set their rice fields on fire to get rid of any remaining unharvested crops to get the fields ready for the next plantation cycle. This causes smoke and therefore sometimes less clear views. It is one of the worst times to visit Myanmar because the air becomes very smoggy and polluted. Burning season in Myanmar takes place from mid-February to late-March, similar to neighbouring countries.
How to get around in Myanmar
Traveling around Myanmar can be done in backpacking style or more ‘luxury’ with domestic flights. All the main tourist areas in Myanmar have an airport like Bagan, Inle Lake and Ngapali beach. But domestic flights are not super cheap, especially in comparison with traveling by bus.
We traveled through Myanmar by bus and all the routes were well connected with each other. We booked tickets via oway.com one or two days up front and everything went smooth. You can choose between night buses or day buses. JJ Express has one of the most comfortable night buses you can wish for with reclined soft seats.
How many days to spend in Myanmar
Depending on the places you want to visit in Myanmar I would suggest at least 10 days, but two to three weeks is most ideal. It gives you more time to travel between the places and explore more things around.
Myanmar, former named as Burma, is a multi-tribe country with 135 ethnic tribes sharing the same territory. The country was under military rule under various guises from 1962 to 2010, and has become one of the least developed nations in the world during this process. Since independence in 1948, the country has been in one of the longest running civil wars. Its recent past has been centred around continuous clashes between its myriad ethnic groups and was long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta from 1962 to 2011.
Since 2012 the tourism in Myanmar saw a huge increase in visitors. This resulted in much investments being made in the years that followed to boost the tourism industry. The Myanmar cuisine is a mix of Thai, Indian and Chinese food. But in most cities and tourist destinations are also Western focusses restaurants located. If you’re going to visit one of the many Buddhist temples in Myanmar, be aware that you need to cover your knees and shoulders and take off your shoes.
Best places to visit in Myanmar
Inle Lake boat tour
Inle Lake can’t be missed on your Myanmar itinerary. The several villages on the lake with wooden and bamboo homes will take you back in time. It’s so interesting and beautiful to see how these people live and work on the lake. The local people called Intha, have developed their own fascinating culture and lifestyle that revolves around the water. Nowadays, around 100,000 Intha still work and live in the stilt houses on the lake. They do different kind of crafts such as lotus and silk weaving, traditional fishermen who row their canoes with one leg, cigar making, silversmith and more. During a full day boat tour on Inle lake you will visit lots of these workshops and see the beautiful nature. It’s really interesting to see how the local people live their lives on Inle Lake. Prices vary if you choose for a sunrise to sunset tour, half day tour or other program.
For all the information about Inle Lake and the things to do, read this complete guide!
Inle Lake – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Relax at Ngapali beach
Ngapali beach is Myanmar’s premier beach destination and is located on the Bay of Bengal. This 7 km long white soft sand beach is a true paradise but still very untouched. Little tourism to Myanmar’s beach towns gives you almost empty beaches. But well known hotel chains already found their way to Ngapali Myanmar like Hilton and Aureum palace Spa & Resort. Take about 3 to 4 days to really experience this area and relax to the max. There are not many tourism activities to do like parasailing or jet skiing. But therefore is Ngapali still as pure and chill as possible.
Ngapali beach – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Watch the sunset at Mandalay Hill
Watching the sunset at Mandalay Hill is a must-do in Myanmar. This 240-meter high hill gives you an incredible view on the surrounding area of Mandalay. Getting up is easier than you might expect, because there is an elevator and escalator on the foot of the highest temple.
At the top of the Mandalay Hill is also a pagoda, so you need to wear proper clothing and take your shoes off. There are all benches overlooking the view of Mandalay. You might also meet monks who 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 1000 Kyat ($0.75).
Read about all the best things to do in Mandalay here.
Mandalay Hill sunset view – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Fly in a hot air balloon above the Bagan pagodas
One of the best places in the world to do a hot air balloon flight is in Bagan, Myanmar. The golden glowing sunrise view above the ancient temples and pagodas of of Bagan with nearly 1000 years of history makes it a very special experience. With over 2200 temples and pagodas, there is no better way to take in the incredible history spread across the plains of Bagan. Click here to read everything about our Balloons over Bagan experience.
Hot air balloon over Bagan – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Visit the Golden rock
This is something you should only put on your list if you really want to put in the effort to get there. Halfway from Yangon to Hpa-An, there is Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, better known as the Golden Rock. It is one of the most important Buddhist sites in Myanmar, but, getting to the Golden Rock is quite a long ride. From the base, you have to take a very basic bus filled with locals and a few tourists which takes about an hour to reach the top of the Golden Rock. But the views from the top are beautiful, although it can be very busy with local people.
Golden Rock – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Hike to the top of the Taung Wine mountain in Hpa An
This was one of the best places in Myanmar to visit for us. It was also the main reason why we went to Hpa-An, because the view from this mountain on the surrounding area is incredible! Be prepared because the hike is very steep and strenuous, but for the fit people it is doable in about 45 minutes – an hour depending on the pace and stops you make. You can hike the mountain in the early morning to watch the sunrise, or in the afternoon to watch the sunset. Because you will have a 360 degrees view from here, both are great options. Make sure to bring a headlamp if you choose one of these options and wear good hiking shoes because you need really good grip here.
Read everything about the Taung Wine mountain hike in this blog post.
Taung Wine mountain in Hpa An – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Admire the Kyauk Kalat Pagoda
Set on top of a limestone pinnacle on a tiny isle in a lake, Kyauk Kalat Pagoda is a very unique sight. Also known as Kyauk Kalap or Kyaut Ka Lat Pagoda, this place is a great stop for a little hour with stunning views on Mount Zwegabin. Visitors are allowed to go inside the pagoda to reach as high as it’s shrine that’s located about halfway up to the top. But make sure to dress properly with your knees and shoulders covered. Best time to visit for the best light is in the morning until 10 AM or with sunset.
Read everything about Hpa An and the things to do in this blog post.
Kyauk Kalat Pagoda in Hpa An – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Visit the caves in Hpa An
Hpa An has many caves to explore, but the Saddan Cave is the largest one in Hpa-An. There are many monuments at the entrance such as a golden stupa, a reclined Buddha, golden monk statues and wall carvings. You’ll have to walk through the 500 meters long cave for about 15 minutes to reach the other side. Then you can either walk back or rent a boat for an extra 3000 Kyat for a relaxing boat ride on the secret lake back to the main entrance. Before you enter you have to pay 1000 Kyat per person entrance fee. Shoes must be taken off at the start and appropriate clothing must be worn to cover your shoulders and knees.
Read everything about Hpa An and the things to do in this blog post.
Saddan Cave in Hpa An – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Explore the Bagan pagodas
Bagan in Myanmar is truly one of the most unique and magical destinations in South East Asia we have ever visited. And without a doubt together with Inle Lake the best places to visit in Myanmar. With so much history, culture, and architecture to explore, Bagan is a must see. There used to be over 10,000 pagodas in Bagan, but because of the earthquakes in 1975 and 2016 only 2229 Buddha temples and pagodas are left nowadays. But don’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of pagodas because they are all amazing in their own way. The best moments in Bagan for us were the random turns and paths we took. But of course there are some pagodas you need to see. So in this complete guide you will find the best Bagan Pagodas to visit.
Bagan pagodas with sunset – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Climb the 777 steps of Mount Popa
Mount Popa is an extinct volcano 1518 metres above sea level, and located in central Myanmar in the region of Mandalay. It can be seen from the Irrawaddy river as far away as 60 km in clear weather. Mount Popa is a Myanmar postcard sight: a sacred monastery, with stupas glistening gold, perched atop on the extinct volcano. 777 steps lead the way to the top of Mount Popa, and the route is lined with monkeys in search for food! Mount Popa is a popular half day trip from Bagan.
Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon
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.
Read everything about Yangon and the best things to do in this blog post.
Shwedagon pagoda Yangon – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Watch the sunset at the U Bein bridge in Mandalay
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.
Read everything about Mandalay and the best things to do in this blog post.
U-Bein bridge Mandalay – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Visit the Hsinbyume pagoda in Mingun
One of the pagodas 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 5000 Kyat per person to see all pagoda’s in Mingun at the entrance.
Read everything about Mandalay and the best things to do in this blog post.
Hsinbyume pagoda in Mingun – Best places to visit in Myanmar
Climb to the Hpan Pu mountain with sunrise or sunset
One of the best ways to experience Hpa An and watch an incredible sunset is from the Hpan Pu mountain. A short hike of 20- 25 minutes will bring you to the top of the mountain with an incredible view over Hpa An, the mountains and the river. The hike is quite interesting with a mix of stairs, rocks and dirt steps leading to the top. You will also pass a pagoda and locals homes. When we did the hike in February 2020, the bamboo ladder was broken, so unfortunately it is not possible anymore to get to the top of the mountain. But still you can enjoy the view from a little lower viewpoint on a cement platform.
Read everything about Hpa-An and the best things to do in this blog post.
Hpan Pu mountain in Hpa An – Best places to visit in Myanmar