With over 100 ethnic groups, Buddhist shrines, 13,000 years of history, peaceful fishing villages and an abundance of natural landscapes, Myanmar is a fascinating country only making an increasingly notable mark on the tourist map. To help you choose the best Myanmar tour packages for you and make sure you don’t miss a thing, we’ve put together a list of our top recommendations for the southeast Asian nation.
Hot-air balloon over Bagan
Myanmar’s main attraction and absolutely worth the trip alone, this archaeological temple forest features more than 2,000 spires sprouting from the ground over a 67 km2 region. The breath-taking temple skyline views are best seen from the basket of a hot-air balloon at sunrise. Marco Polo described it as ‘one of the finest sights in the world – and he was right.
Sunset in Mandalay
Mandalay was the last city of the Burmese kings before British takeover, and the artistic centre is famed for the tales told by poets like Rudyard Kipling. Savour the stories with a crimson sunset on top of Mandalay Hill.
Stand in awe of Golden Rock
This 600-ton boulder topped by a giant stupa on the craggy edge of Kyaiktiyo is delicately balanced by the mystical powers of Buddha and pilgrim donations of gold leaf imprints. The excursion is a mecca for Burmese Buddhists, saffron-robed monks and curious foreigners alike.
Life on Inle Lake
Myanmar’s high-altitude freshwater lake is interlaced with stilted communities of hill tribes. See them meandering through the waterways with ingenious one-legged rowing, keep your eyes open for the classic triangular net casts used by Burmese fishermen and admire the remarkable lifestyle of the Intha people, ‘Sons of the Lake’.
Relax at Ngapali Beach
Templed-out travellers seek sanctuary at the premier destination for Myanmar beaches, where warm water laps on white-sandy beaches, chilled out vibes resonate, and massages at bargain prices beckon tourists.
Visit Shwedagon Paya
The towering gold-leafed zedi in Yangon is one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites, home to a treasure trove of relics including eight of Gautama’s hairs. The zedi is touted as the golden symbol of Myanmar, dating back 2,500 years.
Climb Mount Popa with monkeys
Monkeys accompany the trudge up the steep sides of the extinct volcano near Bagan, acting as furry navigators to the high Taung Kalat monastery, nestled above in a green oasis of shrines devoted to the Nat spirits.
Take an Irrawaddy River Trip
Myanmar’s recently opened doors to tourism allow never-seen-before access to local river tribes that rarely see foreigners. Simple guesthouses line the route to the lesser-known part of the country, though this may all change as luxury river cruises are added every year. Get there before they do!
Spot Aung San Suu Kyi posters
Summarising Aung San Suu Kyi in but a few words is near impossible – the youngest daughter of ‘Father of the Nation’ Bogyoke Aung San is a Nobel Prize Winner, politician, diplomat and author. Breaking barriers throughout her career, Aung San Suu Kyi is an icon in Myanmar and the evidence is everywhere. Look out for her posters as you wander the country whose people she has so fiercely worked to protect.
Rice fields and water buffaloes
What trip to southeast Asia is complete without a few rice fields and water buffalo? Myanmar has both in spades, and they are best enjoyed on rural hikes such as the trails of Hsipaw.
Pick up a longyi sarong
Longyi sarongs are a traditional clothing item worn by both men and women in Myanmar, which can be tied into assorted designs – making them a highly-functional investment. Look out for longyi at markets and pick up a few for the ultimate souvenir.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC