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Best things to do in Myanmar

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Where in the world: Asia  /  Myanmar

Top 15 things to do in Myanmar

1. Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon (Rangoon)

Journey to Shwedagon Pagoda along with faithful Buddhist practitioners, who visit to honor the relics of previous Buddhas. This golden stupa, or pagoda, ranks among the holiest religious sites in Myanmar. Tradition dictates that it has stood for over 2,600 years, although historians approximate that the Mon people constructed it between the 6th and 10th centuries. In its current state, after countless renovations and reconstructions, diamonds and other precious stones encrust its steeple; see if you can spot the legendary 76-carat diamond at the tip from the ground below.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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2. Bagan Temples, Bagan

Thought by many to be a Burmese version of Angkor Wat, Bagan Temples stands as the remains of an ancient capital of the Kingdom of Pagan that reached its height between the 11th and 13th centuries. Spreading over 42 sq km (26 sq mi), the archeological zone features ruins of more than 2,200 richly ornamented Buddhist temples, monasteries, and pagodas. The sheer size of the area makes it difficult to explore on foot, so consider renting a bike or a horse-drawn cart. It's also worth hiring a local guide who can show you some hidden gems. However, the most spectacular way to see the temples is from a hot air balloon. Note that you have to take of your shoes off to enter some of the sacred sites, and the stone floors can get scorching hot after 1pm.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Inle Lake, Nyaungshwe

Natural and unpolluted, with fantastic mountainous scenery, Inle Lake stands out as the second largest lake in Myanmar, and also the country's highest altitude lake. Enjoy a spectacular leg-rowing performance by native lake-dwellers or fishermen casting their cone-shaped nets, or take your pick of the wares at a daily floating market. Standing at an altitude of 880 m (2,900 ft), this freshwater lake covers some 116 sq km (45 sq mi), providing a home to nine endemic species of fish and over 20 species of snails. This popular tourist spot offers classy hotels, but also low-budget, family-run accommodation. You can rent a bike, visit a massage parlor, or enjoy Shan State cuisine, a favorite in the country.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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4. Kuthodaw Pagoda & the World's Largest Book, Mandalay

A magnificent gilded 57 m (188 ft) tall stupa the foot of Mandalay Hill, Kuthodaw Pagoda & the World's Largest Book features a courtyard with 729 white marble shrines, each of which contains a 1.53 m (5 ft) tall slab inscribed on both sides. Walking around these mini-temples built in 1860, you can read the entire Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. In fact, it took a team of 2,200 monks working in tandem nearly half a year to read all of the stone tablets. Enjoy the serenity of this splendid structure’s inner courtyard, with many Buddha images and flowers. Dress respectfully, making sure not to wear shorts.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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6. Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Kin Pun

A massive gilded boulder, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda defies gravity on the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the densely forested area of Mount Kyaiktiyo west of Yangon. Standing at 1,100 m (3,609 ft) and entirely covered with golden leaves pasted on by monks, this magnificent balancing granite rock serves as the base of a small 7.3 m (24 ft) tall pagoda enshrining a hair of Buddha. The 7.6 m (25 ft) natural wonder resembles the head of an ascetic, making the spot one of Burma's most sacred Buddhist sites. Many observation decks provide 360-degree panoramas of the area. Take a crowded open-top truck at a stop some 1.5 km (1 mi) from the summit or hike to the top. Note that women may not touch the rock.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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9. Chaukhtatgyi Buddha, Yangon (Rangoon)

Stare at a mesmerizing, massive reclining figure of Chaukhtatgyi Buddha, and the gilt robed giant will return a blissful smile to you. Housed in a huge metal shed, the 65 m (213 ft) long and 16 m (52 ft) high statue enjoys immense reverence in Myanmar. Started in 1899, the statue took until 1907 to complete and has since undergone several restorations. Note the scenes from Buddha's life carved into its feet.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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10. Mr. Bike Hsipaw Trekking, Hsipaw

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Mt Popa, Popa

Climb to the top of a 1,518 m (4,981 ft) tall extinct volcano at Mt Popa, a scenic sacred volcanic mountain lying 50 km (31 mi) from Bagan. With over 200 springs and brooks, the mountain makes a great hiking area, its huge 1.6 km (0.9 mi) wide cauldron-like volcanic depression and debris landslide paying testament to the awe-inspiring power of nature. Considered the main abode of the most powerful spirits in Myanmar, the area also houses the country’s most important temples, which blend ancient folk religion with Buddhism. Perched on a huge volcanic plug, Taung Kalat Monastery--with its gilded stupas--offers spectacular panorama, which you will reach after a steep climb of 700 steps. Bring food and water along if you want to conquer the peak, and beware of the thieving macaque monkeys.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. Shwenandaw Monastery, Mandalay

Made entirely from teakwood with intricately carved facades, Shwenandaw Monastery provides one of the finest examples of traditional 19th-century Burmese architecture. Marvel at the skills of local woodworkers as you inspect intricately carved teakwood doors, screens, and facades with ornate endings pointed towards the skies like countless wooden antennae. Once fully gilted and a part of the Mandalay Royal Palace in Amarapura, the monastery was entirely dismantled and brought to its present location in 1857, where it served as King Mingdon's royal quarters. The monastery’s elaborate four-tiered roof, with each section smaller than the one below it, is adorned with carved mythical creatures, animals, dancers, and depictions of various Buddhist legends.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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13. Sule Pagoda, Yangon (Rangoon)

At the center of the nation's former capital, Sule Pagoda is an octagonal structure surrounded by bustling streets and buildings from the colonial era. Examine the 44 m (144 ft) tall pagoda's lavish ornamentation and see how a steady flow of devotees come to bring offerings and revere the enshrined strand of the Buddha's hair. Besides touring the sacred compound, you can also visit nearby shops, which offer palmistry and astrology services, along with religious souvenirs and gifts.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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14. Ananda Temple, Bagan

A well-preserved masterpiece of Bagan architecture, Ananda Temple displays delicate stone-carved facades and an impressive pyramid-shape structure, with a magnificent gilted central tower that can be seen from far away. Built in 1105, this outstanding example of fine craftsmanship, a landmark of Bagan, has been well-restored, and still displays some of the original murals and stucco. Marvel at four 9.5 m (31 ft) tall gilded statues of standing Buddhas inside this simple but very large corridor temple. A popular escape from the busy city, the grandiose 53 by 53 m (174 by 174 ft) yard of the temple provides tranquility set against the tall carved cliff. Take an ox-drawn cart for a time machine trip during your visit to this must-see attraction.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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15. Mandalay Hill, Mandalay

Northeast of the city center rises Mandalay Hill, a haven of monasteries and pagodas that remains one of prominent pilgrimage sites for Burmese Buddhists. Reaching an elevation of 224 m (735 ft), the hill's summit offers panoramic views that make the entire trip worthwhile. You can reach the top by taking one of four covered stairways, or a one-way road leading to an elevator.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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