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Essential Myanmar



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If this is your first Myanmar travel experience, there are some iconic cities, sites and destinations that are simply a must-see for first-time travel to Myanmar, which include Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Mt. Popa and Inle Lake If this is your second trip to Myanmar or you prefer to get off the beaten path, explore our Extended Myanmar page.

Yangon (Rangoon)

This is one of the most charming cities in Asia, with enormous style and dilapidated grandeur. After you see the great, golden, 2,500-year-old Shwedagon Pagoda, see it again! During your trip to Myanmar, visit the National Museum with the Lion Throne, Scott Market, the Royal Lakes and the Sule and Botataung Pagodas.

Tour the old part of town and the waterfront by sidecar (bicycle pedicab) and be sure to have a sunset drink at the Floating Hotel. Stroll through the lobby of the Strand any time of day.


This fascinating city is the "cultural soul" of Myanmar and offers treasures small-colorful markets, exquisite crafts, Buffalo Point-and large-the restored Royal Palace, the Mahamuni Buddha, and sunsets from Mandalay Hill. Bibliophiles will be fascinated by the Kuthodaw Pagoda, referred to as the "world's largest book." At the Mahamuni, don't miss the extraordinary Khmer bronzes.

Bagan (Pagan)

A must see during your Myanmar tour, Bagan is considered by many to be the most wondrous sight in Asia: prepare to be floored. This extraordinary archaeological site sprawls across the arid flood plain of the Irrawaddy River, shimmering in the dusty heat haze of central Myanmar. Though Kublai Khan, and a massive 1975 earthquake, wreaked havoc here, of the 6,000 pagodas built between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 2,000 still stand.

Among the highlights are the graceful Ananda, the golden Shwezigon, the enormous Dhammayangyi with its superb brickwork, the towering Thatbyinnyu, the Gubyaukgyi with its lovely murals, and the Nanpaya with its stone carving. Also of interest are the Bagan Museum, Sarabha Gate and the Nyaung U market. Hire a bicycle or a horse cart for a leisurely tour of the central temples. Or try a hot air balloon ride for a jaw-dropping overview and an unforgettable Myanmar travel experience. Excellent marionette performances are also available in this area.

Mt. Popa

Three hours from Bagan lies Myanmar's "Mount Olympus," home to a powerful deities known as nats, worshiped by the Burmese. There are numerous shrines at the base, though the shrine to the Mahagiri Nats lies about halfway up the mountain. From the base to the summit is a steep hour's climb. Watch out for the many monkeys along this route, and by no means approach or feed them.

Inle Lake

In this sublimely beautiful area see the famed Intha leg-rowers, the floating gardens, and some colorful weaving villages. A most rewarding excursion on any Myanmar tour is to one of the regional markets, where tribal people come to sell their wares. The Taunggyi Museum has a collection of tribal costumes, weapons, artifacts and musical instruments.