Unlike neighboring states, Myanmar cannot boast of a large tourist flow. This is a definite plus for those who want to enjoy natural and cultural attractions without crowds of onlookers.
Things to do in Myanmar
Religious buildings of the country will impress lovers of antiquity and architecture:
- The Bagan Archaeological Park is a whole scattering of temples and pagodas on a vast territory.
- Damayanji is shrouded in legends. The stones of its 78-meter walls are so close to each other that it is impossible to stick a knife blade between them.
- Ananda combines several architectural traditions, and its interior galleries are decorated with intricate stone carvings.
- Sule plays a huge spiritual role in the life of every Buddhist in Myanmar.
- The spire of the Shwedagon is adorned with real gems — a magnificent sight!
Museums of the country keep the most valuable collections that will be of interest to all inquisitive persons. Artifacts from temples, paintings, household items and much more are exhibited at the National Museum. The Gem Museum is a real treasure trove. Some of his exhibits cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Bagan is an archaeological park with an area of about 40 square meters. km. On its territory there are more than 2 thousand religious buildings of varying degrees of preservation. Together they form a unique architectural ensemble that reflects the original culture of the Burmese. It will take several days to see the entire temple complex.
In the period from the 9th to the 13th century, the city of Bagan was the capital of an ancient kingdom, from where the unification of the disparate territories of Myanmar began. It was here that the cultural and religious traditions of modern Burma were laid. In those days, more than 10 thousand temples and pagodas were built along the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy.
This is one of the largest temples in Bagan. The building looks like a stepped pyramid, the height of each side is about 78 m. Damayanji looks especially majestic at sunrise and sunset, when the pink sun “burns” on the walls. The main decoration of the facade is arches with carved decor and elegant window openings. Today, only a small part of the sanctuary is available for inspection, 2 corridors with a length of about 25 m, as well as balconies from where panoramic views of Bagan and its pagodas open.
The temple was built from 1167 to 1170 by order of the ruler Naratu, who killed his father and brother to take the throne. The construction of a grandiose religious building was supposed to atone for terrible sins before the Buddha. The tyrant personally supervised the progress of the work. If it was possible to stick a knife blade between the stones, then the builders were executed with this very knife right in the courtyard of Damayanji. Naratu did not rage for too long — he was killed within these same walls. After the death of the king, construction was stopped, and some of the already finished galleries fell asleep.
The construction of the majestic 55-meter temple was completed in 1227. Gavdavpalin is the second largest religious building in Bagan. He managed to survive a strong earthquake in 1975. The square sanctuary consists of two floors, which house 7 terraces. Inside there are 4 entrances on each side of the building. The main gate, guarded by lions, is located on the east porch.
- On the first level there is a spacious main hall for prayers and a corridor with statues of a seated Buddha.
- The hall on the second level is much smaller — the main image of the Buddha is kept there.
- The construction is crowned with a sihara tower. Unlike other temples of ancient Bagan, it is not gilded.
Taung Kalat Monastery
This is one of the most important monasteries in Myanmar, located on the sacred mountain of Popa (1518 m) about 50 km from Bagan. The mountain of volcanic origin, like a fabulous giant, rises above the desert plateau, and the picturesque monastery on its top can be seen from a distance of 60 km in good weather.
To climb to Taung Kalat, you will have to overcome 777 steps. There are small pagodas and shrines along the way. The ascent will be tiring but interesting. At the top there are several viewing platforms and traditional Buddhist temples.
The uniqueness of the temple, built in 1105, lies in its unusual architecture. The exterior combines Indian traditions of religious building and decorative details typical of the buildings of the ancient Mon civilization. The building has the shape of a cross with four entrances oriented to the cardinal points. Believers are greeted by Buddha statues, but only two of them are original, the rest are copies of masterpieces that died in a fire in the 18th century.
At the top of the building is a pagoda with a shikhara covered with gilding. The main decoration of the temple hall is 1500 niches with skillful stone bas-reliefs. They depict scenes from the life of the Buddha. It is also worth stopping by the panels painted based on ancient legends.
The gilded stupa is of great importance for almost every inhabitant of the country. Firstly, Buddha’s hair is kept here — legend says that Gautama personally handed it over to Burmese merchants. It was they who decided to build a pagoda for the shrine on the foundation of an ancient religious building that appeared on this site more than 2500 years ago. The age of Sule is usually counted from this time point, so it is considered the oldest in the country.
Locals call the pagoda “Su-wei”, which can be translated as “meeting place”. For several centuries, Burmese have been gathering here to discuss pressing issues. It was from here that the popular unrest of 1988 and subsequent anti-government protests began.
The height of the building is about 50 m. At the beginning of the 20th century, prayer halls appeared around the pagoda, then souvenir shops and offices of soothsayers working for a small fee. Here, the locals perform a ritual to attract good luck. Next to the stupa there are 7 statues of Buddha — according to the number of days of the week. It is necessary to pour water over the figure that corresponds to the birthday of the seeker of happiness.
Shwedagon is the main religious shrine of Burma, which houses the relics of the four Buddhas: part of the robe of Kassapa, the Konagamana water filter, the staff of Kakusandha and 8 hairs of Gautama. The height of the building is 98 m, the walls are covered with gold leaf, and the spire is decorated with precious stones (about 4 thousand pieces): diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, including a 76-carat diamond. Every inhabitant of the country is obliged at least once in his life to pray in the pagoda and give alms for the renewal of gilding.
The main stupa is surrounded by pompous temples, statues of animals and mythical creatures, Buddha sculptures in various poses, as well as burial pagodas of monks who have reached the highest enlightenment. The pagoda stands on a high hill, so beautiful views of Yangon open up from its courtyard. The roof of the building is decorated with bells that keep ringing in the wind. The main bells are placed in the temple and each has a name. The heaviest is called Maha Tissada (42 tons), followed by Singumin (23 tons).
Phou Woon Daung Caves
The underground temple complex consists of 947 caves connected by corridors ranging in length from 3 to 8 m. Each cave is a man-made temple carved into the rock. The walls of the shrines are decorated with bright paintings based on the past lives of the Buddha. The dimensions of the chambers vary from 2 to 5 m.
The entrances are guarded by sculptures of lions and fabulous creatures. True, most of them are destroyed — in contrast to the numerous statues of Buddha, which have survived in good condition to our time. The underground temple was built in the 14th-18th centuries, but the oldest drawings and statues date back to the 4th century.
Museums and antiquities
Archaeological Museum of Bagan
The museum was founded in 1902 on the initiative of To Seong Ho, curator of the Department of Archeology of the National Museum. The collections moved several times until finally settled in a beautiful modern building in 1995.
The museum has 10 themed rooms. Each contains priceless artifacts: objects from the royal palace of Bagan, fragments of temple wall paintings, Buddha sculptures, stones with inscriptions in the language of bygone civilizations. There is also a model of the Bagan temple complex, photographs and documents.
The museum is located on the third floor of the jewelry market. Amazing exhibits are collected in a small room. Most of them are rough stones found in Myanmar, including the world’s largest sapphire and ruby.
It is worth stopping by the map of Burma, lined with valuable minerals and gems. When the button is pressed, the mine is highlighted, where a certain type of mineral is mined. The exhibition also presents jewelry made of precious and semi-precious stones.
National Museum of Yangon
The museum dedicated to the culture, art, life and history of Myanmar was founded in 1952. Now it occupies a large 5‑storey building. Extensive collections are exhibited in 14 spacious rooms, which should take several hours to explore.
Here you can find ancient tools, ritual attributes, national clothes. Of greatest interest are objects of fine art from different eras — from prehistoric times to the present: samples of rock art, frescoes from temples, paintings, engravings and more.
A whole hall is dedicated to all kinds of musical instruments and puppets that participated in theatrical performances in ancient times. The hall with the treasures of the Burmese rulers impresses with luxury — ceremonial clothes, replicas of thrones and jewelry are exhibited in it.
Myau‑U Ancient City
The former capital of the state of Arakan was founded in 1431. The heyday of Myau‑U came in the 16th century — then about 120 thousand people lived in the city, trade was carried out with Portugal, the Netherlands, India and Persia. The inhabitants of the Arakan kingdom had their own language, script and their own minted coins.
Gradually, the city fell into decay, and it was swallowed up by the jungle, but the bizarre architecture was perfectly preserved. Religious buildings attract many tourists. Temples of Victory, Dukhantein and Koutaun are especially popular.
Royal Mandalay Palace
The huge palace complex, built in the 19th century, was not only the residence of the Burmese rulers, but also a “forbidden city” where only the elite could enter. When the British occupied Myanmar, they placed soldiers in the former royal chambers, who did not stand on ceremony with the interior decoration. And in 1945, the palace was bombed by Japanese planes.
From the original building, only fragments of the fortress wall and a few pagodas have survived. What is now presented to the eyes of tourists is a remake. But you should definitely visit here to feel the spirit of a bygone era. Several halls of the palace have been converted into museums. The most interesting exhibits: the king’s giant bed, engravings and photographs.
Be sure to climb one of the fortress walls. There is a 300-meter observation deck from where you can see the surroundings. They say that 600 human bodies are immured in these walls. Such a sacrifice was ordered to be made by the king during construction in order to protect the palace from enemy encroachments.
Ubein Wooden Bridge
It is the longest and oldest wooden bridge in the world, connecting the city of Amarapura with the adjacent village. The structure, approximately 1.2 km long, stands on 1,068 teak logs left over from the construction of the royal palace in Ava. The bridge consists of two segments located at an angle to each other. In 9 places there are passages for large vessels.
The bridge was built in 1850. This is a solid period for a natural material that is constantly exposed to moisture. Many teak fragments have been replaced with concrete. Throughout the promenade there are benches and gazebos for relaxation, there is a brisk trade in souvenirs.
Also known as Lake Victoria, Inya is the largest body of water in Yangon. The reservoir was created by the British in 1883 to collect excess rainwater during the wet season and also to provide the city with drinking water.
With the exception of a public park on the southwest shore, the entire area around the lake is privately owned by expensive real estate. Free access to water is possible from the Inya and Pyi embankments, located next to the University of Yangon.
Hlavaga National Park
The park, founded in 1982, is located in the suburbs of Mingaladon. The territory with an area of over 623 hectares is divided into 3 zones:
In the first one there are cozy bungalows combined into a hotel, a spa, a restaurant and boat rental. The second zone is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts: they offer car safaris and hiking, there are artificial rocks for amateur climbers. The third is a butterfly garden, a mini-zoo with reptiles and a greenhouse.
Kandavgi or Royal Lake is an artificial reservoir created to provide citizens with drinking water. To implement the project in the 1870s, the British drained the swamps and built a dam. Thus, Lake Kandavgi was formed, which was then connected with Inya by pipes. As planned, water from the combined reservoirs was supposed to flow through a system of canals deep into the city, but this did not happen.
Today, the surroundings of Kandavga are a favorite place for tourists and local residents to walk. The length of the coastline is approximately 8 km. Nearby is a landscape park and a zoo. On the east side of the lake is the Karawijk Hall restaurant.
The attraction is located near the city of Naypyidaw. The entrance to the park with an area of 67 hectares is marked by three huge arches — immediately after them, the territory of entertainment for children and adults begins. These are sports and playgrounds, cafes, restaurants and, of course, fountains. There are more than 20 of them here, they are equipped in artificial ponds, and on the shores of the largest reservoirs there is a rental of catamarans.
For young visitors, two ponds were converted into a small water park with slides of various sizes. Other entertainments include viewing old boats in the open-air museum and admiring the beauties from observation towers. In the evening, the backlight turns on in the garden, and the jets of fountains shimmer in different colors.
The oldest zoo in Myanmar is located in Yangon and covers an area of about 28 hectares. More than 200 species of animals live here — in total over a thousand representatives of the fauna. These are elephants, tigers, lions, crocodiles, primates, birds and many others. There are especially many visitors in the aquarium, where colorful fish caught off the coast of Southeast Asia live.
The zoo also houses an amusement park and a natural history museum. When the capital was moved from Yangon to Naypyidaw, a significant number of animals went there, for which a new zoo was built.
One of the main public holidays precedes the Buddhist New Year, which is celebrated in April. Within 3 days the country turns into a water battlefield. Municipal offices, shops and schools are closed. People of all ages, regardless of status and wealth, pour water over each other from all kinds of containers. Wet action is accompanied by processions and dances.
The bazaar, opened during the British presence, occupies a picturesque building with arches, galleries and passages. The market was originally called Scott Market, after Commissioner Gavin Scott. After Burma gained independence, the mall was renamed Bogyuk Aung San to perpetuate the memory of a prominent military and political figure.
Antiques, jewelry, souvenirs, art, clothes, shoes and haberdashery are sold in the market building and on the adjacent streets. There are also pharmacies, healers’ offices and shops with medicinal herbs.