Myanmar isn’t always on the top of the list of places to go when you think about Southeast Asia. But that doesn’t do it credit because there are some amazing spots to visit, loads of history and culture to experience and many great Myanmar tours to help you enjoy your visit. The best places to visit in Myanmar include Mandalay, Inle Lake and Bagan. Here are some of the best Myanmar itineraries to help you plan a stunning vacation.
Basics of Myanmar itineraries
Before you start planning your Myanmar itinerary, it is a good idea to check out a few basics of visiting the country.
There are two options in terms of getting a visa to travel to Myanmar. The first is to apply to the consulate or embassy to receive one that way. Alternatively, you can apply online. You need to have a valid passport for at least six months after you travel. The Myanmar embassy website has more information on visa types and entry regulations.
Getting around Myanmar is mainly done on either bus or train. You can even get VIP buses with ultra-comfortable seats, blankets and snacks! The train is another good option and there are plenty of connections to cover the different parts of the country. You can also go for a 1st class ticket as these tend to be not much more expensive but much more comfortable for your journey.
Top Myanmar Itineraries – Yangon > Bagan > Mandalay (1-2 weeks)
Yangon to Bagan
One of the best Myanmar itineraries is to travel from Yangon to Bagan. Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, is the commercial capital of Myanmar and was the capital of the country until 2006 when it was moved to a new custom-built centre at Naypyidaw.
Checking out the best of Yangon is well worth doing. The colonial centre of the city is one of the most intact in the region and then there’s the Sule Pagoda – over 2000 years old, it is a cultural and political focus for the country. Another must-see spot is the Shwedagon Pagoda. This is also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda and is over 320 feet high, covered in gold and the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar.
There are a few options to travel from Yangon to Bagan. The cheapest is by bus and this can cost as little as $13 (£11) depending on the bus company and the type of ticket you choose. Trains are also quite cost-effective. The downside is the travel time – 9-10 hours for the bus and 17-19 hours for the train! However, this isn’t always a bad thing as you can see the stunning scenery as you travel.
If you want to get there quickly and miss all that scenery, then the quickest option is a flight. This will cost around $120 (£95) and will take around 90 minutes.
Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. It was the capital of the Pagan Kingdom between the 9th-13th centuries and at one stage, there were over 10,000 Buddhist temples, monasteries and pagodas in the area! Today, there are well over 2000 remaining. The Bagan Archaeological Zone has been created to preserve them and is one of the top tourist spots in Myanmar.
Myanmar Itineraries – Add On Day Trip – Bagan to Sa Lay
If you have more time, you might decide to take a half-day trip or full-day trip to Sa Lay. Sa Lay is a colourful old cultural town where you will find the famous “Yoke-Sone-Kyaung” monastery. The trip is approximately an hour and a half South of Bagan by car.
Myanmar Itineraries – Bagan to Mandalay
Next on the list of best Myanmar itineraries is to travel from Bagan to Mandalay. One way to do this is to take a boat from Bagan to Mandalay – this might not be the quickest way to do it but it is the best way to see the area! Bus rides typically take about 6 hours to complete the journey and the boat takes double, but the scenery is better, and it is much cooler being on the river.
Mandalay is the last royal capital of Myanmar and sits on the banks of the Irrawaddy River. It is considered the cultural heart of the country and is the second-largest city. You definitely way to see Mandalay Palace while you are there with the spiral climb to the watchtower for the brave and the impressive throne room.
Another spot to visit while in the city is U-Bein Bridge. This is the longest teak bridge in the world and is over two centuries in age. It is just half an hour from the city and there are tours to take you there.
Other Myanmar itineraries
Here are a few of the rest of the best Myanmar itineraries to help you find some of the less well-known spots to visit.
Hsipaw is the main town of Shan State and sits on the Duthawadi River around 120 miles north-east of Mandalay (approximately 6 hours). It is an area to visit if you are more into rural, countryside locations than the big cities and also has plenty of interesting history behind it.
Bike treks are a great way to see the area. There’s a stunning ancient temple complex including a stupa with a tree growing through it. Watch the monkeys play and visit the local fruit and vegetable markets too.
Some experts say the ride from Hsipaw to Goteik Viaduct is one of the best train journeys in the world! The 12-hour journey is on an old and slightly underwhelming looking train, but the lush valleys, rice and soy fields and then the viaduct itself make it worth the ride.
Inle is a beautiful town and is known for nearby Inle Lake, with its irrigation waterways and canals all leading from the freshwater lake. If you are looking for an itinerary that is away from the big cities, being around Inle is the perfect solution. It’s around 6 hours South East of Mandalay and can, therefore, be added on to the Yangon > Bagan > Mandalay itinerary if you have an extra week to spare.
A popular activity in the area is to explore the floating villages. These are huts built on the marsh and grass waterways that surround the lake and where people live off the lake or the nearby farmland. It is a chance to see a very different way of life and the children always come out to wave at tourists!
Not everything is based around the lake either – there are some brilliant trekking routes in the area. If you are up for a bit of ‘back to nature’ with no electricity, hot showers or the internet, you can get a three-day trek from nearby Kalaw to Inle.
1 Month Myanmar Itinerary
If you are lucky enough to have a month in Myanmar, you can extend the usual Yangon > Bagan > Mandalay itinerary to include Hsipaw, Inle, Naypyidaw, Maungmagan (beaches!) and Bago. You will also have the chance to do some amazing add ons such as the half-day trip to Sa Lay from Bagan to see the Yoke-Sone-Kyaung. You might also decide to add on the trip to ‘The Golden Rock of Kyaiktiyo’ which is said to be perched on a lock of the Buddha’s hair.
Plan your perfect Myanmar Itineraries
These are some of the best Myanmar itineraries but by no means the only ones. While it is a big country, the train network and buses mean you can spend as long as you want travelling from one stunning city through the amazing countryside to historic religious sites. If you would like to plan on a digital map, the one that I recommend is travelmap.net.
What to Pack for Southeast Asia
To help you pack for your trip to Southeast Asia, the below list of must-have items can be really useful.
First of all, you need a plug converter. Absolutely essential wherever you travel.
It is also a good idea to get a hanging toiletry bag, which is a fantastic way to keep all your belongings organized; and a practical rolling suitcase like the one below by Samsonite in lightweight polycarbonate.
In order to stay healthy while travelling, activated charcoal helps with stomach distress absorbing toxins that may be in your system; and natural jet-lag remedy pills help you sleeping while boosting your immunity and can avoid you to ruin precious days of sightseeing.
For all the ladies, it can be a great idea to get a maxi dress: very versatile as it can be worn at any time of the day and it is ideal to go to temples too.
A scarf that you can put on your shoulders as well as on your head while visiting a sacred place.