Experience the allure of the exotic east
On your Burma holiday, become an intrepid explorer and delve into the cultural treasures of a country little touched by the outside world.
It’s little wonder the people of Burma are so warm and welcoming. The country has only recently emerged from decades of political isolation, and now that it has, the locals are free to share their pride in their country’s treasures with travellers willing to plunge themselves into this exotic land.
As you’ll quickly find, Burma is bursting at the seams with cultural gems waiting to be discovered - and because the country is so unspoiled, you’ll feel quite the intrepid explorer as you unearth them, from the jewel-encrusted Shwedagon Pagoda to the sweeping temple-strewn plains of Bagan.
Crumbling British-style buildings reveal the colonial heritage of this former capital of Burma, previously known as Rangoon. But it's an ancient Burmese structure that catches your eye wherever you go in Yangon: the sparkling Shwedagon Pagoda, a diamond-encrusted golden stupa that dates back over 2,600 years. Out on the streets, barefoot locals chewing betel nuts and monks clad in purple robes all add to the feeling of being immersed in an exotic land.
A true bucket list destination, the thousands of temples that cover the plains of Bagan are a genuinely awe-inspiring sight. Get a sense of the incredible scale of this archaeological landscape by soaring serenely over the ruins in a hot air balloon, and then discover more of their secrets with an exploration on foot. Stay for sunset and watch the temples change colour as they're bathed in red-orange light.
Step back in time as you board a boat for a journey around the stilted houses that make up the floating villages of peaceful Inle Lake. You'll witness a way of life little changed for centuries, as fishermen bring in their catch and move around the lake using their signature style of leg rowing. Though the lake offers a glimpse of rural Burma, its cottage industries also make it a great place to pick up souvenirs of your trip.
The tea plantations that surround this former British hill station are home to ethnic minority tribes such as the Palaung, whom you'll still see dressed colourfully in their traditional costumes if you venture up into the mountains. In Kalaw itself, enjoy a cooler climate and peaceful atmosphere as you explore the quiet, leafy streets.
Can there be any name more evocative than Mandalay? Crammed with treasures and set on the Irrawaddy River at the foot of Mandalay Hill, Burma's last royal capital more than lives up to the almost mythical status of its name. Packed with artisan shops, this cultural and religious centre is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs in between exploring its beautiful pagodas. Don't miss the 'World's Biggest Book' at the Kuthodaw Pagoda - 729 stupas inscribed with sacred Buddhist doctrine.
Pristine palm-fringed beaches stretch for three kilometres at Ngapali, and it's not hard to see why they're considered the best in Burma. Despite that, they're uncrowded enough to feel like the country's best-kept secret, leaving you in blissful tranquility when you're in need of some relaxation.
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Visit local villages
Visit local villages and markets for a glimpse of local life in rural Burma.
Sunset at Bagan
Watch the sun set behind the thousands of intricate stupas dotting the Bagan Plains.
Inle Lake by riverboat
Board a small riverboat to explore the floating villages and gardens of Inle Lake and see how the locals live.
Visit a nunnery in Mandalay
Many tourists visit the monasteries to see monks in Burma, but a visit to a local nunnery to share lunch with the resident nuns and learn about their way of life on Sagaing Hill, outside Mandalay, is an unforgettable experience.
Traditional breakfast at a teahouse
Perhaps a left-over from the British, Burma has an obsession with tea and visiting a tea house is a thoroughly local experience. Try the local noodles or mohinga, a fish soup with rice noodles that is widely considered to be Burma’s national dish, all washed down with a steaming cup of milky tea.
Cruise the Irrawaddy
Enjoy a couple of nights aboard a traditional-style boutique river cruiser, stopping to visit a tiny local village school to learn about the daily lives of schoolchildren in rural Burma.
Cool off in Kalaw
Wander the colonial hill station of Kalaw, high on the pine-clad hill or join a trek to nearby hill tribe villages.
The glittering Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Nearly 100 metres tall, this gold-plated temple sports over 7000 precious jewels. The glittering edifice is a meeting place for families and pilgrims and can be seen from most of Yangon.
Relax on Ngapali Beach
Spend a few days relaxing on the pristine white sands of Ngapali Beach amidst turquoise waters and swaying palm trees.
See Golden Rock
Surrounded by untouched jungle, join pilgrims making the hike up Mt. Kyaiktiyo to the extraordinary Golden Rock.