Feel the magic of the east
Discover the cultural treasures of the exotic east on a Burma vacation, from temple-strewn landscapes to atmospheric floating villages.
Warm, friendly locals make you feel welcome in Burma, a country that’s only just come out of years of political isolation. Still largely untouched by the trappings of tourism, Burma offers a rewarding and authentic experience for adventurous travelers.
Plunge yourself into Burmese culture by visiting its greatest treasures, such as the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda, or the archaeological ruins of the enigmatic Plains of Bagan. Experience the country’s natural beauty at serene Inle Lake, and witness the unchanged lifestyle of the locals who make their home in its floating villages.
Wherever you go in Yangon, you can't miss the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda; with its sparkling diamonds and gleaming golden stupa, it dominates the former Burmese capital, known previously as Rangoon. Giving the sense of a meeting of cultures, this 2,600-year-old structure contrasts with fading British colonial buildings - past which you might see monks strolling in their purple robes, or barefoot local people chewing on their betel nuts.
Nothing can prepare you for the unbelievable scale of the archaeology-strewn landscape of Bagan: thousands of temples cover the plains, as far as the eye can see. It's so vast that you can only really appreciate its extent by taking to the air, and a peaceful balloon flight over the ruins at dawn is an unforgettable experience. Spend the day exploring the site on foot and discover the frescoes and statues that still decorate these beautifully preserved temples. As the sun goes down, witness the changing colours in the warm orange glow.
Observe scenes of rural Burmese life among the characteristic stilted houses of Inle Lake, where you can take a waterborne exploration of the famous floating villages. Enterprising locals run cottage industries from which you can buy souvenirs to take home with you, but the real appeal of a journey around Inle Lake lies in being able to witness a traditional way of life - in particular the fishermen, who have their own distinctive style of 'leg rowing'.
Venture into the mountains and meet the colorfully dressed people of ethnic minority hill tribes like the Palaung. This former British hill station is surrounded by tea plantations, enjoying cooler temperatures that make the experience of wandering Kalaw's quiet streets particularly pleasant.
A name synonymous with the exotic east, Mandalay is a cultural and religious center on the Irrawaddy River, and it's full of treasures waiting for you to discover. In Burma's last royal capital, explore ornate pagodas, buy souvenirs in its numerous artisan shops, and be sure to pay a visit to the Kuthodaw Pagoda, where Buddhist inscriptions cover 729 stupas to form what's affectionately known as the biggest book in the world.
Enjoy a beach escape at Ngapali, where immaculate beaches considered the finest in Burma fringe the coast for three kilometers. Relax beneath the palm trees on the sandy beach to the sound of the warm water of the Bay of Bengal, and when you get hungry, savor the taste of the sea in a meal of freshly caught fish.
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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.