Myanmar has got the beaches and temples and culture to easily rival those popular tourist destinations such as Thailand and Malaysia. At night, the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda shines 325 feet high over Yangon. The ancient city of Bagan hosts a spectacular plain of more than 2,000 temples – some more than a thousand years old. A short drive from Mandalay city is the old capital of Amarapura, home to the U Bein Bridge, the world's longest teak bridge and site of hazy lakeside sunsets. What more could you ask for?
In 2012, Myanmar came out of five long decades of Army imposed hibernation and decided to give tourism a chance. This country is for sure quite unlike any land you know about. It retains the power to surprise and delight even the most jaded of travellers. Yes, Myanmar still has many problems to fix, but its people remain as stoic and charming as ever. So slow down, sit, listen and connect with it’s nation, it's the best way to appreciate what's truly golden about this land. So buckle up and get ready to fall in love with this magnificent country! Here is our itinerary for two weeks in dreamy Myanmar.
Yangon is Myanmar’s busy capital and tends to be the first stop for most travellers.
The flight from London to Yangon is around 13 to 14 hours plus 1 stop long; getting from the airport to any of the popular hotels or hostels in the city can take you between 20 to 45 minutes depending on location.
Day 1: YANGON
At whatever time you arrive in this busy city, we recommend you to take that first day off to relax and get ready for the exciting journey ahead.
We stayed at the iconic Sule Shangri-La located 30 minutes away from the airport, and decided to explore the area after taking a little nap to recover.
Click HERE to see accommodation details
A must see when in Yangon will be its iconic Bogyoke Aung San Market, which is only a 3 minute walk from the Shangri-La Hotel.
This market is the largest and most diverse market in the city and possibly the country together with Mandalay’s market. It is full of shops selling just about ANY cool Myanmar item you could want, especially their famous gems from ruby, jade and sapphire and of course their traditional food.
It is definitely worth a stop, especially both at the beginning and end of your trip. We got a beautiful hand made umbrella, some clothes and were even able to fix some garments as well as they have plenty of women and men sowing on the spot for you.
This market only opens 6 days a week, Tuesdays to Sundays, so no visits on a Monday!
Day 2: YANGON
Wake up at the crack of dawn and visit Yangon’s biggest and most iconic Buddhist temple: Shwedagon Pagoda.
Travellers will see temples everywhere they go in Myanmar, and will doubtless be struck by the wealth and profusion of building styles. Yet still, the Shwedagon Pagoda remains unrivalled as temple, meeting place and symbol of national identity.
Day 3: HPA-AN
Take a night bus to the very unique town of Hpa-An, this was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. This little town will take your breath away in a heartbeat.
Hpa-An is a picturesque town with a backpacker feel that sits on the eastern bank of the Thanlwin (Salween) river, about 270 kilometres east of Yangon.
The setting itself, the surrounding caves and mountains to explore, and the laid back atmosphere are the highlights of the area. This town is normally out of the usual route through the country and there often skipped, so even better if you are after a quite experience.
Embark yourself on an amazing sunset trek that will leave you speechless: Hpan Pu Mountain hike.
Hiking to the top for sunset was one of the best experiences we’ve had in Myanmar. The short 20 to 30 minute hike is steep, and very sweaty but for sure more than rewarding once you reach the summit.
On the trail to the top, do expect loose gravel, sharp rocks and bamboo ladders, so your full attention is recommended during the hike as to not have any slips.
Day 4: HPA-AN
Up for a sunrise mission! Thirteen kilometers of paved and unpaved road east of Hpa-An, the Taung Wine Pagoda sits at the topa limestone mountain. Smaller than Mount Zwegabin and less frequented by tourists, the trek up Taung Wine Mountain, a steep dirt path cutting through dense jungle, skips none of the thrills. Near the top, a sheer iron staircase with spectacular 360-degree views leads to a weathered stupa.
After this unforgettable trek, drive straight to explore the beautiful Kyaut Kalat Pagoda, located only 30 minutes away by tuk-tuk.
Day 5: MANDALAY
Take another night bus (the second for us), with destination to Mandalay.
Arrive early in the morning and take the day to explore Mandalay’s markets and local spots and plan your next few days that will include temples, waterfalls and even sunflower fields!
We stayed at the beautiful Hotel by the Red Canal, Mandalay’s only luxury boutique hotel. An oasis by the landmark Red Canal in local folklore just minutes from Mandalay Palace and other attractions.
Click HERE to see accommodation details
Day 6: MANDALAY
Rise and shine! Time to leave the hotel early and explore beautiful Mandalay.
Hsimbyume Pagoda. This unique white pagoda is the perfect place to see your first Mandalay sunrise.
Mingun Pagoda or the “unfinished pagoda”. An incredible temple located only 10 minutes by foot from the white pagoda. Despite being unfinished and having a monumental crack from top to bottom, it is a must see!
U Min Thonze Pagoda or what we like to call “rainbow pagoda”.
This temple is 40 minutes away from Mingun but it definitely worth the stop! It is one of the most distinctive complexes on the main hilltop of Sagaing. This pagoda comprises of 45 beautiful gilded Buddha images in a crescent-shaped colonnade, partly built into the side of the Sagaing Hill. Each Buddha statue is unique in different sizes & facial expression.
Day 7: MANDALAY
If by now you are feeling a bit “templed out” we have the perfect solution for you. Why not visiting the world’s longest teak bridge surrounded by a beautiful sunflower field, followed by an exciting trek to a natural blue waterfall pond?
The bridge is the one and only U Bein Bridge, only a 30-minute drive from the city. The Dee Doke Waterfalls are the blue hidden gem we cannot recommend highly enough.
Day 8 to 13: BAGAN
Leave Mandalay by midday to be able to get to Bagan by sunset. This will give you the chance to have a nice sleep and be ready for the most exciting week ahead chasing balloons and discovering ancient temples.
We hired a private driver as the price was affordable and we wanted a more private experience this time.
We stayed at the one and only Heritage Bagan Hotel where we felt at home every day! Great location, amazing hospitality, and the best croissants ever!
Click HERE to see accommodation details
Bagan, in central Myanmar, is one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites you’ll ever explore, a sight to rival Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat but with fewer visitors. The setting is sublime: the plains of Bagan, partly covered in palm trees, tamarind and distant mountains.
And rising from those plains are temples; dozens of them, hundreds of them. Yes, Bagan is Myanmar’s very own fairytale kingdom.
We highly recommend you to spend a minimum of 5 to 7 days in Bagan as there are many places to explore and more activities to experience. Bear in mind that you will have to be up quite early as the balloon galore starts with sunrise every day.
There are many temples and pagodas to visit, and it would be useless to say which ones you should visit as they are ALL equally stunning. In saying this we can give you some key tips:
Hot air ballooning, getting lost amongst the temples, and visiting the villages around.
BEST TIME TO EXPLORE
Sunrise or early morning and sunset. There will be less crowds and the weather is more pleasant.
MOST PICTURESQUE SPOTS
The whole of Bagan is a photographer’s dream. So don’t stress out on where to go. We assure you, the whole town is a postcard.
There are certain temples that we could recommend such us Temple 843, Let Put Kan Temple, Lemyethna Temple, Ananda Temple, Pyathetgyi Pagoda and Dhammayazaka Pagoda amongst our favourites.
Click HERE fore more information on our hot air balloon experience
Day 14: back to YANGON to fly back to LONDON
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Myanmar, is during the drier winter months from October to March. It's hot during the daytime, and lowland temperatures remain pleasant at night, although bring much warmer layers for the highlands and hill stations, as they are chilly in the evenings and early mornings.
Also, if you are after a hot air ballon experience, ballooning season in Bagan runs from the beginning of October to the middle of April. So bear this in mind if you are planning to fly.
WHERE TO STAY
We had the pleasure of staying in some amazing locations, all different from each other. We highly recommend you to have a taste of as much options as possible:
In Yangon – Sule Shangri-La
In Hpa-An – any guesthouse will do the job! Hotels tend to be expensive and have poor facilities for the price they charge as it is still a very undeveloped area
In Mandalay – Hotel by the Red Canal
In Bagan – Heritage Bagan Hotel
WHERE TO EAT
Finding good vegan/vegetarian options was quite easy! We normally use an app called Happy Cow.
In Yangon – 999 Shan Noodle Shop
In Hpa-An – Bamboo House and Veranda Youth Community Café
In Mandalay – Container 65, The Window and My Tree Café
In Bagan – Sharky’s and Be Kind to Animals (The Moon)
GETTING FROM A TO B
When getting around Myanmar we used every possible option available:
Yangon – Hpa-An: night bus
Hpa-An – Mandalay: night bus
Mandalay – Bagan: private driver
Bagan to Yangon: internal flight
To move around in each location we used tuk-tuks, scooters or Grab (similar to Uber).
ONLINE VISA FOR MYANMAR
You will need an eVisa to be allowed into the country. Arranging this document is extremely easy if done online. Just make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months.
We recommend applying with time, at least a week in advance, but usually the applications get approved within 24 hours.
You will receive a 28-day visa that will cost you approximately $50 USD.
Get you online Visa HERE (evisa.moip.gov.mm)
1. SIM card: grab a SIM before you leave the airport at the kiosk. You can get 10 to 20 gigs of data for approximately $15 USD. We used Ooredoo.
2. We found Myanmar extremely safe in general, for both couples and solo travellers.
3. About drones: we didn’t encounter any issues when bringing our aircraft into the country. But you will need to log into the DJI website and apply for a geo zone permit for certain parts of Bagan as it is close to their main airport.
Myanmar is the perfect destination for travellers that enjoy exploring untouched countries; think of Myanmar as Thailand but 20 or 30 years ago: a beautiful country ready to be discovered, little tourism, very affordable, easy to travel through and with the friendliest and most caring locals.
So yes, this is the time to visit Myanmar! What are you waiting for?
If you have enjoyed this blog or have any questions, don't be shy, leave us a comment and we'll get back to you as soon as possible! For travel info, questions or collaboration enquiries drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and don't forget to follow us on Instagram @youmeandthesaltysea.