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A First-Timer's Guide to Myanmar (Burma)

| Words by Ashley Diterlizzi |

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is an exciting country scattered with pagodas. Its history has been well preserved but many are returning to the country to help bring it into the present. It’s time to visit Myanmar.

Map of Myanmar

1. Cruise along the Irrawaddy

Discover local life along the banks of the Irrawaddy River, known locally as the Ayeyarwady River. Drift down the waters of the country’s largest waterway and explore its major tributary, the Chindwin, and discover the stunning scenery. Need more convincing? Here are six reasons to experience Myanmar by boat.

2. Get in touch with Myanmar’s history

From temples to pagodas, Myanmar is steeped in history. Traditional life is preserved by the more than 100 ethnic groups who call the country home. At heart, the country remains very much rural. We recommend spending time in Mrauk U, an archaeologically rich town surrounded by temples and ruins.

3. Float above Bagan

Sore above the ruins and pagodas of Bagan in a hot air balloon for an experience you’ll never forget. There are several companies which offer the experience. Watch the sun rise over Bagan’s temples as the mist lifts and they begin glowing in the morning light.

4. Relax by the beach

Ngapali Beach is regarded as the most popular for its seven kilometres of white sand and the turquoise sea. Located to the south of Ngapali is Ngwe Saung or Silver Beach which offers the same relaxing qualities without the popularity and developments.

U-Bein bridge

5. Cross the world’s longest footbridge

U-Bein Bridge curves one kilometre across Taungthaman Lake. With more than 1,000 wooden poles casting shadows and reflections across the water at sunset, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most photographed sites in the country.

6. Golden rock pagoda

The Kyaiktiyo is one of the country’s most sacred Buddhist sites. The massive boulder is perched on the edge of a cliff with a pagoda on top which looks ready to topple over. At 7.5 metres tall, the golden pagoda is makes an impressive holiday snap!

7. Watch the local fishermen in Inle Lake

One of Myanmar’s most popular attractions, Inle Lake, is a vast and serene water catchment, topped with floating gardens and stilt-houses. Intha fishermen and women take to the water in boats using their leg-rowing techniques, unique to the region.

8. Marvel at the Pindaya Caves

Located near Inle Lake, the Pindaya Caves house more than 8,000 Buddha images, some of which date back to the early Konbaung dynasty. The overwhelming number of figures blankets the walls of the cave. Set in a limestone hill in the country’s centre, the caves are a popular pilgrimage.

9. Get to know the capital

With glistening temples and a commercial hub, Yangon, formally Rangoon, is an inspiring city worth visiting. New restaurants, bars and shops are moving into the city following political and economic liberation giving the city an old-meets-new charm.

10. Climb to the top of Mandalay Hill

Get a sense of the pancake-like sprawl of Mandalay city from the top of the hill. Covered stairways lead to the top of the 230-metre tall hill. The summit is a popular lookout at sunset.

Giant Panda in Chengdu

Tips and tricks

Where to stay

For the best hotels in Myanmar, check out our latest Myanmar brochure.

Getting there

Flights do not operate directly between Australia and Myanmar with many services stopping in Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.


Myanmar experiences three seasons, hot, dry and wet. The best time to travel is generally the dry season with clear days and warm temperatures, however it is the busiest and most expensive period. The wet season, also known as the green season, averages roughly nine days of rain a month and is less busy and less expensive.

When to go

The dry season is generally considered the best time to visit Myanmar. For more information on when to go, read our guide on when to visit Myanmar.


The currency used is the Burmese kyat.

Did you know?

Myanmar is one of only three countries in the world that has not adopted the metric system of measurement.

Top Tip

ATMs that accept international bank cards have only just started to appear across Myanmar but it’s still worth keeping cash on you as they’re still not widespread.

Experience the charm of Myanmar on one of our small group journeys or check out our range of private tours.