Feel the magic of the east
Encapsulating the romance of travel, a Burma holiday still feels like the discovery of something unexplored.
Virtually closed to tourists for so long, it retains much of its exotic allure despite growing numbers of travellers embarking on a trip to Burma. Filled with artefacts of devotion, sights like the thousands of temples dotting the vast Bagan plains or the Shwedagon Pagoda shimmering with gold and jewels are awe-inspiring.
The people of Burma welcome travellers with open arms and whether sharing a strong cup of tea in a local teahouse or lunching with the nuns in a rural convent, meeting the locals will be the high point of your trip.
Perched on the shores of the tranquil Yangon River, this waterfront city is a hub of activity, with thriving bars and restaurants and an emerging art scene. The Shwedagon Pagoda is the city's shining jewel, a golden stupa which can be seen from all over town. Explore Yangon's historic streets, lined with British-colonial architecture.
The sight of more than 4000 temples dotting the dusty plains at Bagan as far as the eye can see is such a vision of the exotic east it is almost mythical. Be the star of your own adventure novel when you witness the vista for yourself, before exploring some of the temples up close. At sunset, the long red light glimpses across the plain and the temples seem to change colour as the shadows lengthen. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, see the temples by air from a hot air balloon.
Glide along the glassy lake past houses on stilts and the local fishermen, with their distinctive style of leg rowing, pulling nets from the water. Crops are ingeniously cultivated in floating gardens and tribal people gather from miles around at the local morning markets. A peaceful retreat that seems unspoilt by progress, a visit to Inle Lake is as relaxing as it is interesting.
A former British hill station, Kalaw remains a serene place with an atmosphere reminiscent of the colonial era. The mountains surrounding Kalaw are home to ethnic minority tribes such as the Pa-O, Palaung and Danu. Just outside of Kalaw are tea growing villages perched high on the mountainside, which are home to the Palaung. Here the local people continue to wear their traditional colourful costume and headdress.
Historic Mandalay was built at the foot of Mandalay Hill and on the edge of the Irrawaddy River as the last royal capital of Burma. A cultural and religious centre, it is home to the 729 inscribed stone slabs known as the World's Biggest Book. A major centre for arts and crafts, shop for some traditional handicrafts to take home. Surrounding Mandalay amongst the lovely countryside are numerous ancient treasures including over 700 pagodas.
Stretching for three kilometres along the Bay of Bengal, the beaches of Ngapali are the finest in Burma. They offer an idyllic spot for a beach escape away from the crowds, with a range of accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets.
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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.