8 things you can only experience in Myanmar

Myanmar’s cultural miscellany encompasses ethnic diversity, golden pagodas, wonderful archaeological sites and appetising street food. How can you fit everything into one trip? Here are our recommendations for eight memorable experiences that are unique to this fascinating country.
 Tourist Balloon flies over a pagoda in the morning in Bagan. Photo: Shutterstock
Balloons over Bagan in the morning. Photo: Shutterstock

Ready to experience the cultural diversity of Myanmar?

Insight Guides' local experts can help you plan and book your trip to Myanmar. Get in touch and let us know your interests and travel preferences. We will then create an itinerary especially to meet your requirements, which you can amend until it's exactly how you want it. Take inspiration from our existing itineraries and bear in mind that they can all be fully customised. 

Myanmar has secured its place as one of the world's 'must-see' destinations. And for good reason. Home to a wealth of mesmerising temples, cultural experiences and impressive sights, our list of the best things to do in Myanmar continues to grow. Start planning your trip with these eight experiences.

1. A hot air balloon ride over Bagan

Bagan is one of Myanmar's unmissable sights, and it is truly unique to the country. Home to more than 1,000 Buddhist temples, sprawled across a grassy plain, it's one of the largest religious complexes in the world. Visitors can explore the multitude of monuments by bicycle, e-bike or horse and cart. Alternatively, those looking for the best view, should take to the skies with a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. The dawn flights are something special, as the sun gently rises over the Ayeyarwady River, illuminating the temples one by one. Experience Bagan from the air and view Yangon's beautiful temples as part of Insight Guides' Myanmar Dreams tour

2. Cross the world’s longest teak bridge

The U Bein Bridge, just south of Mandalay, spans the Taungthaman Lake for a whopping 1.2km. Built around 1850, it is believed to be the longest teak bridge in the world. As you cross the rickety wooden panels, you can spot the bobbing heads of local fisherman in between the paddle boats below, filled with tourists. Get here for sunset – the views and colours cast across the lake are spellbinding. Just be sure to arrive early, it's popular with locals and visitors alike. 

Boat and people on U-Bein bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar. Photo: ShutterstockBoat on Taungthaman Lake near the U Bein bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Feel overwhelmed at Shwedagon Pagoda

Another big-hitter on Burma's tourist trail, Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda is unlike any other temple in the world.  More than 2,500 years old, it's one of the world's most sacred Buddhist sites, so is usually packed with monks and local worshippers, as well as a sprinkling of tourists. Adorned with vast quantities of gold leaf, the pagoda shimmers in the sunshine, and is another wonderful spot to stop at for sunset. Discover the temples of Yangon as part of Insight Guides' Love Yangon trip. 

4. Taste green tea… in your salad

Green tea has been hailed as a health drink the world over. But have you ever eaten it? Fermented green tea leaves are a delicacy in Myanmar, and one not to be missed. Often added to salads, they can be mixed with spices, cashew nuts and sesame seeds to make for a fiery but filling dish. The Moon vegetarian restaurant in Bagan (close to Ananda Temple) makes for a great pit stop when you're touring the city's temples. 

Yangon street food. Photo: ShutterstockYangon street food. Photo: Shutterstock

5. Get caught up in the madness of Mandalay

Southeast Asian cities are often a little hectic, but nothing compares to the atmosphere in Mandalay. As the country's second city and commercial hub, it's home to frenetic activity to match. Travelling around the city by foot is near-impossible – roads have no pavements and walking among the chaotic lanes of traffic is too risky. Instead, explore by rickshaw or moto-taxi to see the top sights. For a little respite, climb the stone steps up Mandalay Hill, to take in serene views of the city stretching out below with the Ayeyarwady River beyond. Visit Mandalay as part of Insight Guides' Myanmar In-Depth tour

6. Slurp on Shan noodle soup

Burmese food is often overlooked for the more popular flavours of Thai and Vietnamese. But a unique and distinctive dish to try on your trip is Shan noodle soup: a hearty bowl of Burmese noodle broth. From the north-eastern Shan state, the dish is a local favourite mixing thin rice noodles with a spicy, fragrant broth, and chicken, pork or vegetables.  

Dish of Burmese Shan noodles soup in Myanmar. Photo: ShutterstockDish of Burmese Shan noodles soup in Myanmar. Photo: Shutterstock

7. Cruise the lazy waters of Inle Lake

Inle Lake is another unmissable experience on your trip to Myanmar. Home to floating villages, houses held up by stilts, and sprawling gardens, the lake is a serene sight. Local fisherman still work the waters in traditional boats, in the 'leg-rowing' style now synonymous with images of this destination. Take a day-long boat trip to give yourself enough time to see all the sights, including the famous jumping cat monastery.

8. Dodge monkey poop at Mount Popa

Not the most delightful experience on the list but one which still needs to be highlighted. Mount Popa is another must-see on your trip to Myanmar. Perched high on the mountain-top, around 5km southeast of Bagan, is a magnificent Buddhist temple and sacred place to worship the infamous '37 nat' gods. To get to the top, you have to climb 777 steps, avoiding monkeys as you pass. The mountain and temple are both incredible but, like at all temples, you must remove your shoes as you enter. The problem is, you enter at the bottom of the slope, before you've passed the monkeys. Our tip? Take something to clean your feet with post-descent. 

Mt. Popa. Photo: ShutterstockMt. Popa. Photo: Shutterstock

Updated on 30 May, 2018