To travel Burma is to take a step back in time. Few destinations give off a more mystical energy than here.
Now also referred to as Myanmar, the Southeast Asian country is bordered by heavily traveled countries like Thailand and India, but it maintains an air of history and mystery that add to its unique charm.
While the country has taken steps toward democracy, it definitely still looks—and feels—like old Asia.
The Ancient City of Bagan
Lovers of architecture and culture will fall in love with the ancient city of Bagan as they travel Burma. Many of the area’s 10,000 temples were destroyed over the centuries. However, more than 2,200 still exist today—an obvious highlight for travelers.
Visitors travel to Bagan in droves, anxious to see the perfectly crafted pagodas and temples. Whether the morning fog is giving the appearance of floating monuments or the brilliant sunset is coloring the sky behind the spires, it’s a beautiful sight.
Situated on a wide plain, the landscape is dotted with two different types of structures. The first, called a stupa, is typically bell-shaped and filled with relics. The second, the gu-style hollow temples, are used for meditation and worship.
Some must-see temples include the Dhammayangyi Temple and the Ananda Temple in Old Bagan as well as the Shwesandaw Pagoda for its panoramic view.
From Cities and Religious Sites to Natural Beauty
While Bagan may be a major destination for travel, Burma has plenty of other areas that are equally worthy of attention.
Travelers that seek out cities can visit Yangon, Burma’s largest city, or the main commercial center in the north, Mandalay. The latter is another religious center with hundreds of pagodas and monasteries, but Yangon has even more to offer with a national park, a war memorial, various museums and the national theatre.
Get outdoors and explore Burma’s Inle Lake, a freshwater lake located in the center of the country. Many skip it when they travel Burma, but it’s definitely worth a visit. With no roads, everyone travels by boat. Plan to eat at restaurants raised over the water itself. Inle Lake is also a major spot for textiles and weaving. To shop at Inle Lake, expect to visit floating markets or buy directly from other boats.
For a truly cultural Burmese experience, visit Bago, the former capital of southern Myanmar. The sheer number of religious and holy sites here make Bago a place you don’t want to miss.
You’ll Have to Learn How to Travel Burma
The country has kept itself rather isolated from even its neighboring countries, making it impossible to enter Burma from car, bus or train. Therefore, most people fly—but it’s also possible to walk across.
One experience you won’t want to skip is the popular hot air balloon ride over Bagan. With so many temples spread out over the plain, it’s difficult to understand the scope. In the air, it’s easy to see just how far the monuments stretch.
Seeing the balloons themselves soaring over the ancient city is a unique experience in and of itself, but travel Burma by hot air balloon and you’ll never view the city the same way again.