By Jenna Jolie
Myanmar boasts an incredible array of things to do: from stepping back in time at Inle Lake to the chaotic royal capital of Yangon to the breathtaking Bagan temple plain, Myanmar remains as one of South East Asia’s hidden gems.
1. Watch the sunrise over the Bagan Temple plain
Bagan sunrises are truly breathtaking and, watching the sun light up the Bagan temple plain, is an iconic Myanmar moment. The temples stretch as far as the eye can see, a morning mist rises over the plain, a rainbow-coloured sky emerges through the darkness and hot air balloons drift over the horizon.
2. Climb the 777 steps of Mount Popa
Mount Popa is a Myanmar postcard sight: a sacred monastery, with stupas glistening gold, perched atop an extinct volcano. 777 steps lead the way to the top of Mount Popa, the headquarters of Myanmar’s most powerful Nats, and the route is lined with monkeys keen to get up to mischief with the tourists in their search for food! Mount Popa is a popular half-day trip from Bagan.
Where to stay in Bagan?
Hotels in Bagan are located across Old and New Bagan and Nyaung-U. Nyaung-U, a mix of boutique hotels and local residents about 3km from the temples, is our favourite. We use Agoda for South East Asia bookings as it has the cheapest prices and best selection. Bagan hotels tend to book up fast so book in advance.
ZFreeti Hotel, Nguang-U: we stayed in the Zfreeti, a small hotel with lots of great restaurant options in the surrounding streets and an inviting swimming pool.
Other good options in Nguang-U include the Sky View Hotel and Motel Zein.
Aureum Palace Hotel and Resort, Old Bagan: located within the Bagan Archaeological Preservation Zone among the ancient temples this hotel has the best views of the Bagan plains.
Bagan Lodge, New Bagan: If you prefer New Bagan this might be your best option.
3. Get lost among the thousands of Stupas at Kakku, Inle Lake
One of Myanmar’s most spectacular pagodas, Kakku is a Shan State hidden gem. It is a collection of 2,478 stupas commissioned 2,000 years ago and it is a religious centre for the Pa’O people, a Buddhist tribe from Myanmar. It’s accessible by a half-day trip from Inle Lake and, due to local laws, it is required to take the trip with a local guide.
4. Take a sunset boat ride on Inle Lake
Inle Lake is one of the most stunning lakes in the world and the stilt houses and Buddhist temples rising from the marshy reeds only add to its appeal.
The best way to experience Inle Lake is to take a ride on one of the slender long tail wooden boats and experiencing the silence and emptiness of the lake is an absolute privilege as is watching local village life while floating by. Inle Lake can certainly hold its own on the sunset front: the beautiful colours of the Myanmar sunset reflect from the glass-like lake making for a picture-perfect setting.
5. Be amazed at the sight of hundreds of ancient stupas at Indein, Inle Lake
Hundreds of red, white and brown stupas stand in varying states of disrepair on a hill in Indein, a Myanmar village located at the end of a narrow creek directly off Inle Lake. The journey to Indein is a joy: the twists and turns of the creek took us past farmers, accompanied by water buffalo, tilling the rice paddies and families bathing along the banks.
Where to stay in Inle Lake?
A visit to Inle Lake centres around the lake itself and we found staying on the lake itself an unforgettable experience. We highly recommend staying at one of the resorts on the lake, which all offer direct access to the lake from the hotels.
Inle Princess Hotel: We stayed in the beautiful Inle Princess Resort which is situated on the shores of Inle Lake. The villas are stunning, the food excellent and the views unbeatable.
Myanmar Treasure Resort: A collection of stilted luxury rooms overlooking the lake.
Royal Nyaung Shwe Hotel: an excellent budget-friendly option in Nyaung Shwe.