Many people avoid Myanmar when traveling in Southeast Asia. We say: Go there before the country gets invaded by tourists! Myanmar is as fascinating as its popular neighbors such as Thailand or India. Moreover, we can guarantee that you will have many monuments all to yourself. In case you’re wondering how to spend 2 weeks in Myanmar we have a nice itinerary to suggest.But first, we ask for a second of your time: click here and like our Facebook page! Thank you!
When to visit?
We visited Myanmar in the rainy season but this term is not really accurate. Only once in sixteen days did it rain for the whole day. Most of the time it was very hot and sunny with occasional drizzle. The question ‘when to visit?’ is therefore pretty easy to answer. Just visit whenever it suits you and don’t worry too much about the rain. Always carry around a raincoat and you’ll be fine. The only area that we don’t recommend much visiting in the rainy season is the coast. There might be downpours, strong winds or even cyclones and that’s not much fun, right? But again: It’s up to you. We’ve met a few people heading to the coast since it gets incredibly cheap (even the most luxurious beach resorts) and there will be almost no people.
How to get there?
There are two major cities which are very well connected with other Asian countries: Mandalay and Yangon. You’ve guessed right that the easiest way to get there is by plane. There are a few low-cost airlines that offer cheap and convenient flights. You can also cross the physical borders but be aware that not all Myanmar is accessible to foreigners. Probably the best option is the border with Thailand at Mae Sot / Myawaddy.
Anything special needed?
Yep, you need a visa. You can obtain electronic visa online before traveling to Myanmar. The only official website is this one: https://evisa.moip.gov.mm/. Don’t use any other websites or agencies! The procedure is pretty fast and costs 50 dollars. After submitting the application you will get a confirmation mail with your visa. Don’t forget to print it and always carry it with you. During the 2 weeks in Myanmar we were asked to present it several times.
As far as vaccination is concerned, we wouldn’t worry too much about Myanmar. We always recommend the vaccine for hepatitis A and B and typhoid fever, which however are useful in any country of Southeast Asia. We didn’t experience any mosquito raids but spraying yourself with a repellent is not a bad idea. For the rest just be careful, but that’s a sign of common sense. The Burmese are really lovely and friendly. Not even taxi drivers were trying to rip us off!
2 weeks in Myanmar: What to see?
We are one of those travelers that prefer quality to quantity. However, we understand that many times the schedule is tight and tough choices have to be made. That is why we have prepared this 2-week itinerary with the best places to see. As a bonus we add a few nice spots for those who are fast and want more!
1. 2 days in Mandalay
We are convinced that Mandalay is the perfect place to start your 2 weeks in Myanmar for several reasons. The first is that it is less busy than Yangon and it has a more traditional feeling. The second is that it is literally packed with amazing temples, shrines and monasteries. In 2 days we didn’t manage to see them all. You can dedicate the first day to exploring the city. Rent a bike and just check whatever catches your eye. There are a few really nice temples like Eindawya Pagoda. Don’t forget to visit the Mahamuni Pagoda and watch the local people pray and stick a golden leaf to the statue of Buddha (sorry gals, only men can approach).The next place on our route was the Shwe In Bin Kyaung Monastery. Apart from the stunning teak building in the middle built by the Chinese jade traders, we could also observe the Buddhist monks performing their daily tasks.
In the afternoon head to the Mandalay Hill for the sunset. Underneath there are plenty of temples to check, Kuthodaw Paya being one of the most impressive ones.
If you are courageous enough the second day you can rent a motorbike to explore the surroundings of Mandalay. A good starting point is the Snake Pagoda in Paleik, where the fun starts. Here you’ll find holy pythons wrapped around Buddha statues. After the visit, head south on the road leading to the village Inwa: You will find incredible abandoned temples all along. Some of them look like a smaller version of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. After checking these hidden treasures you can drive to the famous U-Bein bridge. The best time of the day to visit the longest wooden bridge in the world is at sunrise or sunset. You will meet a lot of friendly locals and Buddhist monks willing to exchange a few words in English.
Tip for accomodation: Hotel Nova
Once in a while it’s great to enjoy a little luxury and get pampered for a few days. Our stay at the Hotel Nova contributed to the great time we had in Mandalay. From friendly and helpful staff to spacious rooms furnished in a really elegant way, the hotel can offer nice moments of relax to its guests. We appreciated huge and tasty dinners composed of several different dishes and a traditional Burmese puppet theater. In the morning you can have breakfast in the form of an enormous buffet. The hotel also offers different types of services such as laundry or bike rent. Check their Facebook page, in case you want to contact them.
2. 3 days in Bagan
Here comes the most popular tourist destination in Myanmar: Bagan. It took us around 8 hours to get from Mandalay to Bagan by bus, and another half an hour to get from the bus station to hotel. Before entering the temple zone, you will have to pay the entrance fee in cash at one of the checkpoints. You can pay either $20 or 25.000K, they don’t accept card payment. The great thing about the fee is that it covers the whole area and you won’t have to worry about paying or waiting in the queue.
We recommend you to stay at least 3 days in Bagan. The Bagan Archaeological Zone is huge and there are many distant temples worth visiting. It is nice to explore the temples by bike, but since it gets really hot during the day we vote for e-bikes. They are basically scooters running on electricity. The battery lasts about 7 hours and you don’t pollute the environment. The only tricky part are the sometimes muddy roads. You can get stuck or slip. Make sure you always wear a helmet and ride carefully.
The most impressive temples:
- Shwesandaw Pagoda
- Thatbyinnyu Temple
- Sulamani Temple
- Thambula Temple
- Dhammayangyi Temple
However, you will come across a lot of unknown temples, where there will be nobody. You cannot climb most of the pagodas, however some of them have hidden, dark staircases that will bring you to the top. There are always a few locals around who might give you tips on which temples to visit to have a better view of the area, or to watch the sunset. Our suggestion is to get lost, literally! Download an offline maps app (Maps.me, for instance), and go exploring the Archaeological Zone without any guide books. Stop wherever you want, light up an incense stick, and you’ll find yourself alone in one of the most scenic places in the world.
Tips for accommodation: Myanmar Han
This little oasis of peace truly won our hearts. It might be a little outside the temple area but the quality of services will compensate the distance. Everything is brand new, rooms are nice and spacious and all of them have a balcony where you can relax. It is a very quiet zone so you will get a proper sleep. The weather can get pretty hot so it’s refreshing to jump into the swimming pool.
The restaurant on the roof is open since early morning and you can choose from a few dishes. We especially enjoyed chevon, a meal that contains goat meat. It’s at the hotel Myanmar Han where you can see how the level of services in Myanmar is rising. There is no good hotel without well trained staff, which is something that Myamnar Han definitely doesn’t lack. To get to the town or temples you can either use the shuttle service or the eco-friendly e-bikes. Check their Facebook page, in case you want to contact them.
3. 1 day in Kalaw
An 8-hour-long bus ride will take you to a mountain village called Kalaw. There is actually not that much to do or see but you will appreciate a lower temperature and a fresh evening breeze after the heat of Bagan. You can check its glittery temples or the local market. It is great for practising random shopping: You have no idea what you’re buying but it looks pretty or tasty. It’s actually becoming our favourite activity in Southeast Asia.
4. 2-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake
There are a few agencies in Kalaw that offer a 2-day or a 3-day trek from the village Kalaw to Inle Lake. If you only have 2 weeks in Myanmar it’s better to go for the 2-day option. The cost depends on the number of participants in your group but it is usually not more than 50-60.000 Kyats per person. This doesn’t include drinking water and the entrance fee to the lake area. You can also leave all you luggage at the agency and they will ship it to your hotel at the lake. So what can you expect from the trek?
The first day you will walk through fields, bamboo forests and villages with different ethnic groups. The experienced guide will explain everything that you see: From the products they grow to the school attendance in Myanmar. You’ll be able to watch people working on the fields. You will also have the possibility to spend the night at an authentic Burmese bamboo house. The next day you will continue trekking for a few more hours. After that you will get to the river and from there you will take a boat to Nyaungshwe.
5. 2 days in Nyaungshwe / Inle Lake
Nyaungshwe is probably the busiest village on Inle Lake. There is a large variety of hotels, bars, restaurants and agencies and it is a perfect point to start the tour around the lake. The sights are spread all over the lake so you probably won’t manage to see them all without a boat. You can ask the agency to prepare a personalized tour for you to avoid the tourist traps. Simply agree with the agency in advance. For about 15-25.000 you will get a boat with an instructed boatman. The most impressive is the village Inthein (sometimes transliterated as Indein).
This place looks like a postcard. A small complex of pagodas in decay are close to the point where your boatman leaves you. After that walk up a long covered stairway full of souvenir stalls to get to the amazing Shwe Inn Thein Paya. We will spare your time: There are 1054 stupas, most of them built in the 17th or 18th centuries. People from all over the world have financed the reconstruction of a few of them. We got there sometime after lunch and the place was completely empty. Even the souvenirs sellers had left their stalls to find a quiet spot for the afternoon siesta.
6. 2 days in Yangon
Dedicate the last part of your 2 weeks in Myanmar to one of the most important cities in the country. Yangon is bigger than Mandalay and lacks its laidback atmosphere. However, it has more dining and entertainment opportunities. The list of restaurants is endless and it will be really hard to choose. It is also worth visiting a local market or street food stalls of the Chinatown.
As for sights, there are a few spots that deserve your attention. The Shwedagon Pagoda requires at least two hours of your time. You’ll be amazed at the amount of of gold and other gems used to decorate the pagoda. The result is truly mesmerizing. The Sule Pagoda is beautiful from the outside but not that interesting from the inside. Just a few blocks from there you can find different buildings from the Colonial period, most of them in a good state.
We also have an off-the-beaten-path tip for you: The abandoned amusement park. We found it by chance and it looks pretty scary. Nowadays a macabre place where the jungle is taking over, it is strange to think once it must have been full of kids laughing on the merry-go-round. If it weren’t for too many annoying mosquitoes around us, we would have spend hours there.
2 weeks in Myanmar is not enough to see it all if you consider that you need about 8-9 hours to move from one place to another. Still, if you manage to see the above mentioned places in less time, there are a few more places you can add to your itinerary:
- Pyin O Lwin: This village may come as a surprise with its English style houses and rich tropical plants. It is just 3 hours from Mandalay so might be a good idea for a day trip.
- Golden Rock: Nobody can explain how it is possible that this Buddhist pilgrimage site defies all the rules of gravity. A 4-hour bud ride from Yangon will take you to the hill where you can decide how to proceed. Either you proceed on the bus or you walk up the hill like a true pilgrim.
- Mawlamyine: It might be a good idea to visit Mawlamyine in case you’re planning to get from Yangon to Thailand by bus. You can get off in Hpa-An and then continue to this beautiful place packed with sights.
Whatever your itinerary for 2 weeks in Myanmar will be, we are sure that you will have a great time. The hospitality of the Burmese will make you feel welcome and that is something that is becoming rare.
Are there are any other places worth visiting in the rainy season? Let us know in the comments!
*The hotels in this post contributed to our beautiful stay. As always, all opinions and all photos are our own.*