Myanmar Itinerary: The Best of Myanmar in 4 Weeks

by Jun 8, 2018Itinerary, Myanmar

I first had the idea of visiting Myanmar back in the mid-90s when I was traveling around Southeast Asia. As an avid reader of history and politics, Myanmar fascinated me. However, at that time, the country was really closed off from the outside world and traveling there required lots of government hassle and expense, so I didn’t go. The idea of traveling to Myanmar, though, did not fade.

Finally, in 2015 Myanmar held elections and elected its first non-military government under the de facto rule of Aung Saan Suu Kyi. Since then, life for the people in Myanmar has greatly improved. There are no longer government spies everywhere. As a result, people are freer to express their opinion and more open when talking to foreigners. In addition, sanctions have been lifted, making banking and using debit and credit cards much easier. All of these changes have made traveling in Myanmar much easier.

With the opening up of Myanmar, I decided to finally travel there for one month in November and December. It was an incredible experience with so many historical sites, great beaches, beautiful views, great food, and the friendly people. Some parts of the country were a cinch to travel around, while other parts were indicative of its isolation and poverty.

I have put together what I think is the best Myanmar itinerary for a month of travel. I have included information about how many days to spend in each place, a list of places where I stayed ate, how to get to each destination, and what sites to see. The route I suggest is based on my experience and that of other travelers I met.

 

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Myanmar Itinerary: The Best of Myanmar in 4 Weeks

Yangon: Days 1 (arrival), 2 and 3 (2 Nights)

Start your Myanmar itinerary in Yangon, the largest city and the former capital of Myanmar. It has the largest number of international flights and allows visitors to enter with an evisa, so it is the best place to fly into.

Depending on when you arrive, make sure to spend at least two whole days in Yangon so that you can see Shwedagon pagoda at sunset and take an evening food tour. Dawn and dusk are the best times to see Shwedagon, and the food tour is a great way to familiarize yourself with the not so well-known food of Myanmar before your travels ahead.

TIP: Take taxis! The sites look close to each other on a map. However, I found out the hard way a few times that the sites are actually quite far from each other. Sidewalks are non-existent and each driver seems to be following their own rule book.

Probably the best way to start your visit is by taking a self-guided walking tour of downtown Yangon starting at the Mahabandoola Garden, which is a medium-sized park in the center of the city. Lonely Planet describes a walking tour that takes you by Sule Pagoda, a ton of important British colonial buildings, and many other important places.
Other highlights include

  • the National Museum,
  • Chalikhatgyi Temple (gigantic lying Buddha statue),
  • Ngantatgyi Paya (beautiful teak Buddha statue)
  • Kheung Hock Keong
  • Kandawgyi Lake
  • Botataung Paya
  • Inya Lake
  • Meilamu Paya
  • the circular train

End your second day by doing a food tour with Yangon Food Tours. This tour helped me tremendously during the rest of my travels because I learned what and how to order and eat.

On your last evening in Yangon, take a bus to your next stop on Myanmar itinerary: Bagan.

Where to stay:

Merchant Art Boutique Hotel –This hotel is walking distance to Shwedagon Paya! Beautiful night-time views of Shwedagon Paya from the rooftop restaurant/bar!

Where to eat:

Aung Thukha – I went here for lunch and it was jampacked, but I was invited to share a table with some local people. The curries here are excellent!

Bagan – Days 4, 5 and 6

The next stop on your Myanmar itinerary is Bagan, the crown jewel of Myanmar tourism and perhaps all of Southeast Asia. Imagine a sea of 2,000 crumbling wind-eroded temples dotting the plains against the backdrop of the setting sun. That is Bagan, the epitome of travel romance. I’d say that it ranks right up there alongside Angkor Wat as one of the 100- places-to-see-before-you-die kind of places.

RELATED POST: The Ultimate Guide to Seeing the Temples of Bagan

Bagan, or more appropriately “Bagan Archaeological Zone,” is located in the central plains along the Ayeryawady River. The zone is an area of about 26 square miles with the towns of Nyaung U in the north and New Bagan in the south. You can stay in either town. Nyaung U has more restaurants, while New Bagan is closer to the temples.

Bagan was the center of the First Burmese Empire from 850 to 1300 AD. At the end of its glory, Bagan was home to over 10,000 religious structures. Today 2,200 temples and pagodas remain. Not all of the temples are full formed structures that you can enter, though. However, there are enough temples for three days of sightseeing.

How to get to Bagan

To get to Bagan, take a night bus leaving from the outskirts of Yangon at around 9:00 pm. The bus gets in around 7:00 am. It’s a comfortable ride for a bus. You can buy your tickets from your hotel or hostel in Yangon and take a taxi to the station (over 1 hour).

The bus station in Bagan is far from any of the hotels, so you will need to pay for a taxi. I paid 10,000 kyat (US$6.53/€5.75/£5.00). On the way to your hotel/hostel, you’ll pass by a checkpoint for the Bagan Archaeological Zone where you’ll pay the fee to see all of the sites in the area. I paid 25,000 kyat (US$16.34/€14.36/£12.44).

How to get around Bagan

There are a number of ways to get around to see the temples, but walking from temple to temple is not one of them. The temples are too far away from each other. Instead, you can rent a motor scooter or better yet, rent an e-bike, which is just a bicycle with a small motor. I rented mine from my hotel for 5,000 kyat (US$3.27/ €.2.87/ £2.49). I’ve never ridden a scooter or a motorcycle before, but I felt fine with an e-bike.

Which temples to see

Your best bet is to get a map from your hotel/hostel that has all the temples on it.  Break up your tour by area: Old Bagan, Myinkaba area, Central Plain, New Bagan area, South Plain, and Nyaung U area. The best temples are in Old Bagan, the South Plain, and the Central Plain. You can find these areas all in Lonely Planet. Just ride your bike and whenever you see a temple, stop and check it out.

If you want some really good background information on the temples, check out book #3 on my Best Books on Myanmar blog post. 

One of the best things to do in Bagan is to take an early morning balloon ride over the temples. You’re picked up at 4:30 am and brought back at 9:30ish.  It’s expensive but worth it. I went with Balloons Over Bagan.
Finally, if possible,  watch the sun rise or set from one of the temples.

Where to stay:

Zfreeti Hotel – in Nyeung U: It’s near lots of restaurants, but it’s not the friendliest hotel around. Good breakfast. You can rent electric bikes from them but make sure you get one that works or else you’ll be peddling yourself.

Where to eat:

Bi Bo Restaurant – excellent price, service, and Burmese food! The BEST tea leaf salad I had in Myanmar!

Amora 2 – Indian food. The food was ok; service was unfriendly; I felt uncomfortable there as a solo traveler.

Mandalay – Days 7 and 8

Your next stop on your Myanmar itinerary is Mandalay. If you’ve read the Rudyard Kipling poem, Mandalay, you probably have an image of the city as some romantic and timeless place. Mandalay is a bit more complicated than that. Yes, it is traditional. For example, it seems that whichever direction you’re looking in, there’s a monk in his saffron-colored robe walking along barefoot begging for alms. At the same time, the streets are choking with traffic and instead of monks chanting, you’re more likely to hear cars and motorcycles honking their horns.

I liked Mandalay mainly for its great restaurants and some interesting sites outside of the city. It has the site of one of the most famous temples in Myanmar, one of the best photo opportunities in Myanmar, and the remains of four former Burmese capitals. Also, it has one of my favorite hotels in all of Myanmar, Hotel 8.

How to get to Mandalay

Leave in the morning by bus from Bagan. The trip should take 5 hours. Buy your tickets from your hotel, and the bus company should then pick you up from your hotel.

The alternative method of travel is by boat.

When you get to Mandalay, it should be mid-day. Spend the afternoon visiting Shwedandaw monastery (a.k.a. Shwe In Bin Kyaung), a beautiful teak monastery. Then walk up Mandalay Hill to see the sun set over the city. Visit some of the temples around the hill as well.

Finally, in the evening after dinner at hopefully one of the restaurants I mention below, catch a performance of either the Mandalay Marionettes or the Mustache Brothers.

The next day hire a driver and motorcycle to head out to the sites outside the city. These include Mahamuni Temple, Maha Ganayon Kyauang monastery, Mingun, Sagaing Hill, Ewa, and U-Bein Bridge. Your hotel/hostel can arrange everything for you. It cost me 25,000 kyat.

Where to stay:

Hotel 8 – This was one of my favorite hotels in Myanmar. It had excellent service, very comfortable beds, fluffy towels, and a decent breakfast.

Where to eat:

Mingalabar (Very good! Try the mohinga!), Aye Myit Tar (Amazing traditional Burmese food!), and Shan Ma Ma (lots of foreigners and locals, but I wasn’t impressed.)

Pyin Oo Lwin – Day 9

Pyin Oo Lwin is about an hour and a half by car from Mandalay. You can either do it as a day trip and return in the late afternoon to Mandalay or stay overnight. I did it as a day trip.

Pyin Oo Lwin is the former summer retreat for colonial Brits who ruled Burma from 1885 to 1947. It’s at a higher elevation than the surrounding area so it’s cooler in summer. The city is famous for its colonial buildings and its stunning British garden.

How to get to Pyin Oo Lwin

Your hotel/hostel can arrange a shared taxi. If you are returning to Mandalay, the same taxi will pick you up at an arranged spot.

Hire a motorcycle driver or horse-drawn carriage to take you around to see the various British colonial buildings. Then visit the beautiful British style botanical gardens.

Hsipaw – Days 10 – 13

Hsipaw was not on my original Myanmar itinerary. However, after arriving in the country, I heard so many good things about the place from other travelers that I changed my itinerary to check it out. It was the best decision of my trip. Hsipaw turned out to be one of my favorite places in Myanmar. It’s got a really relaxing vibe, beautiful scenery, and a lot of culture. It’s also a good place to recuperate from your travels.

How to get to Hsipaw

The coolest way to get to Hsipaw is by train. What’s cool about it is the trip on the Gotkeik Viaduct, at one time the largest trestle bridge in the world. The trip there is an unforgettable experience. You can catch the train in Mandalay or Pyin Oo Lwin. I started in Mandalay, which meant getting up really early to catch the 4:00 am train. However, it also meant that I got to choose which side of the train to sit on when crossing the Viaduct.

Hispaw is the best place to just relax and chill out for a while. The town has a laid back, backpacker feel that I didn’t get in any other place in Myanmar.

There are lots of guided overnight treks and visits to minority villages in the area. There’s also a terrific self-guided hike to a beautiful waterfall. I didn’t do any overnight hikes as I had a stress fracture and had broken my toe from earlier in my trip.

Make sure to visit Hsipaw’s Shan Palace, the house of the last ruler of Shan State. When I was there, it opened at 4:00 pm and closed at 6:00 pm. There are also a few monasteries you can visit in Hsipaw like the Madahya Monastery and the Bamboo Buddha Monastery, which are both near Mrs. Popcorn’s Restaurant and on the way to the Shan Palace.

Where to stay:

I stayed at Mr. Charles Riverview Lodge on the outskirts of Hsipaw, my favorite place to stay in Myanmar and one of my top 5 places to stay in Southeast Asia. The rooms are large with all the amenities including a balcony overlooking a peaceful and quiet river.

Where to eat:

Mrs. Popcorn’s Garden (Excellent food but slow service); the restaurant at the Riverview Lodge isn’t that great. I also ate at a pretty good restaurant across the street from Mr. Charles’ Guesthouse, but I don’t remember the name.

Inle Lake: Days 14, 15, and 16

The next stop on your Myanmar itinerary is Inle Lake. The 13.4 mile (22 km) -long lake is located in the central part of Myanmar. The lake is surrounded by small villages of different ethnic minority groups like the Shan, Kayah, and Intha people.

How to get to Inle Lake

Take a night bus from Hsipaw. The bus should drop you off in the center of the main town Nyaungshwe. Fortunately, many of the guesthouses and hotels are within walking distance of the drop-off point.

The main tourist activity is to take a boat ride around the lake stopping off at the markets, temples, and monasteries. I  thought it was overly touristy, and I was not impressed.

I recommend hiring your boat driver through your hotel or a travel agency because if the driver doesn’t give you a good tour, you have someone to complain to. Unfortunately, I hired my driver on the street, and he cut my tour short to pick up another group of tourists.

The highlight of my trip to Inle Lake was a self-guided bike ride around the lake. You can find the map here at this website: http://bytelife.altervista.org/inlelake.htm. The ride includes hiring a boat to take you and your bike across the lake. If you time your ride right, you can catch one of the outdoor markets. The total trip is around 22 kilometers.

Make sure to stop off at the Bamboo Hut along the way back for lunch! And then stop off at the winery for some wine tasting and a rest.

Where to stay:

Golden Dream Hotel – The staff was really friendly and helpful! They had bikes to rent. Breakfast was disappointing.

Where to eat:

Thanakha Garden (Myanmar food – ok), Lin Htett (traditional Myanmar food – price, service, and food are excellent), Sin Yaw (Burmese and Shan Food – ok), Bamboo Hut (Myanmar food – excellent)

Ngapali: Days 16 – 21

From Inle Lake, head to Ngapali for some relaxation on the Bay of Bengal. Ngapali has beautiful white sand beaches clear blue water, and a quiet laid back atmosphere, the perfect place to do some more chilling out. You also don’t get harassed every 15 minutes by people trying to sell you things. There’s not a lot of partying here like in Thailand and prices are on the higher side. However, if you book early and look around carefully, you can get a decent place without breaking the bank.

How to get to Ngapali

Take a plane form Heho, the main airport for the Inle Lake area (25 miles from Nyangshwe), to Thandwe. Make sure to arrange for your hotel to pick you up at the airport.

There’s not much to do there except swim and relax on the beach. There are fishing, diving, and snorkeling trips.

I got really sick on my first day there and spent most of my time recuperating.

Where to stay:

Pleasant View Resort– This is a good resort at an affordable price for a bungalow right on the beach.

Where to eat:

Most of the time I was too sick to eat when I was in Ngapali. However, I did manage to eat at the restaurant on the island to the left of the hotel. When the tide’s in, you can walk to it, and when it’s out, you have to take a boat back. When I went, the sea was too rough to take a boat back, so I had to walk back in water up to my waste in the dark!

Sittwe: Day 22

The next stop on your Myanmar itinerary is Sittwe. Sittwe is really just a place to wait to get the ferry or bus to Mrauk U. It’s not a tourist destination and there’s not really anything to see. There are only just a bunch of miserable overpriced hotels.

The one noteworthy thing about the place is that it was the location of bloody anti-Muslim riots in 2012. Arriving at the airport in Sittwe, you’ll realize immediately that you are entering a sensitive area from the signs clearly posted in English letting you know which areas are closed to foreigners.

How to get to Sittwe

I took a plane from Thandwe straight to Sittwe. The flight was around 1 hour.

There are two other options. You can take a bus/boat combination but this means staying overnight in Taunggok or just by bus, which takes at least 12 hours.

Where NOT to stay in Sittwe

I stayed at Motel Shwe Myint Mho, a fleabag motel that cost me over $20. And THIS was the cheapest place in Sittwe I could find. I feel a little bit bad about writing a negative review about the place since the owner walked me over to a pharmacy to help me buy tape and bandages for my broken toe, but the place was pretty nasty. And I found a cockroach in my breakfast.

Mrauk U- Days 23 – 25

The next stop is Mrauk U, the center of the Kingdom of Mrauk U from 1430 to 1785. The remains of this kingdom are what travelers come to Mrauk U for. There are some fascinating ruins and one special gem that resembles Borobudur in Indonesia.

How to get to Mrauk U

The cheapest and most interesting way to get to Mrauk U is by ferry, which leaves from Sittwe at 8:00 am and arrives at 11:30 am in Mrauk U. I took a taxi (K4,000 (US$2.61 / €2.30 / £2.00)) from my hotel at 6:00 and arrived at the ferry port at 6:10 am. I had to show my passport when purchasing the ticket (K13,000 (US$8.50 / €7.47 / £6.50)). The ferry ride was quite pleasant with some interesting views of the delta and some interesting people watching. Try to sit on the upper deck.

There are two main things that you must do in Mrauk U: see the temples and visit the Chin villages.

There are nowhere near as many temples as in Bagan, so it could take you a day to see them all. The temples are in three main areas: the North Group, the East Group, and the South Group. The North Group has the largest number of temples and the East Group has the most impressive temple, Kothaung Paya.

I rented a bike from my guesthouse to visit the temples in the North Group but walked to the East Group since both the roads and bicycles were in such poor shape

The other exciting thing to do in Mrauk U is to visit the Chin villages, a Christian minority group. The Chin women would traditionally tattoo their faces so that the Chin’s enemies wouldn’t want them. Seeing the these villages requires hiring a guide and a long but pleasant boat ride. Your guesthouse can help arrange a guide. I got together with 3 other travelers and we paid $85 total. We visited 4 villages.

Where to stay:

I stayed at the Prince Hotel. It was an overpriced and rundown family-owned guesthouse. My room was good sized with a nice verandah but a grungy attached bathroom. The shower was over the toilet. The best part was that I met a rat on the way to the bathroom one morning. It was also the only hotel I stayed at that didn’t provide free water. Very good breakfasts, though!

Where to eat:

The saving grace of the Prince Hotels were the dinners. It’s K6,000 (US$4 / €3.45 / ££3.00) extra, but worth every penny. I had some of the most delicious meals of my trip here. You get 1 curry and 4 side dishes–more food than a single person could eat. Moe Cherry was another place with good, delicious Myanmar food (1 main dish and 2 side dishes).

Travel to Yangon: Day 26

There are a number of ways to travel to Yangon.

1. Plane: You’ll have to travel back to Sittwe by bus, taxi, or ferry and then head to the airport and fly back to Yangon. Be warned that buses between Sittwe and Mrauk U are old and thus, often break down. The ferry or a taxi might be a safer bet.

2. Bus: The second option is to travel by bus to Yangon from Mrauk U–a 20 to 24 hour journey.

Your travel options depend on the season, whether it’s the monsoon or not, the conditions of the bus (will it break down?) and the conditions of the road (mudslide?).

Yangon – Days 27 and 28

Make sure to be in Yangon or wherever you are departing from the day before your flight. Don’t try to make an international flight right after a domestic flight since Myanmar’s planes rarely arrive on time.

Spend the last day doing some last minute sightseeing and shopping. Just remember that Bogyoke Aung San Market is closed on Mondays.

Where to stay:

15th Street @ Downtown – This is a small hotel in downtown Yangon. I wanted to try staying in another part of the city. It was clean but small. They have an excellent Shan noodle breakfast.

Where to eat:

Feel Myanmar Food has excellent food; The coconut noodles in the morning across from my hotel were so delicious.

Myanmar is a fabulous country. The people are friendly and there is so much to see and do. Now is a great time to go before it becomes too popular with tourists.

If you’ve been to Myanmar, let me know how your trip went. Where did you travel to? If you’re still in the planning stage, let me know how long you plan to travel and where you want to go.

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temples in Myanmar
U-Bein Bridge at sunset and inside of temples in Myanmar

19 Comments

  1. We stayed in the same hotels in Yangon and in Ngapali beach 😉 I loved Myanmar although my itinerary was a bit shorter and I haven’t seen Sittwe and Mrauk U.

    Reply
    • Same hotels–thats great! I highly recommend Mrauk U–a bit hard to get to, though.

      Reply
  2. This article is so detailed that I’m going to bookmark it for later. I have extensively visited Cambodia and Vietnam but haven’t gone to Myanmar yet. Cambodia left such a horrible impression that I thought Myanmar would be the same. Your post and pictures make me want to visit this coming winter. Thank you, Julie!

    Reply
    • Myanmar is much less westernized than Cambodia. The men still wear the longyi (sarong) and the people still wear the thanaka on their faces.

      Reply
  3. This is fantastic and so detailed. I’ve visited Myanmar a couple of times but I’ve never made it to the coast! Would absolutely love to see it… especially Ngapali. I would definitely recommend this guide for anyone who wants to travel to Myanmar! I think it’s time I go back and see the places I missed out on 🙂 your photos are stunning!

    Reply
    • Ngapali and Mrauk U were fantastic.

      Reply
  4. This is such a detailed post! We have never thought of visiting Myanmar, thanks for bringing this lovely place to our attention.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome! It is a great place–friendly people and great food and they still hold on to their traditional culture.

      Reply
  5. Goodness what amazing photos, Myanmar looks incredible! I love how thorough your itinerary is – how to get around, where to stay, what to eat. A great guide for someone wishing to visit for the first time. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Alyse!

      Reply
  6. I only had time to visit Yangon on my visit to Myanmar but I now know where I must go on my return!

    Reply
    • I hope you get a chance to visit again. Definitely see Bagan and Hsipaw if you have chance and if you’re more adventurous Mrauk U is really off-the-beaten path.

      Reply
  7. Wow, Myanmar looks just incredible. It’s not somewhere I’ve thought of going before though, as I wasn’t sure there was that much to do to keep me occupied. I’m so happy to see you squeezed a lot into your month so maybe it is worth going to see! The Bagan just looks amazing 😍😍

    Reply
    • It is definitely worth seeing! And the culture is really fascinating!

      Reply
  8. We went for about 10 days this last year but would love to return. Initially we thought we should go for longer and there is so much more to see than we did but as more introverted people, we were pretty tired by the end of this stay. The people were too friendly haha

    Reply
  9. First of all, it’s been really nice reading this. I’m going for 28 days in July for the first time, I’ve traveled a lot, and I’m really glad to have came across your blog. It’s settled my usual pre-travel nerves and got me excited to be on the road again.
    Thanks and great work!

    Reply
    • Hi Iahan! I’m glad to hear that! I always feel anxious before a big trip, too. You’ll love Myanmar. It might not be as “developed” as a lot of other countries in Asia, but it was still pretty easy to get around. And the people were incredibly helpful and kind. I hope you enjoy your trip. Julie

      Reply
  10. Fabulous info. Thank you for sharing. Did you every summarise the costs for the trip? Would be really interested to know.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Glenys! I want to say it was between US$2,000 and $3,000 for the whole month not including the airfare.

      Reply

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About Me

The Bamboo Traveler

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore the history, heritage, and culture of a place. On this site, you’ll find itineraries to help you plan your trip, reviews to help you make more informed decisions, lots of history and cultural information to help make your travels more meaningful, and book recommendations to help you understand a place more deeply.

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