Myanmar (also known as Burma) is not usually the first destination that comes to mind when planning a trip. Yet the country has a lot to offer: from impressive temples and pagodas to vast lakes and picturesque villages. For a trip to Myanmar, a visa is required that can be applied for quickly and easily online.
Highlight of Myanmar: Bagan
One of the most visited tourist places in Myanmar is Bagan, also called Pagan. The state of Bagan was founded in the 9th century by the Bamar people and was later declared the United Kingdom of Burma, until it disintegrated in the 13th century after attacks by the Mongols. Today, the city of Bagan is home to the largest collection of Buddhist temples and stupas in the world. The temple complex is often compared to the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but many travellers who have visited both temple complexes find Bagan even more impressive than Angkor. The temple complex has been on UNESCO's World Heritage List since 2019.
In the complex, you can admire the remains of more than 2,200 (partly restored) Buddhist temples, monasteries and pagodas. The best time to visit the temples is during sunrise or sunset, as the view from the sun at these times is almost magical. The temples can also be visited from a hot-air balloon. However, the costs for this can be high. Because Bagan has so many different temples and ruins, it is recommended staying at least two or three days.
Buddhist influences in Myanmar
In addition to the temple complex of Bagan, there are numerous other pagodas, stupas and monasteries in Myanmar. The majority of the population of Myanmar is Buddhist, and Buddhism is reflected everywhere in the country in the streets and architecture. The country has countless beautiful temples, pilgrimage sites and other shrines that can be visited by tourists.
The largest temple in Myanmar - the Schwedagon Pagoda - is located in the south of the country in the former capital Yangon (Rangoon), and is considered the religious centre of this city. The temple is almost 100 metres high and is covered with 50,000 kilos of gold leaf and thousands of precious stones, making it glitter in the sun. The pagoda is said to contain eight hairs of the last Buddha and relics of the previous Buddhas. The pagoda is seen as the national pride of Myanmar and should therefore not be missed during a visit to the country.
Another Buddhist pilgrimage site not too far from Yangon is the pilgrimage village of Kinpun. Here you can find the Golden Rock, a granite rock covered in gold leaf, which balances on top of Mount Kyaikto at a height of 1,100 metres. According to tradition, the rock is kept in balance by two hairs of Buddha. Those interested in Buddhism can also visit Monywa, a city where more than 500,000 Buddha statues and an immense golden Buddha statue of 129 metres high can be found. More than 8,000 Buddha statues can also be found in the limestone caves of Pindaya.
Myanmar has not only interesting culture and beautiful temples to offer tourists, but also a lot of natural beauty. Lake Inle, which is located between the mountains, is often called the most beautiful place in Myanmar. The lake is known for the villages of the Intha people built on stilts in the middle of the water, and for the characteristic fishermen who paddle on one leg. Adventurous tourists can trek from the village of Kalaw to Inle Lake. The hilly route of about 60 kilometres runs through forests and beautiful green tea fields and can be covered in two or three days.
For those who prefer to explore the heights, an excursion can be made from Bagan to Mount Popa, an inactive volcano that is now a place of pilgrimage. From the monastery on top of the mountain, at an altitude of 737 metres, the temple complex of Bagan can be seen on a clear day.
Another highlight on a lake is the U Bein Bridge in Amarapura. The teak footbridge over Lake Taungthman is 1.2 kilometres long and popular with photographers who capture the silhouettes of people strolling across the bridge. In the rainy season, the bridge can be partially submerged.
Apply for a Myanmar visa
People who want to see the shrines and spectacular landscapes of Myanmar for themselves after reading this article will need a Myanmar visa. It is usually not necessary to visit the Myanmar embassy, because the visa can be easily applied for online if the requirements are met. Visas for Myanmar are granted on average after one week and sent by e-mail. The e-visa is valid for 90 days and the maximum length of stay in the country is 28 days. This gives you more than enough time to discover some of the best highlights of Myanmar.