With so much to discover, here are our top recommendations of things to see in Burma.
1. Shwedagon Paya, Yangon, southern Burma
The object of fervent worship for thousands of years, as well as the venue for some of the country’s most historic pro-democracy rallies in recent decades, Shwedagon Paya (the Shwedagon Pagoda) is Burma’s spiritual nerve centre and its most astounding religious monument.
2. Bago, Yangon Region, southern Burma
Reachable in a daytrip from Yangon, Bago (Pegu) is an ancient dynastic capital whose monuments – ranging from grand stupas to exuberantly decorated throne rooms and palaces – have been lavishly restored – often in a gaudy style that belies their great antiquity.
3. Ngapali Beach, Rakhaing State, western Burma
Burma’s only fully fledged beach resort, Ngapali, centres on a tranquil, palm-lined bay in the far west of the country – its soft sand, translucent water and wonderful seafood offer the perfect wind-down before heading upriver to the ruins of Mrauk U.
4. Mrauk U, Rakhaing State, western Burma
Mrauk U is a fabulously atmospheric lost city of tumbledown medieval stupas, shrines, temples and palaces, strewn around a rocky plateau in the extreme west of Burma.
5. Cruising the Ayeyarwady River, central Burma
There’s no more relaxing way to savour the distinct atmosphere of Burma’s rural heartland than a cruise along the mighty Ayeyarwady River.
6. Sagaing, Mandalay, central Burma
Gaze at the timeless vision of gilded pagodas and whitewashed monasteries rising from the banks of the Ayeyarwady at Sagaing – spiritual heartland of Buddhist Burma.
7. Bagan, Mandalay Region, central Burma
Sprawling across a rocky plain on the east bank of the Ayeyarwady River, the remains of medieval Bagan are the country’s principal visitor attraction – a vast, open-air storehouse of ancient Burmese art and architecture best viewed from the comfort of a balloon basket.
8. Inle Lake, Shan State, eastern Burma
Cradled by the Shan Hills, the shore of serene Inle Lake host the closest thing in Burma to a fully fledged tourist resort, though there’s plenty of quirky local culture on display too.
9. Hill Trekking, Kalaw, Shan State
On the western rim of the Shan Plateau, the former British hill station of Kalaw is perfectly placed for treks into the surrounding hills, where ethnic minority villages cling to remote ridgetops.
10. Mt Kyaiktiyo (Golden Boulder Pagoda), Mon State, southeastern Burma
Every Burmese Buddhist aims at least one in their lifetime to make a pilgrimage to Mt Kyaiktiyo, a sacred summit in the tropical southeast of the country that’s crowned by one of the world’s most extraordinary religious monuments: a gravity-defying golden rock.