Myanmar (Burma)

Yangon

Even though it is no longer the nation's official capital, Yangon – formerly Rangoon – remains Myanmar's largest and most commercially important city. Its downtown skyline is dominated by the 'winking wonder' of Shwedagon Paya, a dazzling Buddhist temple that attracts pilgrims from all over the world.

Mandalay

Mandalay is primarily used by travellers as a transport and day-trip hub. But even amid the central grid of lacklustre concrete block ordinariness lurk many pagodas, striking churches, Indian temples and notable mosques. West of centre towards the fascinating Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) riverside, shadier backstreets link countless little-visited monasteries.

Bagan

One of Myanmar’s main attractions, this is a temple town. The area known as Bagan or, bureaucratically, as the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’, occupies an impressive 26-sq-mile area, 118 miles south of Mandalay and 429 miles north of Yangon. The Ayeyarwady River drifts past its northern and western sides.

Inle Lake

On paper the lake is 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide but up close it’s hard to tell where the water finishes and the marshes start. Most of the time the surface of the lake seems to perpetually resemble a vast silver sheet, one interspersed with stilt-house villages, island-bound Buddhist temples and floating gardens.

Mawlamyine

With a ridge of stupa-capped hills on one side, the sea on the other and a centre filled with mosques and crumbling colonial-era buildings, Mawlamyine is a unique combination of landscape, beauty and melancholy

Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock)

The monument, an enormous, precariously balanced boulder coated in gold and topped with a stupa, is a major pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists. Its image adorns many a local’s car windscreen or family hearth, and every good Buddhist dreams of the day he finally set eyes on this holiest of shrines.

Mrauk U

 Mrauk U (pronounced ‘mraw-oo’) is different in just about every way. The temples – previously mistaken for forts due to thick bunker-style walls built against the fierce Rakhine winds – are smaller and younger, and unlike Bagan’s, are predominately made from stone, not brick.

Ngapali Beach

‘Getting away from it all’ isn't exactly why most people come to Myanmar, but if the need strikes, Ngapali’s idyllic palm-lined beach is the place to do it. With its pristine white sands, the clear blue waters of the Bay of Bengal, and a host of sophisticated accommodation, Ngapali – some say named by a wayward Italian reminiscing about Napoli years ago – has a justified reputation as the country’s premier beach getaway.

Ngwe Saung Beach

Forgive us for thinking that Ngwe Saung Beach has a split personality. These days the northern end of the beach has the air of a weekend getaway destination for nouveau-riche Yangonites, and is home to an uninterrupted chain of walled, upscale resorts

Chaung Tha Beach

Chaung Tha is where locals head when they want to relax. There’s paddling in the water, floating about on rubber rings, plodding up and down on ponies, wasting money on tacky souvenirs, boisterous beach football games, happy family picnics and setting off Chinese fireworks in the evening

Nay Pyi Taw

Nay Pyi Taw was built on scrub ground amid rice paddies, villages and small towns such as Pyinmana on the old Yangon–Mandalay Highway. Most government ministries and their staff have been relocated here, but with a couple of exceptions the diplomatic community have dug in their heels in Yangon

Pindaya

The road to Pindaya cuts across one of the most densely farmed areas in Myanmar – at first glance, the patchwork of fields and hedges could almost be a landscape from central Europe or middle America. Yet the main reason to make this journey is to visit the famous Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave pagoda, a massive limestone cavern filled with thousands of gilded buddha statues

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