Having only opened its doors to tourists in 2015, Myanmar is still relatively new to holidaymakers and backpackers alike. This can make planning a Myanmar itinerary quite difficult as chances are, you don’t know someone who’s been to ask for recommendations. That’s where we come in.
Our guide will cover the places to visit in Myanmar that you cannot miss, the restaurants we loved and our favourite accommodation. Although we only had 10 days in Myanmar we could have stayed for weeks as we adored every minute. We hope this sample Myanmar itinerary will inspire you to book the flights and pack the bags as trust us; it will be your best adventure yet.
Best of all, as we were backpacking Myanmar, this itinerary is also sprinkled with money saving tips as well as our usual helpful hints for a safe, stress free trip!
HOW TO GET TO MYANMAR
Previously known as Burma, Myanmar received only 21,000 visitors in 1995, fast forward to 2017, it boasted 3.44 million visitors. This means that transport links and international flights have hugely increased to benefit tourism.
We found the cheapest flights through Skyscanner and flew from Bangkok, Thailand to Mandalay. Our flights cost £100 per person and took around 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Alternatively, many people choose to start their Myanmar itinerary in Yangon as it also has an International airport, so make sure to check flights to here also for the best deal. It also proved cheaper for us to fly into Mandalay, spend 10 days in Myanmar then leave from Yangon – so bear in mind it may prove more cost (and time) effective to avoid planning your Myanmar itinerary in a loop.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MYANMAR
Deciding on the best time to visit Myanmar completely depends on your travel style and budget. Firstly to consider is weather. Like most countries in SE Asia, there are two distinct seasons to be aware of when planning your Myanmar itinerary – wet and dry.
The wet season is June to October where flash flooding is likely, and so transport can become impossible as roads get closed off. Most travel guides will recommend visiting from November to February as this is when the weather cools slightly, but it remains dry.
Ever the rebels our visit was slap bang in the dry season (March to May), but for us, this proved the best time to visit Myanmar for many reasons.
Yes, it was boiling hot (40+ degrees most days) however, it meant travel and accommodation was cheap as it was off-season and we even received free room upgrades and free late checkouts.
It also meant we got to experience Thingyan Water Festival – the Buddhist New Year (famous for its three-day water fight) which was a highlight of our Myanmar itinerary.
We also found during this time that the majority of places to visit in Myanmar were quiet – at many attractions, we were the only tourists. The only slight disadvantage, if it was on your Myanmar bucket list, is that the balloons over Bagan Pagodas are seasonal and during our trip they were finishing the season, so there was only a handful of balloons in the sky.
However, for us the pros definitely outweighed the cons and we still believe April was the best time to visit Myanmar because of our experience.
PLACES TO VISIT IN MYANMAR
Before we share our 10 days in Myanmar itinerary, we will share a little info on the places to visit in Myanmar and why we chose these destinations. As you may be aware civil unrest is still rife in parts of Burma where the world’s longest civil war has been ongoing since 1948.
Of all places to visit in Myanmar, the states of Kachin, Southern Chin and Rakhine are almost entirely off-limits to tourists. We understand it may seem overwhelming as you start reading up on the current political turmoil and we certainly did question if it was ethical to visit.
However, in a country with so much conflict, one of the main ways Myanmar can overcome this is Tourism. By boosting local economy, recommending places to visit in Myanmar, staying in local guesthouses and booking local guides, your “holiday” can truly help in a way.
The usual tourist route covers 4 of the safest places to visit in Myanmar – petty crime is almost non-existent, we found locals so helpful and friendly and felt much safer here than we had in parts of Thailand or The Philippines where we were hassled constantly. We recommend the following Myanmar destinations:
- Mandalay: The former royal capital and a short day trip away from Mingun home to the epic Hsinbyume pagoda
- Bagan: Home to over 2000 temples and pagodas and the famous hot air balloons at sunrise
- Inle Lake: Witness floating villages and markets as you take a boat tour of life on the lake
- Yangon: home to the jewel in Myanmar’s crown, Shwedagon Pagoda and also the country’s capital where we celebrated Thingyan
It would be very difficult to squeeze in more places to visit in Myanmar if you only have 10 days. However, if you have longer we were also recommended:
- Pyin Ooh Lwin: Home to some spectacular waterfalls and not far from Mandalay
- Hsipaw: Famous for some of the best markets in Myanmar
- Hpa An: An epic stop to explore the area’s abundance of caves.
- Kalaw: To complete the famous Kalaw to Inle Lake walk (sadly we didn’t have our hiking boots packed)!
10 DAYS IN MYANMAR ITINERARY
We will warn, for your Myanmar itinerary expect very early mornings and sightseeing until sunset as there is that much to do. Pack shoes that can be removed easily as the majority of places to visit in Myanmar are religious sites, so shoes are prohibited. It is also recommended to wear long, lightweight clothing to ensure you are covered up (from both mosquitos and for cultural reasons.) As well as the best places to stay, eat and see we include all costs so you know how much to budget for your 10 days in Myanmar.
Mandalay: 2 Nights
Mandalay – Day One
Climb Mandalay Hill: One of the best things to do in Mandalay is climb Mandalay Hill at sunrise where you can see the world’s largest book at Kuthodaw Pagoda as well as admire epic views over the city.
Hire Bikes: Then hire bikes and explore the city by yourself or part of a bike tour. If you opt for the DIY option, it costs 10,000MMK (around £5) for a tourist combo pass which gives you access to Mandalay Palace, Atumashi Kyanugdawgi and Schwenandaw Kyaung.
Sunset at U-Bein Bridge: One of the most popular things to do in Mandalay at sunset is to take a Grab Taxi (around 30 minutes) to U-Bein Bridge, the longest (and oldest) teakwood bridge in the world. You can walk the bridge on foot or take a boat under it – as it was dry season, there was no water under it during our visit.
Mandalay – Day Two
A day trip to Mingun: It’s likely you’ve seen the white pagoda on Instagram or perhaps Mingun Pagoda which looks like a Tomb Raider film set. These unmissable buildings can be found in Mingun – a short day trip from Mandalay. The day trip includes a ferry ride (tickets are approx. £5 return), and by purchasing a tourist pass (again, approx. £5) you will have access to the epic Hsinbyume Pagoda as well as the other epic things to do in Mingun.
Where to Stay in Mandalay
We felt like such flashpackers in this hotel as it had a rooftop pool and a puppet theatre in the restaurant. Not to mention, our room was a large, comfortable ensuite and the staff went above and beyond, even greeting us with refreshing face towels and a complimentary drink on arrival.
Where to eat in Mandalay
- Street Food: So not helpful but just yards from our hotel were epic street food restaurants that had crowds and crowds of locals every time we walked past. Easily spotted by its bright green tables (and endless queues) we regret running out of time to visit but guessing by the local reaction, the food must be incredible.
- We also visited Beer City & The Rock Gastro Bar, despite the names which sound like something from a lads holiday, they both served tasty traditional food that we highly recommend.
Mandalay to Bagan by Bus
Bagan is next up on our Myanmar itinerary because it is only 180km from Mandalay to Bagan. We took a JJ Express bus, leaving Mandalay at 8 am and it took around 4 hours. Our Mandalay to Bagan bus cost 20,300 MMK which is a crazy £11.00 for BOTH of us.
We booked a premium economy bus so it wasn’t even the cheapest option, but it’s definitely recommended for the extra legroom and comfortable seats. Do note, there were no toilets on our Mandalay to Bagan bus (or any of our busses in Myanmar) so remember to use the restrooms before you go.
Mandalay to Bagan By Boat
For around £35 you can also take an overnight boat from Mandalay to Bagan. As we only had 10 days in Myanmar (and the boat journey takes anywhere from 8-10 hours), we didn’t have time to do this. We have heard a sightseeing cruise is the best way to travel from Mandalay to Bagan as you enjoy food onboard while admiring the epic scenery instead of sitting on a bumpy bus.
Bagan: 3 Nights
Bagan – Day One
Daytrip to Mount Popa, the temple guarded by monkeys: Of all the places to visit in Myanmar, Mount Popa was rarely mentioned, but your Myanmar itinerary would not be complete without this epic day trip from Bagan. Mount Popa is home to a monastery on top of an extinct volcano, guarded by monkeys. Yes, it sounds insane and trust us, it’s a day trip you’ll never forget!
Shwezigon Pagoda: We were dropped back in Bagan from our Mount Popa day trip at around 2 pm. This meant we had time to explore Shwezigon Pagoda one of the most impressive pagodas in Bagan.
Bagan – Day Two
Balloons at Sunrise: Bagan is one of the most famous Myanmar destinations for this reason. The sunrise over Bagan is epic whether you witness it with your feet firmly on the ground (like us) or high above the clouds. As mentioned, it is seasonal so ideally plan your Myanmar itinerary between November and March if a balloon over Bagan is on your bucket list. Alternatively, you could be lazy like us and watch them from the roof of the hotel (more on this shortly!)
Bagan Pagodas: There are over 2000 pagodas in Bagan – we managed to squeeze in around 20 during our 3 days in Bagan. On day 2 we created a map of all temples and walked to as many as we could. Although the majority were within walking distance (we created a map and guide of the Bagan pagodas so you can do this too,) hiring an E-bike is also a popular way to explore the pagodas.
Bagan – Day Three
Lacquer Workshop: Although we saw many pagodas on foot, we did find hiring a local driver on day 3 far more beneficial because, air-con and also because we learned so much from his local knowledge. Lacquerware is a huge industry in Myanmar, and a visit to a Lacquer Workshop during your 3 days in Bagan is a must. Be warned; you will be tempted to spend some serious dollar on souvenirs.
Mani Sithu Market: We love local markets but would have no idea this one existed as it wasn’t included in any other Bagan itinerary we read. Providing a memorable insight into local life with the opportunity to purchase beautiful handmade souvenirs, we cannot recommend a visit to Mani Sithu Market enough. We’re so glad our local guide took us here as we were the only tourists so felt it was a more authentic experience compared to the other markets or vendors in Bagan outside the usual tourist attractions.
Traditional Tea Shop: No Myanmar itinerary would be complete without a visit to a tea shop. The tea shops in Bagan are similar to the coffee shops in Hanoi – small plastic stools line the streets as locals relax with a cup in hand, sharing stories from their day.
Puppet Show: If you’re backpacking Myanmar, you may be disappointed with the nightlife in comparison to other SE Asian countries. No cocktails out of buckets here, instead puppet shows are a popular past time in the evening. We had dinner as we watched the show at the Nanda restaurant and loved every minute – the show is even accompanied by live music. Puppet shows are popular throughout Myanmar, and our hotel in Mandalay even had a puppet theatre in the restaurant.
Where to Stay in Bagan
We stayed in Bagan Beauty Land Hotel and would go as far as to say it was our favourite hotel during our 10 days in Myanmar.
It cost 7000 MMK (Around £3.80) from the bus station to our hotel by taxi, and we used the same driver for our tour of Bagan.
Not only was our room upgraded for free but we also received a free late check out as we were getting an overnight bus to Inle Lake next which didn’t leave until after dinner.
We paid 139,000 MMK for 3 nights (around £75) and this included breakfast.
The hotel also had a rooftop seating area which was ideal for sunset to watch the balloons over Bagan. Although there was only a handful during our stay, this was such a unique experience alongside the bonus we could go immediately back to bed!
Where to Eat in Bagan
As mentioned, we had a local guide during our 3 days in Bagan, this was a huge advantage as he recommended some amazing places to eat!
Myo Myo: Our experience here was one of the best restaurants in our entire Myanmar itinerary. It was our first taste of traditional Burmese food served as several small plates similar to tapas. Nearly 25 dishes were delivered to our table, but luckily you only pay for what you eat – large plates are 1500MMK and small around 500MMK.
Sharky’s:Thanks to their famous chef and epic farm to table menu, you cannot miss eating at Sharky’s when you’re in Bagan. They also have a sister restaurant in Yangon, which we highly recommend, we visited while celebrating Thingyan.
Nanda restaurant: As mentioned, an unmissable experience from your Bagan itinerary as you can watch the puppet show as you enjoy delicious, traditional food.
Bagan to Inle Lake by Bus
Again we used JJ Express and took a bus from Bagan to Inle Lake. This time it was an overnight bus, leaving Bagan at 10 pm and arriving in Inle Lake for 6 am.
We booked a “VIP” ticket, and although blankets, pillows and refreshments were provided and the seats very comfortable, the roads were so incredibly bumpy (and horns constantly beeping) that we didn’t sleep much.
Our Bagan to Inle Lake bus ticket cost 47,000 MMK (approx. £25.00) for both of us.
Inle Lake / Nyaungshwe: 3 Nights
Inle Lake – Day One
Book a bike & boat tour: Of all the places to visit in Myanmar, Inle Lake is a definite favourite as it’s unlike anywhere we’ve ever been before with villages, farms and markets all floating on the lake. There are two ways to see the lake in its full glory – by boat and by bike.
We arrived in Inle Lake at 6 am off a very bumpy night bus and thankfully arranged an early check-in so we could catch up on sleep before spending our day exploring Nyaungshwe in search of the best boat & bike hire deal. We booked with a small shop called Century Inlay and paid 23,000k/£12.50 (20,000k for boat, 1500k per bike.)
Dinner at Paw Paw restaurant: After a much needed chill day catching up on sleep, wandering around the town and booking our tour we cannot recommend dinner at Paw Paw enough. It is a social enterprise with all profits funding the education of local women. The food is delicious with a beautiful setting to match, and it was one of our favourite restaurants in Inle Lake.
Inle Lake – Day Two
Hire a Bike: As mentioned, hiring a bike is one of the best things to do in Inle Lake and exploring the township of Nyaungshwe or cycling round the lake itself is the perfect way to spend your day. Most accommodation offers bike hire – we paid 1500MMK per bike for a whole day (approx. 80p)
Visit A Winery: You may be surprised to see wine tasting on your Myanmar itinerary, but Red Mountain Estate & Vineyard is only 5km from Nyaungshwe and is the perfect place to refuel during your cycle tour. Of all the things to do in Inle Lake, wine tasting isn’t in the usual tourist guides, but at only 4500 MMK each (£2.50) we highly recommend it as a way to spend your afternoon. Just remember to take cash as they don’t accept card so you’ll be left sharing a small pinot between two like we had to. Even if wine tasting isn’t your cup of tea we recommend this little detour as the views of Inle Lake from here are stunning and it’s also home to one of the most romantic restaurants in Inle Lake.
Inle Lake – Day Three
Boat Tour at Sunrise: Unless you’re taking a balloon over Bagan, today will be the earliest morning in your Myanmar itinerary. We left our hotel around 5:30 am in order to be on the lake snapping the fake fishermen in time for sunrise (more about that here). We loved every minute of our boat tour of Inle Lake, and it was a definite highlight from our 10 days in Myanmar. Our highlights included:
- Souvenir shopping at 5 day floating market
- Chatting with the Padaung “long neck” women
- Learning the process of Lotus weaving
- Visit the enchanting Indein Village & Indein Pagodas
Where to Stay in Inle Lake
We loved every minute of our stay at Thousand Island Hotel in Nyuangshwe. We paid £21.00 per night, which included breakfast. The hotel also had a rooftop bar which was perfect for watching the sunset. They also offered bike rental as well as boat tours (although we found it cheaper to book in town.) The location was perfect, mere minutes away from the water which was ideal for our boat tour as we didn’t have to pay extra for a taxi transfer.
Where to Eat in Inle Lake
Of all the food we devoured during our 10 days in Myanmar, the restaurants in Inle Lake were some of the best from our entire trip – so much so we dedicated an entire post as there are too many good places to eat that you need to visit. There really is something for everyone and all within our modest backpacking budget!
Inle Lake to Yangon By Bus
Be prepared for your longest bus journey in this Myanmar Itinerary. From Inle Lake to Yangon we paid £15 per person. We left Inle Lake at 5 pm and arrived in Yangon at 6 am. From Inle Lake to Yangon, we did stop on route and had a meal in a roadside restaurant (I had a rice dish, Darren had noodles) which was included in our bus ticket price.
Inle Lake to Yangon Flights
If you don’t fancy the bumpy overnight bus from Inle Lake to Yangon, you can also fly. The nearest airport is Heho which is around 45 km from Inle Lake. From here it’s around 1 hour 20-minute flight to Yangon with flights costing around £70. Although it’s much quicker, by the time you include airport transfers either end and the flights from Inle Lake to Yangon, it will prove very expensive especially if you’re backpacking Myanmar on a budget – by opting for the overnight bus we also saved paying for a night’s accommodation, but understand not everyone looks like jolly on an 11 hour bus journey!
Yangon: 1 Night (2 Days)
Yangon – Day One
Thingyan Festival: As mentioned, we felt April is the best time to visit Myanmar as we were incredibly fortunate to experience Thingyan Festival and recommend planning your Myanmar itinerary for this time too.
We arrived from our night bus at 5:30 am and paid $20 for an early check-in before a few hours nap as the fun of Thingyan kicks off around 10 am.
For an entire day we danced and played with locals throwing water, running from hoses and enjoying local sweet treats. It was an unforgettable experience and although most Myanmar destinations celebrate it, the biggest celebrations are in Yangon and Mandalay. The celebrations generally last from 10am until 10pm with a brief break in the afternoon for lunch. You will hear the music stop and start as the sign to get outside to enjoy the celebrations!
Rooftop Dinner: Our hotel had an epic rooftop restaurant which not only provided a dry spot to watch the water fights below but also a beautiful view of the glowing Shwedagon Pagoda in the evening with a local beer in hand. Our dinner here was the perfect way to end our 10 days in Myanmar.
Yangon – Day Two
Shwedagon Pagoda at Sunrise: Time for the grand finale of your Myanmar itinerary – Shwedagon Pagoda. Known as the jewel in the Myanmar crown, this dazzling religious site was the reason we booked our trip in the first place and the perfect way to end our 10 days in Myanmar.
It was even more special to visit during Thingyan and watching the sunrise surrounded by locals celebrating. We spent around 2 hours here and could easily have spent more but sadly had a plane to catch. Although we would have loved to do more Yangon Sightseeing the majority of attractions were closed for celebrations, giving us even more reason to return.
Where to Stay in Yangon
We cannot fault our stay at Merchant Art Hotel, not only did it have an epic rooftop space complete with funky domes and views of Shwedagon Pagoda, but the staff were so friendly during Thingyan despite us dripping everywhere and the constant water fights.
The décor was also super funky with vibrant artwork throughout the hotel and even in our room. From our entire Myanmar itinerary, the breakfast here was our favourite as there was SO much food we were still full at lunch.
We paid £27 for one night however also paid an early check-in fee (around £16) as we arrived at 5:30 am from our night bus. It was worth every penny to have a few hours nap and prepare for crazy water fights of Thingyan. It was also ideal for walking to Shwedagon Pagoda as it was a mere 5-minute walk.
Where to Eat in Yangon
Sharky’s – During Thingyan we sought refuge in Sharky’s, we were even fortunate enough to meet the famous owner (who’s the judge on Myanmar Masterchef) who treated us to a few freebies in celebration of their New Year. The food here is delicious and a visit to Sharky’s is unmissable during your Myanmar itinerary, whether in Yangon or Bagan!
Merchant Art Hotel – Even if you don’t end up staying here, we recommend eating in their rooftop restaurant for views of Shwedagon Pagoda and to dine under their funky domes. It was the most expensive meal in our 10 days in Myanmar but still a cheap £18 for two main courses and 2 beers each.
10 DAYS IN MYANMAR ITINERARY: TOTAL COST
As you may have noticed we squeezed in a lot of activities, sightseeing and tasty food into our Myanmar itinerary, so you’ll likely be wondering how much it all cost.
If you are backpacking Myanmar you may find it more expensive in comparison to other traveller hot spots such as Thailand or Vietnam, but we still found it incredibly reasonable.
As a rough breakdown of costs:
- It was £0.80 for a local beer and around £5 for a main course in a mid-range restaurant.
- We spent approximately £65.00 on all our buses (both people) for the duration of our Myanmar itinerary
- Accommodation was around £25.00 per night on average for a private room in a mid to high range hotel (although it was local holidays).
- In total, for 10 days in Myanmar we spent £750 – this included all transport, food, souvenirs, accommodation and activities.
We could have easily spent a lot less but we did pay extra for local guides instead of doing it ourselves as we felt we learned a lot more this way. We also dined out and drank alcohol every day as well as purchasing several souvenirs (there are just too many to resist!) Our accommodation was also of mid-high range so if you’re on a budget, homestays or guest houses would prove cheaper.
FEELING INSPIRED BY OUR MYANMAR ITINERARY?
We had the most incredible 10 days in Myanmar and hope this guide has inspired you to book those flights. Although our Myanmar itinerary is intensely busy you will learn so much and make unforgettable memories. Despite our travels around the world and over 30 countries later, Myanmar remains our most epic trip (so far.) Although, as always this is just a sample itinerary and we’re sure there are many places to visit in Myanmar that we didn’t have time to see so let us know your favourites in the comments.