Myanmar – the land of the pagodas or as I, and probably many others, like to call it – the land of smiling people, because that’s just literally what you will find everywhere! (even though that’s really not that important here :D) Although the current political situation is pretty controversial, to say the least, Myanmar still continues to draw more and more tourist in because it is here where you get to enjoy Asia the way it used to be before mass tourism hit many of the other countries around it. Just as it goes with any other country, there are endless amounts of possible travel routes and properly planning a trip can be one of the hardest things ever because there is this constant fear of missing out on something absolutely amazing.
If you like to feel a little bit prepared before starting your Myanmar adventure, here’s a short overview of my travel route and how many days you should/could plan on spending at each destination (if you want to put your trust in me like that :D) Just keep in mind that even short distances like 150km can take up to 5 hours in Myanmar, so always plan enough time to get from one destination to the next one.
1. Yangon (1 full day)
Most people start their trip in this bustling city that will definetly make you feel like you were sent back in time (in a very awesome and good way). You could probably easily spent 2 or 3 days here, but if you don’t have unlimited amount of time, I would recommend just having a full day here and then moving on. This should give you enough time to get a sense of the city and to check out all the major sites.
Kin Pun (1 day)
Kalaw (1 day)
After coming from Yangon and sweating as much as humanly possible, Kalaw will feel like the perfect place to cool down a bit. It’s a small town, situated in the middle of the mountains and also serves as the starting point for the 2- or 3-day trek to Inle Lake that you honestly cannot miss out on.
The town itself is rather quiet but there are a couple of nice pagodas and it is really nice to just stroll around, have a nice coffee and enjoy the cooler air.
HIGHLIGHT: If you’re in town, you HAVE to go to High Bar. It’s a tiny bar that you might easily miss if you don’t know about it but it’s THE place where locals and tourists meet. They only have one drink on their menu (it’s the best whiskey sour you’ll ever drink and I should know because that’s usually not my drink) and they serve free snacks with pretty much every round of drinks (heads
Inle Lake (5 days, including the 3-day hike)
The hike and Inle Lake itself are definitely one of the highlights in Myanmar that you just cannot miss. We opted for the 3-day hike with Eversmile and were super happy about literally everything. Our tour guide Aki, who’s the daughter of the woman that owns the company, was the absolute best guide you could ask for because she made the tour super fun. Since her English was great, you could ask her anything about the local people and culture, Myanmar’s history or pretty much anything you could ever want to know and she’ll have an entertaining but also honest answer. On the hike itself, you stay in small villages surrounded by amazing ricefields, mountains and people. On the last day, when you finally make it to the lake, you’ll get to enjoy amazing views from a boat before arriving at the lake itself.
Hsipaw (2 days; 1 day to get there and 1 day for the train ride)
From Inle Lake, we took an 8-hour bus ride to Hsipaw, from where you can take an absolutely amazing 8-hour train ride to Pyin U Lwin and this is definitely another one of my highlights in Myanmar. You can also stay on the train and make it all the way to Mandalay in 12-hours but it’s a lot faster to just get a 1,5-hour bus (or a private and still pretty cheap tuck -tuck into the city the next day). The journey on the train will take you through amazing rice fields, mountains, and jungles that will give you an amazing impression of what the simple life in Myanmar looks like. The train itself is a bit bumpy, to say the least, and
Mandalay (at least 2 days)
Many travelers usually prefer either Yangon or Mandalay and I can easily say that Mandalay was my favorite. There is something about this city and its vibe that just draws you in. Even a casual walk around some of the tiny roads is super fun and you feel like you constantly see something amazing somewhere. The sheer amount of temples and pagodas as well as restaurants and things to explore will easily keep you busy for a couple of days.
Bagan (3 days)
Bagan is probably THE highlight to see in Myanmar. There are over 2000 stupas and pagodas spread across the whole area and outskirts of the city and driving around on one of the E-bikes you can easily rent everywhere and exploring them by yourself will absolutely blow your mind. While climbing on top of many pagodas to get the perfect view used to be super easy, this has changed since the earthquake in 2016. The government has closed most of them, so finding a temple that you can climb can be really tricky (some people somehow climb the gates inside of the pagodas but I wouldn’t recommend that).
TIP: There are plenty of locals driving around the area and offering to show you a temple that you can still climb. They do want a „donation“ that can range from 5000 Kyatt to 20000 Kyatt (2,5€-11€) but we did manage to get it down to 10000 Kyatt. Alternatively, I recommend using the app MapsMe to find temples that you can still climb. Compared to GoogleMaps, the App is amazingly well updated and will not only show you literally all the pagodas and little roads there are(which google maps doesn’t do) but it also provides you with info about where or not pagodas are still open to
Ngapali Beach (3 days)
Many travelers end their Myanmar trip in Ngapali beach which makes a lot of sense because you will need some “down-time” after doing so much exploring. It is somewhat of a journey to make it there, so if you do have the funds, do yourself a favor and fly there. Tickets are usually around 100 USD but unfortunately, we couldn’t make it there anymore. From what I have heard a million times however is that once you’re there, you will get to enjoy super quiet and beautiful beaches with only a handful other travelers (although I’m sure this will change soon with more and more tourists making their way here).